I added a surprise second selection for this particular Noshed in a Book post. Most of the time, before I begin reading a book, I take some time to ponder the title and what it may or may not mean in relationship to the text. Collections of poetry are no exception to this rule, and, I would have to say, heighten a stronger sense of my analytical self than prose. Then of course there’s biographical books, which often–not always–follow a restrictive naming; the reader needs to grasp the purpose of the book immediately. Oddly enough, reading Live or Die by Anne Sexton unfolded a series of poems that revealed the true meaning behind the title, but The First Biography of Joan of Arc–my surprise additional reading for this post–did not deliver on the title. Titles are important, but maybe this was a lesson for me and us all that you can’t judge a book by its title, and if you do, expect to be surprised and don’t be disappointed if you’re not. Let’s dive in!
Live or Die by Anne Sexton
A series of poems that are organized chronologically, which for better or worse focus on our delicate relationship with not just death, but life as well. My approach to poetry is one that is unpracticed because I tend to not read collection after collection, instead spreading out poetry collections over time. Also, there’s a level of apprehension I have when reading poetry. Each word is precisely chosen and I often fret about not giving due time to each poem and respecting its pacing and structure. Anne Sexton’s writing is remarkable and flows and I didn’t once feel overwhelmed by the direction or pacing of her poems. Just some of the topics Sexton touches on in this series are dreams, womanhood, death of love, death of literal life, mother and daughter confessions, and bones. Here are a few excerpts that moved me.
“Awake, I memorized dreams.
Dreams came into the ring
like third string fighters,
each one a bad bet
who might win
because there was no other.”
“I was tired of being a woman,
tired of the spoons and the pots,
tired of my mouth and my breasts,
tired of the cosmetics and the silks.
There were still men who sat at my table,
circled around the bowl I offered up.
The bowl was filled with purple grapes
and the flies hovered in for the scent
and even my father came with his white bone.
But I was tired of the gender of things.”
“Death’s a sad bone; bruised, you’d say,
and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to so delicately undo an old wound,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.”
“If I’m on fire they dance around it
and cook marshmallows.
And if I’m ice
they simply skate on me
in little ballet costumes.”
The First Biography of Joan of Arc by Daniel Rankin and Claire Quintal
A book that is by no means a page turner, but by all accounts clear and concise in its diction, this text outlines the life of Joan of Arc–know as the “Maid”–a heroine of the fifteenth century who led and structured a siege in order to take back France from England during the Hundred Years War. Only a teenager at the time of her leadership of the French Army–behind King Charles the VII–and at the time of her horrendous death–she was burned alive–Joan of Arc stands as a figure of bravery and as a trailblazing representative of the “YOLO” concept before it was ever a concept. She lived her life for a purpose and broke through many class and gender barriers to be the figure she was for the people of her time and generations after. This book, as I stated earlier, did not deliver on its title. Maybe my expectation was too simplistic, but I wanted a straightforward description of her life up front with factual information pieced in categorically after this. I feel like I have come to know more details about Joan from other sources over the years, but this book did a great job of outlining sources of materials and chronology. Here are a few quotes from the texts that may intrigue you.
“You believe, gentlemen that because I am a woman, I do not know how to conceal a secret. For your information I know every detail you have discussed. Here I give you my pledge–I WILL NEVER REVEAL PLANS WHICH ARE TO BE KEPT SECRET.”
“The Maid has made use of magic and diabolic cunning. She is a heretic.”
“For some time past it has been known to all and it is notorious that a woman who insisted on being called Joan the Maid, discarding the garb and vesture of the female sex, an act repugnant and forbidden by all law, a deed contrary to Divine Law and abhorrent to God, put on and wore men’s garments and likewise armed herself as a man.”
“As soon as her armor was made she put it on, went out into the fields of Poitiers with other armed combatants where she handled her lance as well or better than any man there. She rode spirited chargers, the capricious ones that no one else dared mount without fear.”
“Without the presence of Joan of Arc it seems certain that the courage and stamina of the soldiers marching toward Reims would have dissolved into a speedy disaster.”
