Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd

reviewed by Ingrid

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Published: 1996

It's about: This book is a spiritual memoir documenting Sue Monk Kidd's journey from Christianity to the Sacred Feminine. The chapters are each titled after the Jungian "journey to wholeness," beginning with "Awakening," "Initiation," "Grounding," and ending with "Empowerment." Kidd focuses on small incidents in her life that pushed her along on her spiritual journey, a concept she calls "synchronicity" -- she describes the process of working out how each seemingly unconnected event adds to or engages in conversation to other events in her life. (For example, connecting something shes sees on TV to a poem she happens to read, or a painting she comes upon in a museum, or a special little place she finds when she is hiking.)
Kidd also explains dreams she has along the way and provides her symbolic interpretation.

I thought: There were several things I loved about this book, and also a few things that I did not care for too much. Let's start with the things I didn't like.

As this book is a memoir, by no means do I mean to criticize the genuinity or authenticity of Kidd's experience. That said, the first thing I didn't like about this book is the fact that Kidd seemed to have perfectly symbolic dreams that fit like puzzle pieces into her overall experience. This rang a bit false to me. Also, her focus on Jungian psychology was a bit heavy. Kidd's writing is engaging and clear, though at times I felt it was a bit melodramatic for my taste. She likes to add paragraph breaks simply for emphasis. Here is an example:

I would be Eve opening her eyes on creation for the first time. I would give myself permission to go wherever my quest took me.
And it took me to some pretty surprising places.

That is just a little stylistic detail that I don't like. I would say I am very sensitive to melodrama, because it's something that annoys me to all ends, and too much of it just screams bad writing. I must say though, considering her topic, there was a lot more room for melodrama in this book that Kidd managed to avoid.

Now on to what I did like. I absolutely loved the way Kidd used synchronicity in this book. Connecting little things that happen to her helped me to realize that perhaps I can create meaning as well as a sense of wholeness within my own life. It is something every woman does, (sometimes without realizing it,) and it also highlights the fact that wholeness and meaning in one's life is created. AND, it also happens to reflect how we connect events and create meaning in a text as we read.

I also loved the way that Kidd so concretely described abstract emotions. For example, she describes how anger should be channeled to become "the kind of fire that cooks things," as opposed to an out of control "conflagration." Kidd's metaphors are everything that a metaphor should be - they blend into the text and brings her experience into a tight focus.

Despite the few things I didn't like, overall I thought this was a wonderful book.

Verdict: Put this one on the shelf. On my shelf I put it in my "women" section next to The Feminine Mystique, The Female Brain, and The Second Sex (which I never finished, incidentally.)

Warnings: None.

Favorite excerpts:

"Waking to the sacredness of the female body will cause a woman to 'enter into' her body in a new way, be at home in it, honor it, nurture it, listen to it, delight in its sensual music. She will experience her female flesh as beautiful and holy, as a vessel of the sacred. She will live from her gut and feet and hands and instincts and not entirely in her head. Such a woman conveys a formidable presence because power resides in her body. The bodies of such women, instead of being groomed to some external standard are penetrated with soul, quickened from the inside."

"One particular way we can embody Sacred Feminine experience in our daily lives is to embrace a spirituality of naturalness. Like springwater, this spirituality arises out of our nature, our feminine nature. It's native to us, not artificial or manufactured or piped in from some other place. Very simply, this spirituality is true to who we are as women; it comes from within us and flows out."