The Crack in the Teacup
The Life of An Old Woman Steeped in StoriesBook - 2000
Joan Bodger, born in 1923, is a self-proclaimed old woman, whose life is so intertwined with story that she cannot write about one without telling about the other. A well-known storyteller and Gestalt therapist, she finds strength in stories -- her own, other people's, and the myths and legends of the world. She has lived a life that fell apart not once but several times. Each time, she pieced her life together again; she has learned to appreciate both the mosaic and the cracks. Joan's father was an officer in the United States Coast Guard; her British mother came from a distinguished -- and eccentric -- shipping family. Because of her father's job, she moved frequently from one tough American port town to another. But she also lived for a time in an English country house. Trying to fit herself into each new situation, she not only relied on the family stories she knew so well, but she also became an acute observer of the nuances of class shibboleth, racial prejudice, and regional and national differences. Her observations are always sharp, often funny. Graduating from high school shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she attended university for two years and then joined the army. After the war she returned to university, married, and attended Columbia University where she took -- and was struck by -- a course in storytelling. Although she refers to herself as a suburban wife and mother at this time, her suburb was Shanks Village, a community of veterans studying on the G.I. Bill, which was a hotbed of political activism and social experimentation. Joan read, wrote, and studied continually. She steeped herself in folklore and anthropology. When tragedy struck, in the form of mental illness, marriage breakdown, and the loss of her seven-year-old daughter, Joan drew on what she had learned during these years. She helped start a nursery school in a black neighborhood and became director of the first Headstart Program in New York State. She later directed a therapeutic nursery school in a New York City orphanage, taught at Bank Street Graduate School of Education, wroteHow the Heather Looks, a book about British children's literature, and became a book reviewer for theNew York Times. In 1968-69 she was invited to become Director of Children's Services, State Library of Missouri, only to be fired before a year was up -- as a Communist pornographer. (Her name was subsequently cleared by the American library Association's Intellectual Freedom Committee.) Stories saved her once again. Hired by the legendary Bennett Cerf, she became a liaison editor of children's books -- a sort of roving ambassador -- for Random House-Pantheon-Knopf. It was in this role that she made a trip to Toronto, and fell in love with the Canadian who became her second husband. Moving to Canada, she again rebuilt her life on the foundation of story, training as a Gestalt therapist and helping to start the Storytelling School of Toronto. When tragedy struck once more, she continued to live her life with courage and resilience, sustained by these interests. Since childhood, Joan has had a fine eye for detail, and the ability to put her observations into words. She has lived in awareness of the history of her time, and has frequently been swept up in its events. She writes frankly of the discoveries of childhood, the mysteries of family life, the power of sexuality, the devastating effect of loss, and, through it all, the transforming influence of literature, of story. A remarkable old woman, she tells her story with honesty, candor, and wit. This courageous autobiography will be an inspiration to all readers -- but particularly to women dealing with the poorly charted territory of their later years.
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, c2000
Characteristics: xii, 412 p. : ill. ; 24 cm