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Terry Tempest Williams on 'When Women Were Birds'

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'When Women Were Birds' by Terry Tempest Williams
Book cover courtesy of publisher

Author and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams' new book, "When Women Were Birds," opens with five short paragraphs about her mother's death and follows with 12 pages of silence. Even though the book's subtitle is "54 variations on voice," this is a book about the deepest quiet. 

Williams writes at one point: "I am afraid of silence." But she also recognizes the power, creativity and gifts of silence. 

Her new book is a meditation on the journals her mother left her when she died.

From The Daily Beast:

Williams was born into a large Mormon clan in northern Utah. Mormon women are expected, she explains, to keep journals and bear children. The author is fond of saying that the only things she has done religiously in her life are keep a journal and use birth control. When Williams's mother died at 54, she left Terry, then 22, shelves and shelves of brightly bound journals.

Williams opened them. They were blank.

It has taken her 35 years to begin to understand and write about what this meant to her. "Honestly, I buried this story," she says, the wind whistling through the phone; helicopters overhead in L.A. "I did not save or cherish those journals. I wrote in them unceremoniously. It wasn't until I turned 54, the age she was when she died, that I realized how terrified I had been of my own blank mind."

Williams will join The Daily Circuit Monday March 11 to discuss her book.