Braided Lives
320 pages

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320 pages

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Marge Piercy carries her portrait of the American experience back into the Fifties—that closed, repressive time in which forces for the upheavals of the Sixties ticked away underground. Spanning twenty years, and teeming with vivid characters, Braided Lives tells the powerful, unsentimental story of two young women coming of age.

Jill, fiercely independent, dark, Jewish, an intellectual with Detroit street smarts, is a poet, curious, avid of life—a “professional student” and sometime thief. Donna, Jill’s cousin and closest friend, is blond, pretty, and alluring. Together, they grow and change at college in Ann Arbor, where the life of poets and painters contrasts sharply with the working-class neighborhood where Jill’s family lives.

In Michigan, and afterward in New York City, the two women taste love and betrayal, friendship and pain, independence and fear as they reach a deepening understanding that to control their lives they must fight. And though their fates differ as widely as their personalities, both reflect the danger that sex posed at a time when abortions were illegal and an affair could destroy a woman’s life, making the outcome of a chance encounter or a night of love a matter of life and death.

Braided Lives is an enduring portrait of the past that has led to our tenuous present. In her new introduction to this edition, Marge Piercy reflects on both the most autobiographical of her novels, and the ongoing battles to ensure the hard-fought victories of the Sixties and Seventies, particularly around sex and reproductive rights.



Publié par
Date de parution 01 septembre 2013
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781604868777
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0025€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Praise for Braided Lives
"This book demonstrates the maturation of Piercy’s native talent for storytelling … we would have to look to a French writer like Colette or to American writers of another generation, like May Sarton, to find anyone who writes as tenderly as Piercy about life’s redeeming pleasures sex, of course, but also the joys of good food, good conversation, and the reassuring little rituals like feeding the cats, watering the plant, weeding the garden."
Judith Paterson, Washington Post Book World
"A delicious binge of a book. I had a wonderful time reading Braided Lives, crying real tears at the sad parts and feeling real elation at the happy ones."
San Francisco Chronicle
"This big, rich book has an authenticity of time and place that draws us into the story. The theme. That sex without birth control and abortion without legal protection cost lives. Piercy handles her theme deftly, so the lives of her characters and not the rhetoric of the author make us keep reading. Braided Lives is a novel that tries not to simplify but to clarify … and by so doing, it adds a great deal to our understanding of how things came to be as they are, and what some of yesterday might have meant."
Marcie Hershman, Boston Globe
"Marge Piercy is the political novelist of our time. More: she is the conscience."
Marilyn French
"A magnificent achievement. With beauty and mastery, she palpably creates, recreates a decade. Braided Lives is one of those rare, rich, valuable books that reveal how realities, class, sex, one’s times shape generations."
Tillie Olsen
"Absorbing. Marge Piercy recreates the college campus of the fifties with all the desire, confusion, hypocrisy, and pain of young women’s emerging sexuality."
Alix Kates Shulman
Other books by Marge Piercy
The Crooked Inheritance
Colors Passing Through Us
The Art of Blessing the Day
Early Grrrl
Hard Loving
What Are Big Girls Made Of?
Breaking Camp
Mars and Her Children
Available Light
My Mother’s Body
Stone, Paper, Knife
Circles on the Water
The Moon Is Always Female
The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing
Living in the Open
To Be of Use
The Hunger Moon: New & Selected Poems 1980–2010 4-Telling (with R. Hershon, E. Jarrett, D. Lourie)
Sex Wars
Woman on the Edge of Time
The Third Child
Small Changes
Three Women
Dance the Eagle to Sleep
Storm Tide (with Ira Wood)
Going Down Fast
City of Darkness, City of Light
The Longings of Women
He, She and It
Summer People
Gone to Soldiers
Fly Away Home
The High Cost of Living
Pesach for the Rest of Us
So You Want to Write (with Ira Wood)
The Last White Class: A Play (with Ira Wood)
Sleeping with Cats: A Memoir
Parti-Colored Blocks for a Quilt: Essays
Early Ripening: American Women’s Poetry Now