As for edibles, I decided to make a piña collada smoothie. This all started a few weeks ago, on a Friday evening, in the midst of pizza making. All of a sudden I started thinking about piña colladas, and how I HAD to have one. The Mr. and I started to scour the kitchen for all of the basic ingredients and had to improvise. Let’s just say, after extra handfuls of ice and almond milk it was eventually edible. This culinary experimentation got me thinking about how I wanted to do this the right way, with or without the buzz. Although it has been noted that Anne Sexton liked Dry Martinis and taking on the town with Sylvia Plath, I can’t help but feel she too would have loved the indulgence of a tropical treat every once in awhile, especially in the summer. As for The First Biography of Joan of Arc, well, some of you may need something to liven up your day after this dry read and perhaps even have a lively discussion on women’s cultural icons with your gals. Either way, enjoy the treat!
Piña Collada Smoothie with Mango (animal-product-free, gluten-free, soy-free)
- 1 cup coconut milk (from a can)
- 1/2 cup almond milk
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 heaping cup fresh or frozen pineapple
- 1/2 cup fresh or frozen mango chunks
- 1/4 tsp Madagascar vanilla extract
- 1/2 -3/4 cup ice cubes
- 1 full dropper of liquid stevia (or to taste)
- Cherries(frozen or fresh) and dried coconut for garnish
- Pour liquid ingredients into blender first, then add frozen fruit, vanilla extract, ice cubes and the sweetener
- Blend well until creamy
- Garnish with cherries and dried coconut
- Enjoy in your favorite glass
- Spike at will with your choice of rum, or if you’re my husband and there’s not rum around, use whiskey (don’t get me started, haha)
Poetry and history have a differing tone that’s unmistakable, but reading the voice of a strong woman followed up by reading about the voice of another strong woman, was both inspiring and empowering. When you read these books, what tasty treats come to mind and what are some of your favorite Anne Sexton poems or excerpts? Know any special factoids about Joan of Arc? I can’t wait to hear from you all. Share your #noshedinabook pics and thoughts and check out more Noshed in a Book posts. Join me in my next reading selection, The First Bad Man by Miranda July. And remember…bite responsibly!
Each book that I have read this year has been a firm or gentle exploration of the philosophical ideas underlying race, gender, human rights, and more. In The Second Sex (part 1) by Simone de Beauvoir, we focus on women and their role as human beings first and functioning members of society second. Realistically, my expectation of this text was that it would be dense and a slower read for me, and I was right. That’s not to say that reading at a steadier pace connotes a boring read, but the subject matter was one for which I felt the need to draw in as much as I could, instead of reading in a rush.
The Second Sex (part 1) by Simone de Beauvoir
Simply put, The Second Sex acts as a detailed examination of the state of being a woman and interpreting woman as “other.” Simone de Beauvoir was an existentialist, and her view on the separation between a human’s ‘essence’ and their ‘being’ is exposed early on as she refers to the female as prey.
“The female is the prey of the species; for one or two seasons, depending on the case, her whole life is regulated by a sexual cycle–the estrous cycle–whose length and periodicity vary from one species to another.”
This situated the rest of part one to focus on the idea of defense, a role women have been playing for centuries. Through her explorations of biological, historical and literary analysis, de Beauvoir begins to unravel the depths of the figure that is woman and her treatment both by external figures and herself. I deem this twentieth-century book as a primary resource in juxtaposition to the clouded view our twenty-first century continues to have about feminism and women’s rights. Women throughout history have been subjected to explicit and corroding subordination, which de Beauvoir comments upon, as well as how women’s subservience was a manipulation and form of slavery. She also discusses how woman is deeply rooted in art and thinking, yet she is on the fringes, and in order for their to be real, lasting changes in the women’s movement, woman must be at the center of society, deeply immersed. Simone de Beauvoir’s confidence in the subject matter, factual declarations and intimacy with the subject–for which she spent fourteen months researching–captured me. Additionally, I’m inspired and in awe of de Beauvoir herself, as this book was written and published in the late 1940s, a time period in which feminism was just blinking its eyes again for change. She was and continues to be a spearhead for the feminist movement and an exceptional figure of strength.
