When we became the editors of Frontiers in 2003, we committed ourselves to upholding the journal's long-established tradition of thematically coherent issues. To this end, we have made special issues something of a specialty, beginning with our inaugural offering on gender and place. We would like to alert readers of three other special issues now in the works that focus on gender and migration; domesticity and colonization (with guest editors Victoria Haskins and Margaret Jacobs); and interracial marriage in North America between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people (with guest editors Cathleen Cahill, Jacki Rand, and Kerry Wynn). But as our estimable predecessor, Susan Armitage, warned us, issues occasionally defy our best efforts to categorize, contextualize, and thereby introduce them to our readers. This is one of those issues, and the sheer edginess of its contents speaks to the intellectual value of the unexpected. In this issue, an anonymous author's meditation on her resort to pornography to overcome her impotence shares space with an unusual collaboration between Australian farm women and a museum to document and reinvigorate women's lives and work on the land.
Despite the perhaps unsettling range of topics which they address, the contributions to this volume do share a refusal on the part of their authors or creators, or their subjects, to conform to conventional intellectual, cultural, social, or political categories. In ways that may or may not be feminist, the pieces celebrate the complexity, the stubborn irreducibility, of individual women and women's lives. The parts and not the sum are what matter here. On the cover is a photograph of a bronze sculpture by Israeli artist Tolla Inbar, whose work we also feature in these pages. Inbar calls her woman reading "Accumulating Knowledge," a title which, along with the figure's total absorption in her book, suggests both the subversive and the life-enhancing possibilities of the act. Let "woman reading" also be the theme of this issue, if it must have one.