Hot off the press from Inanna Publications, an anthology of Fiction, Poetry, and Creative Nonfiction. Yes! Here’s what the editors, Jane Cawthorne and Elaine Morin write in the introduction:
Menopause. Say the word in public. See what happens.
You may catch some knowing glances, a few rolled eyes, a few exasperated sighs. As Jane Silcott writes, you may see some squinching. It’s a good word — something between squirm and flinch. The word illustrates the uneasy silence that is often attached to this chapter of our lives.
Menopause lacks enough good stories. There are roughly tens of thousands of books about menopause. Much of the existing literature is clinical, offering women definitions, lists of symptoms, and possible treatments. This book is different. It is not about what menopause is, but about how it feels. As Donna Caruso writes, “Spare me the lecture on the righteousness of the cycle of life.” There will be none of that in these pages.
Instead, we searched for stories that we wanted to read, that were beautifully told, and reflected our experiences and the experiences of people we knew. Our contributors offered us cultural references like Chrissie Hynde, Tori Amos, Billy Idol, and Lemony Snicket. They countered the cliché that menopausal women are all used up and instead gave us vitality, creativity, sexual craving, and lust. And they offered us points of views and perspectives that went beyond women. Menopause is experienced by non-binary people and trans men too.
Our call for submissions brought us a huge variety of literary forms as well. The anthology includes stories, poems, creative non-fiction, a dramatic monologue, two interviews, a poem with a provocative prose introduction, a poem in two languages, and a list of facts and fictions about menopause. All of these add depth to the collection and an understanding that there are different ways of seeing and reading experience.
Within these pages are brains and bodies both lamenting their losses and eager to see what is next. The menopause experience is not simply something to survive. Unburdened by childbearing expectations and, possibly, by other gendered ways of understanding themselves, those in menopause climb mountains, take on lovers, create art, daydream, undertake scientific explorations, and transform themselves with an urgency that springs from the bittersweet realization that their time is short.
We divided the anthology into three parts, with titles meant to invoke contradiction and capture the multiplicity of the menopausal experience. There is no one way to think about or experience menopause, and, certainly, there is no right way. The first section, “un/done,” includes works that describe a desire to be done with social and cultural constraint, and to challenge the cliché that menopause means life is over.
The second part, “in/fertile,” sometimes celebrates and sometimes mourns the end of reproductive fertility, while acknowledging a new kind of fertility that might, or might not, emerge.
Finally, the third part, “un/known,” contains works that capture the sense of being out in a new world, not knowing oneself, or, conversely, knowing oneself at last. These pieces find their characters revising what they thought they knew. Many of the pieces could have found a home in any of the three parts, a confounding problem for the editors, but one that speaks to the depth and complexity of experience that these works describe.
In these works, we as editors have found joy, commiseration, and kinship. We hope readers will find this and more.
Now, let the squinching begin.
When I offered to feature the book on Friend for the Ride, I asked Elaine to explain the impetus behind the anthology. Here’s what she wrote:
In answer to your question about our impetus for doing the book, I would say that maybe the truest reason we decided to do this book is that we were both approaching menopause.
But the real impetus was a Facebook post a few years back. Someone in our writers’ group asked if and how menopause was entering their writing. This morphed into a discussion about representations of menopause and how there seemed to be a need for more “good stories” about it.
Most of the stories we were reading didn’t speak to us, and didn’t reflect us or the women we knew. These were not stories we felt were even true. We had new points of reference, different cultural touchstones than the ones being depicted. We wanted to hear about these. So, in this collection we have references to Chrissie Hynde, Tori Amos and Billy Idol.
We wanted to counter the idea that menopausal women are all used up. This was old and clichéd to us. And untrue. A pleasant surprise was discovering how many contributors were talking about sex. Wanting sex. Having sex. Lots of it. We also wanted to counter the idea that only women were going through menopause. Because trans men and other gendered people were going through it too.
Giveaway: The publisher is offering a copy of Writing Menopause to one Friend for the Ride reader. For a chance to win, please enter a comment by July 15. Thanks!
To find the book on Amazon, click here.
Jane Cawthorne’s work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, and literary and academic journals. Her play, The Abortion Monologues, has been produced widely in the United States and Canada.