HEAR­ING WOMEN ROAR

Foreword Reviews - - Editor’s Note - BY MATT SUTHER­LAND

Near­ing her 88th year, my mother (I’ll call her Mary) has per­fected the art of giv­ing away her pos­ses­sions us­ing var­i­ous tricks and sub­terfuge. So when she sat me down on her couch the other af­ter­noon and handed over a manila en­ve­lope, I was sus­pi­cious. “It’s an early Christ­mas present,” she said. “Open it.” I did so with a hid­den sigh and was sur­prised to find the Oc­to­ber 29, 1972 is­sue of the Detroit News Sun­day Mag­a­zine and a copy of Time mag­a­zine from Novem­ber 13, 1972. They both had cover sto­ries on Jonathan Liv­ingston Seag­ull, which was dom­i­nat­ing best­seller lists at the time. Mary had writ­ten the fea­ture for the News on

JLS au­thor Richard Bach’s ex-wife, Bette Bach.

Bette and the cou­ple’s six chil­dren moved to an old farm­house near us in ru­ral north­ern Michi­gan in the early 1970s, not long af­ter the di­vorce. As hap­pens in very small towns, our fam­i­lies got to­gether for meals on oc­ca­sion, we kids hung out a bit, and Mary be­came good friends with Bette, a pi­lot, artist, and avowed free spirit. When the Jonathan Liv­ingston

Seag­ull phe­nom­e­non ex­ploded, Mary pitched a pro­file of Richard Bach’s ex, and the News quickly ac­cepted, giv­ing her an early dead­line so as to pub­lish be­fore Time did their piece on Richard.

I hauled my early Christ­mas present home and a cou­ple nights later paged through the mag­a­zines, mar­veling at, well, the Mad Man-es­que ads. “One great dish serves a great dish from Swan­son,” head­lined one show­ing a coif­fured mother serv­ing her fam­ily canned soup. An­other pro­moted Kitchen Talk: helps in the care and feed­ing of a happy hus­band, a Wed­nes­day col­umn in the News. By the time I got to Mary’s “She Flies Alone” story, I was in a state of shock about how dread­fully sex­ist things were just forty-five years ago. But then I started read­ing and came across this quote about how happy Bette was to be divorced: “The big­gest change in me is the abil­ity to be my­self. I’m of­ten blunt, say what I think. I used to be so tact­ful, afraid I might say the wrong thing. I wouldn’t dream of wear­ing Levi’s be­cause I was Mrs. Richard Bach. Now I feel no one is go­ing to judge me on my clothes. When I was mar­ried, meals were on time, full course, with cor­rect ta­ble set­ting. Ev­ery­thing re­volved around Dick; what would suit him, make him more com­fort­able. … Now we’re noisy! This free­dom is good for us all.”

Nowa­days, that at­ti­tude wouldn’t raise an eye­brow, but back in 1972 you can imag­ine the se­cret thrill it of­fered tens of thou­sands of un­happy wives, and the angst it caused in their hus­bands. Way to give ‘em hell, mom.

With pow­er­ful women in mind, look for our Women’s Voices Fore­sight on page 10—eight won­der­ful books from top in­die pub­lish­ers like Al­go­nquin, City Lights, Turner Pub­lish­ing, Ar­chi­pel­ago Books, Uni­ver­sity Press of Kentucky, and oth­ers. And then sev­eral more women-au­thored books in the Writ­ers of Color fea­ture on page 16. In­trepid women, in­die presses, in­spir­ing books. We got you cov­ered.

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