“There is no way to directly oblige a woman to give birth: all that can be done is to enclose her in situations where motherhood is her only option: laws or customs impose marriage on her, anti-conception measures and abortion are banned, divorce is forbidden. These old patriarchal constraints are exactly the ones the U.S.S.R. has brought back to life today; it has revived paternalistic theories about marriage; and in doing so, it has asked woman to become an erotic object again: a recent speech (late 1940s) asked Soviet women citizens to pay attention to their clothes, to use makeup, and to become flirtatious to hold on to their husbands and stimulate their desire.”
Now at the precipice of change, men and women must decide if their strengths combined can create a unified front for equality among sexes. Solidarity.
Some facts and extra commentaries from the text:
- Antifeminism strikes in the early 17th century.
- “In 1906, 42 percent of working-age women (between eighteen and sixty) worked in farming, industry, business, banks, insurance, offices, and liberal professions. This movement spread to the whole world because of the 1914-18 labor crisis and the world war.”
- “The most oppressed minorities in a society are readily used by the oppressors as a weapon against the class they belong to; thus they at first become enemies, and a deeper consciousness of the situation is necessary to that blacks and whites, women and male workers, form coalitions rather than opposition.”
As for edibles, I decided before finishing the first part of this book that a delightful cup of calming tea would be best. After taking in such heavy material, there could be nothing better than calming your mind and relaxing with a cup of tea. I searched my tea drawers and discovered that though I have many calming blends, I wanted to make one of my own that spoke to what my palette was yearning for. Many chamomile tea blends are mixed with hibiscus flower, lemongrass or other citrus notes, but I wanted to create something smooth, sweet and with a hint of vanilla. I took inventory of what I had on hand and stocked up on what I needed–thanks to the Mr. for doing some last-minute shopping for me while I scurried around trying to get everything together. I made dried chamomile flower the base of the tea, accented it with rooibos, and the rest is tea history. When you’re digesting the wrappings of de Beauvoir’s ideas, sip on this tea to enhance the educational and enlightening experience.
Thoughtful Dreamy Tea
- 2 tbsp dried German chamomile flower [or any type of dried chamomile flower]
- 1 tbsp loose rooibos tea
- 1 tsp dried lavender flower
- 2 inch piece of vanilla bean [seeds scooped out]
- 1 tbsp dried currants
- 1 gram powdered stevia [about 1 individual package]
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl
- Bring filtered or spring water to a boil
- Measure about 3 tsp of the tea mixture into a tea infuser [I used a biodegradable tea bag and stapled the top]
- Place the infusing device or tea bag in your teapot
- Pour water (12 oz) over tea bag and cover
- Let steep for 5 minutes
- Pour tea in your favorite cup, sip and enjoy a thoughtful, dreamy night’s sleep or afternoon nap.
- Feel free to reuse the tea mixture 2 or 3 times (flavor will change with each brew)
- Use a higher tea-to-water ratio for a stronger tea
- 1 1/2 tsp tea mix per 6 oz water
- I enjoyed this tea hot, but you could brew the tea and chill
“To say that woman was the Other is to say that a relationship of reciprocity between the sexes did not exist: whether Earth, Mother, or Goddess, she was never a peer for man; her power asserted itself beyond human rule: she was thus outside of this rule.” [about the Golden age of Woman being a myth]
The Second Sex (part 1) imbues an intellectual sturdiness and prowess that challenges both men and women to recognize patriarchy’s role in history and asserts that women’s rights are human rights to be addressed by all. I’m very happy to have finally read this book (at least the first part) and I’m looking forward to jumping into the second part at a later date. Let me know how your tea concoctions turn out and what you think of the recipe. It’s my first time experimenting with making my very own tea combination and I look forward to hearing your opinions and critiques. Join me in my next reading selection, Blankets by Craig Thompson, for a trip down the graphic road once again. And remember…bite responsibly!