What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open.
Throughout human history, it has been the stories of men that have attracted and held our attention—stories about making war and making things, about trickery and derring-do, about exploring new lands and bringing home the bacon. Around innumerable campfires and village hearths, men's stories were the stories that were told. And when men learned to write (women were latecomers to that art), theirs were the stories that were written down.
Women, naturally, appeared in these stories, often in starring roles. Eve was cast as the cause of Adam's fall, Helen as the downfall of Troy, Penelope as Ulysses' devotedly dutiful wife. But these were (and are) women's lives as told by male storytellers, for the appreciation of (largely) male audiences. So men's stories about women were accepted as true stories, and everybody was fooled.
Including women. For storytelling is persuasive, and most of us believed that we were (or ought to be) like the women in men's tales. We waited patiently at home, while men discovered new continents. We loved men, while men loved ideas. We gave birth to children while men gave birth to writing and the electric light and the airplane and the bomb.
But underneath the facade of conformable docility, beneath the appearance of a life shaped by men's stories of how women ought to think and act, there echoes a different story, a true story. My story. Your story. Our stories. By telling our real, true women's stories, we help to show that women's lives aren't lived as men have taught us to imagine them. We challenge and correct the myths and made-up stories about women's lives. Our stories are more than idle gossip, family chitchat, more than old wives' tales—although they are these things, too, and isn't that wonderful?
I rejoice in the stories in this collection, for they are the real, true stories of real women who write about the ordinary events of their ordinary lives. Stories about seeing with new eyes, connecting with the heart, remembering the past, reveling in the present, waking up to a new future. Stories about acting, nurturing, growing. Losing and mourning. Finding and celebrating. Life—ordinary and extraordinary—seen from a woman's point of view, told in a woman's voice.
But while these stories are grounded in the daily realities of individual lives, they tell us a communal story. A story about women's courage in the face of disaster, of stubborn refusal to accept the status quo, of remembering the past so vividly that it becomes present. Her story, yes—the story of the individual writer. But our stories. Our collective, communal stories.
I am delighted to note that these stories have been collected and published on the twentieth anniversary of the Story Circle Network. At SCN, we say that every woman has a hundred stories to tell, and they are all true. In their uniqueness and their commonalities, these writings exemplify the thousands of stories that have been written and shared around the circles of the Story Circle Network.
I invite you to enjoy and learn from each one.
Inside and Out: Women's Truths, Women's Stories is available on Amazon by clicking here.