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Braided Lives
Marge Piercy
© Middlemarsh, Inc 2013
This edition © PM Press 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be transmitted by any means without permission in writing from the publisher
PO Box 23912
Oakland, CA 94623
Cover design by John Yates/
ISBN: 978-1-60486-442-7
LCCN: 2012955001
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following magazines, where excerpts of Braided Lives previously appeared:
The Minnesota Review
The Michigan Quarterly Review
Earlier short stories incorporated into Braided Lives were published in:
The Bold New Women, by Barbara Alson Wasserman, Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1966.
off our backs
One of the poems in Braided Lives was included in 4-Telling, Trumansburg, NY: The Crossing Press, 1971.
Printed in the USA, by the Employee Owners of
Thomson-Shore in Dexter, Michigan.
Introduction to
I T IS UNFORTUNATE that Braided Lives is so timely, since women’s hard-won rights are under vicious attack from the Right and from fundamentalists, from Congress and from state legislatures. It would be nicer if we could read this novel as historical fiction, but we are undergoing a powerfully funded attempt to roll back history. We are witnessing men who fantasize a return to the conditions of the fifties, plotting so that era’s constraints can return and women once again find their sexuality and fertility completely out of their control.
The television program Mad Men has made vivid to viewers some of the enforced sexual roles of that time. Unfortunately, television makes pretty what was far from it. That era was far more bloody than cute.
Most of you who will read this novel have never lived in a world before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal (if not affordable or procurable) for a lot of women. In Braided Lives, you enter a world that may be as strange and barbaric to you as the world in historical novels like my own City of Darkness, City of Light, in which an apprentice is hanged by the neck until dead for stealing a loaf of bread. Women of that time lived with a fear that may be hard for us to understand: that desire or even true love could kill; that to become pregnant when you do not want to is to enter a world of illegality and danger, of uncertainty and pain.
In a world before Roe v. Wade, women faced the experience of forced motherhood, of signing babies away, of abortions carried out without anesthetics. There was also a very real fear of bringing shame on your family, of losing your scholarship or job, of being forced to drop out of school and perhaps not being able to return, of ruining your relationships, of arrest and imprisonment, of accidental sterility, of infection and pain, of death. Even after death, the shame would continue. Dying of an abortion was not at all uncommon, but usually covered up. Such a death would be a newspaper scandal if revealed, so it would be concealed if the family were able to persuade the doctor to fudge the cause of death ("her heart stopped"). When abortion was illegal, an estimated 40 percent of maternal deaths were from botched abortions or self-inflicted abortions. You could die a great many ways then: of bleeding to death, of septicemia, of tetanus.
Braided Lives revolves around the friendship of two women in and after college. The main protagonist, Jill, is the closest I have ever come to basing any fictional character on myself, and this is one of the few times I’ve written fiction in the first person. It was a tremendous loosening and, to this day, I love the style of this book. Of any prose I’ve written, I think it’s closest to the way I think and speak, except for my poetry. It is not a truly autobiographical novel, although some episodes are similar to or the same as what I’ve done and gone through in my own life. If you read my memoir Sleeping with Cats, you can tell the difference. Braided Lives is more of a large, intricate structure built on events of those years, some of which are drawn from lives far different than my own.
At the core of this novel is what young women’s lives were like when they were forbidden to have sex outside marriage, although probably a majority of them did so anyhow. It depicts what it was like when contraception for unmarried women was as difficult to come by as the Republicans would like to make it today. It tells what happened to women when abortion was illegal and anticipates how women yes, women, not politicians, not the Supreme Court forced the issue until they had gained control over their own fertility.
The two main characters in this book come from Michigan’s industrial working class: Jill from Detroit, Donna from Flint. Jill is Jewish, although mostly in a cultural sense. Donna was raised Catholic. Both struggle with their sexual identities, their ambitions, and their relationships with men in one case the same rich, cold, manipulative Freudian, Peter, who pits them against each other and almost destroys their friendship.
The novel is full of the cultural wars of the fifties; the incipient, mostly underground, political ferment that led to the sixties; the rebellion of women against the rigid sex roles (and the equally rigid clothing and undergarments that fill some aging men with desperate nostalgia) that emerged later in the women’s movement; and the desire for something other than the conventional straitjackets of marriage that ruled those times. It centers on what it was like to be a woman when the men who hate female sexuality had full control of the laws and the medical establishment and the work and social options available to a girl coming of age.
Braided Lives is also full of vividly created characters: Jill, dark and street-smart, falls in love easily until it almost kills her. Jill is seeking to find her way as a poet, seeking a way to be authentic in her relationships. A bit of a thief and an adventurer, inchoately political, she is a survivor who compares herself to an alley cat. Donna a fragile, pretty blond hopes to find security and fulfillment through men, while compulsively using sex as obliter

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