A terrific pre-publication review came in for Sisters Born, Sisters Found: A Diversity of Voices on Sisterhood:
Laura McHale Holland has edited this anthology of poems, memoirs, stories and essays and dedicates it ‘To all women throughout the world whose birth families gave them siblings, to those who became sisters through other kinds of bonds, and to all the sisters and brothers who love them.’
As she states in her introduction, ‘I embarked upon this anthology project to honor my sisters, Kathy and Mary Ruth, as well as to capture the power of readings I have conducted in recent years at SISTERS Consignment Couture in Sonoma, California. The shop is a cozy place where local authors have shared memoir, essay, fiction and poetry by and about sisters of all types. The readings have been heartfelt, memorable and multifaceted, ranging from intense and painful to lighthearted and celebratory.’ Her idea was so favored and touched so many empathetic eyes and ears that after posting the concept on the social media she was inundated with entries from around the world who were part of the sister journey. ‘I considered several possible ways to organize the varied contents of this book but ultimately did not attempt to place them into categorized groups. But given the size of this book, I divided the work into seven sections to suggest places where readers might want to pause. While grouping the work, I strove to create a reading experience that emulates what I experienced when reading submissions as they came to my inbox. I never knew where the next writer would take me, what aspect of the sister journey she or he would reveal, or how the work would affect me. I believe whether you read the book cover to cover or skip around, you will find numerous insights and fresh perspectives on sisterhood. I certainly have.’
Reading this collection of works by women about that special bond women can form between each other, whether that connection is genetic or simply the proximity of neighborly, is not only illuminating: it is revelatory. Perhaps something men will never understand, really, truthfully. Being male crowds out such sensitive bonding, unless during combat on the battlefield.
What happens in this exquisite array of the spectrum of ‘sisterhood’ is discovery of new poets and writers who deserve a louder voice, a chance to talk about women in ways too often usurped by whispering – those myriad details of owning homogametic XX chromosomes that attracts yet deeply, philosophically distances the XY gender. These are songs of linking, love, need, compassion, yearning for some semblance of sameness that make two women sisters.
A difficult task, but some excerpted examples follow:
Scrambled Eggshells – Jean Wong ‘As soon as Nancy appeared at the door of our eighth grade classroom, even I, with my home haircut, near-sighted squint and ill-fitting skirt, could see that she stuck out. Her hair was a tangle of kinky, sandy-blonde curls. She grimaced, exposing her big teeth as overly enthusiastic greetings gushed forth. Wearing dated clothes and straw shoes with high heels, she carried a matching purse. No one ever brought a purse to school. She was like a puppy wagging its tail among crocodiles. Her overtures were met with blank stares and titters. She was quickly relegated to our group of outcasts who suffered not so much from teasing, but the cruelty of being ignored.’….“Check this scene out!” we screamed. And this became our mantra. For years to come, we peered into mirrors, in bathrooms, department stores, plush hotel lobbies. At birthdays, graduations and every other conceivable situation, arms around each other, we posed. Check this scene out. Check out that we’re hurting, ridiculous, high, miserable. Check out that we’re alive and going through life together. Check out that we’re friends.’
Unlikely Sisters -Karen Levy –‘So where do our loyalties lie? I am an Israeli-American, a former member of the Israeli Defense Force and as anxious about the fate of my native country as I was when I lived there. Eman is a Muslim woman living in Israel, a woman whose neighbors were among those who had torched the nurses’ station yelling “Death to Jews” on that sad day in 1976. But, as Eman emphasized during our first phone call, we are both children of Israel, and I know in my heart that it’s not so easy to hate someone with whom you’ve giggled in front of a bathroom mirror. We are unlikely sisters.’
The Truth of It – Dipika Kohli – ‘Even though Paige is in another state now, and I'm in Asia, and we don't talk or message each other, I'm still very grateful to her. She was there for me, in a way no one could dare to be, right then. At that darkening-sky moment in our shared carpool of life, she was summer light. I'll never forget how much that mattered, how much strength she imparted to me to trust myself to do the thing I didn't want to do, but knew I would. I learned just how vulnerable a doctor could be when she wasn't in a pressed white coat in a hospital, wasn't on stage, wasn't even trying to be, but was totally honest and open. For all my life I will remember the shape, color and scent of that very essence of how it felt just then to have, for an afternoon's instant, one very real, very true friend.’
Sister Act -Vicki Batman – ‘To this day, I plop my family on the couch with treats and drinks, and we turn on White Christmas. I sing all the tunes. When the signature song ends, contentment swells inside me. I fight back tears. My holidays are perfect. Life is perfect. I have everything.
Funny, my men refuse to sing with me. Maybe some things are best shared with sisters.’
Echoes from the Heart – Mary J. Kohut – ‘My first recollection of life was in the Tennessee Children’s Home in Nashville. I remember my little sister, but the home wouldn’t admit she was my sister; they said she was just a little girl I became attached to. I must have been two-and-a-half or three years old at this time.’
We Have Today – Paige Strickland – ‘That’s OK, though. We have today, and even if we live far apart, or our work and kids’ schedules steal our time, we do have each other. Our kids have cousins. We don’t blame anyone for a past we’ll never share. We embrace the present and treasure our chances to cheer at kids’ games and graduations, dance at weddings, rejoice at births, mourn when we need to mourn, work when we need to work, and laugh every chance we get.’
Jen-Jen – Jesse Kimmel Freeman – ‘I lost you, my big sister, in 2002. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel guilt over your death. It doesn’t matter that I had nothing to do with it, that I was just a teen, or that I couldn’t have done anything to stop it. That is one of the curses of surviving a loved one’s suicide. I am left with the guilt and the lingering what-ifs. I am left wishing everyone would take a moment for those in their lives who are suffering—you know, say hello, smile, offer a candy bar, show the generosity you always possessed. One small gesture could make all the difference. You were my world even if you didn’t realize it. And you’ll forever live in my heart. Goodbye, Jen-Jen.’
To attempt to taste this panoply of works by 85 submissions is nearly impossible: each reader will find particular passages that speak more strongly to memories, minds, souls, and experiences. For women this is not simply an anthology: this is the definition of ‘sister’. For men it is a Diogenes lantern as a guide to understand or appreciate that elusive bond .
Poet, War Songs
Critic, Literary Aficionado
Art Historian, The Art of Man and Vitruvian Lens
Writer for art museum catalogues, PoetsArtists