Saturday, March 13, 2021

The Women I Think About at Night: Traveling the Paths of My Heroes

Title:  The Women I Think About at Night: Traveling the Paths of My Heroes
Author:  Mia Kankimäki (Author), Douglas Robinson (Translator)
Publication Information:  Simon & Schuster. 2020. 416 pages.
ISBN:  1982129190 / 978-1982129194

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I'm M."

Favorite Quote:  "It seems likely that even today women's attitudes have not been entirely freed from this messy skein of duty and guilt. I haven't raised any children or been responsible for my parents' care (yet), but it seems to me that I have nevertheless spent my entire life to date living according to unspoken expectations - under the sway of conditioned obedience and conscientiousness.  I took the expected university degree, entered the profession for which I was qualified, strove ambitiously to advance in that profession for nearly a decade and a half ... all quite willingly, even enthusiastically. But then, somehow, it began to pall on me. Was this all there was to life? Did life have nothing new to offer me? (Probably it was at this juncture the many of my friends started families.) I began to feel that I'd had enough of doing the things I was supposed to do. I'd been conscientious, decent, obedient, and sensible long enough. I didn't want to be sensible any longer!" 

Based on the title and the description, I immediately want to read this book. Mia Kankimake, in her own words, is a "fortyish woman [who] seeks meaning of life." She manages to arrange her life to travel and seek inspiration in the paths of women - ten pioneers - she finds inspiring. She reads their works, contemplates their lives, and travels to their destinations from Africa to Japan to Italy. The book is described as blending "travelogue, memoir, and biography as she recounts her enchanting travels."

I expect to travel to far off destinations. I expected to learn about these women. More importantly, I expect to learn about the author's vision of these pioneers. Most of all I expect to be inspired. Unfortunately, for me, I find myself still seeking and determine that I am not the reader for find these goals in this book.

Travel:  I love travel and the idea of learning and immersing myself in the places and cultures I find myself in.  Unfortunately, on her first trip, the author has this to say. "When you travel, everything is always strange and scary at first - the food, the huts, the people, the animals, the smells, the sounds. But then at some point you begin to adjust, your organism says Okay, fine, your eyes open, and you begin to see past the strangeness. That's why I want to stay on this trip for a long time. I want to wait till I start seeing. That usually happens around the tenth day. We're not there yet." That outlook seems to last the entire book. The commentary is that of a judgmental tourist.

The Women: Interestingly, this book details the reasons the author "rejects" a woman from her list. Some are because of profession or destination which is understandable. Some rejections - "filthy-rich aristocratic heiresses ... whine-fests ... endearingly nerdy aunties" - again bring in a negative judgement which is off-putting. For the women chosen, a lot of this book is excerpts from writings by or about the women the author chooses to study. The excerpts are interspersed with the author's own musings. As such for me, they lose continuity and do not paint a picture of the woman in question. It leaves me wondering if rather than reading these snippets, I should just read the original writings to get a more cohesive vision.

Inspiration:  I am not familiar with some of the women the author chooses as her heroes. However, the term heroes implies a respect. It implies lessons to be learned. It implies approaches to be emulated. It implies choice. Unfortunately, in the process close to the beginning of the book, she asks the question if one of these women in an "unbalanced b**tch". Although she determines that this conclusion may be a result of an author's presentation, the book continues with this tone of annoyance and judgement.

This book has been translated into English. In that, I wonder if something (or everything!) is lost in the translation. Unfortunately, I found this book titled to be about heroes to be anything but inspirational.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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