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Almost Touching The Skies
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Florence Howe

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Jean Casella

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Almost Touching the Skies

Women's Coming of Age Stories
Edited by Florence Howe & Jean Casella

Introduction by Marilyn French

Almost Touching the Skies pays tribute to the diversity and vitality of American women writers through more than a century, and to the courage and resilience of young women through a compelling range of life experiences. Selected from the work of two dozen distinguished writers, these stories explore the resonant theme of coming of age as a woman. How do girls and young women discover—or create—a sense of who they are and who they may become? How do they recognize what their lives have taught them and envision what their lives may someday be? How do they come to terms with what it means to be a woman in the world—and imagine how they may change the world as women?

In the 1890s in New Orleans, the young heroine of a Kate Chopin story must choose between marriage to a handsome and wealthy suitor and a career as a concert pianist. Just after the turn of the century, in a dirt-poor black town in Florida, a spirited Zora Neale Hurston struggles to maintain her dreams after the death of her mother. In Depression-era Brooklyn, Edith Konecky's precociously witty character Allegra Maud Goldman contends with bourgeois Jewish parents who dote on her neurotic younger brother as they ignore or dismiss their daughter's yearnings. Shirley Geok-lin Lim, writing of her childhood in Malaysia, considers the mixed blessings bestowed on her by her schoolteacher nuns, while Marjorie Agosín, recalling her early years in Chile, pays tribute to the mysterious and fragrant world created by her family's cook, Carmencita. And Estella Conwill Májozo, calling up her memories of the "Little Africa" section of Louisville, Kentucky, in the 1950s, captures the moment she gets her first period during a stickball game with her five brothers, and is welcomed into womanhood by her family matriarchs.

Almost Touching the Skies also includes work by: Flavia Alaya, Meena Alexander, Toni Cade Bambara, Louise Bernikow, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Jane Gould, Katharine Butler Hathaway, Helen R. Hull, Edith Summers Kelley, Paule Marshall, Toni A. H. McNaron, Louise Meriwether, Jo Sinclair, Agnes Smedley, Bella Spewack, Alice Walker, Hisaye Yamamoto, and Anzia Yezierska.

"This collection is a wonderful mosaic that will inspire girls and women alike by its universal celebration of the female spirit—across culture, class, race. These writers inspire us to remember our early selves, our ancestors, and our individual heritages."

—Isabel Stewart, National Executive Director; Girls, Incorporated

"If all the girls in this book were miraculously gathered in one room, what energy there would be, what sassiness, what thoughtfulness, what engagement with the world around them—for, while not all the girls in this wonderful book realize their dreams, every single one obeys the exhortation of Zora Neale Hurston's mama to 'jump at de sun.' An inspiring read for girls and women, boys and men of all ages and circumstances."

—Nancy Hoffman, Professor of Education, Brown University

"Whether fiction or memoir, each of these twenty-two fascinating stories of childhood, youth, and young womanhood offers an insightful glimpse into a small, distinctive corner of the world. And then, with the magic of art, together they enlarge into revelation."

—Alix Kates Shulman, author of Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen and A Good Enough Daughter

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