Katie Roiphe, culture writer and author of The Morning After, shares a timely blend of memoir, feminist investigation, and exploration of famous female writers’ lives, in a bold, essential discussion of how strong women experience their power.
Told in a series of notebook entries, Roiphe weaves her often fraught personal experiences with divorce, single motherhood, and relationships with insights into the lives and loves of famous writers such as Sylvia Plath and Simone de Beauvoir. She dissects the way she and other ordinary, powerful women have subjugated their own power time and time again, and she probes brilliantly at the tricky, uncomfortable question of why.
In these informal musings and notes, Roiphe delves into treacherous, largely untalked about, contradictions of contemporary womanhood, going where few writers dare. The Power Notebooks is Roiphe’s most vital, thought provoking, and emotionally intimate work yet.
Roiphe (The Violet Hour) circles "a subject I keep coming back to: women strong in public, weak in private," in this bright and dynamic collection of shorts that she wrote "during a time of upheaval" encompassing pregnancy, divorce, sexual entanglements, and single motherhood. Using personal experience as her template, Roiphe layers episodes of her own "confusion, self-contempt, conflict" with those of women writers Simone de Beauvoir, Sylvia Plath, Mary McCarthy, and Edith Wharton. In a pivotal scene, Roiphe is forced to walk home when her abusive husband, enraged by their crying infant, kicks mother and baby out of his car. Inside their apartment, his shouting is heard by neighbors and terrifies their child, yet she remains "quiet, still, vacating," confessing "not a single friend... would recognize me." Accounts of other dysfunctional relationships the 35-year-old divorced rabbi who seduced her at 15 are clinically conveyed. Throughout, she addresses the disconnect between her public and private selves, admitting, "authority... the form power takes on the page, is a fiction... something I dreamed up because I would like to have it." Roiphe's astute memoir reverberates with rich prose, crisp pacing, and self-compassion.