Art Works Blog

Art Works Podcast: Terry Tempest Williams

In this week's podcast, we meet Terry Tempest Williams. Over the course of her 14 books, Williams has been celebrated for writing about the environment in poetic language that reads like a literary text. She's been described by Donna Seaman in Booklist as an author who is, "Scientific in her exactitude...and rhapsodic in expression." In her 1991 classicRefuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, for example, Williams interweaves a study about the devastation of bird-nesting areas with a memoir of her mother's life, illness, and death from cancer. It's a parallel of a natural disaster with one caused by man: the cancer that killed her mother claimed the lives of a number of women in Williams's family, as well as many others who lived in the areas surrounding the nearby Nevada desert which, for over a decade, was a site for ongoing, above-ground nuclear testing.

When Williams’s mother lay dying, she told Terry that she had left her all of her journals, but made her promise not to look at them until after her death. What she found in those journals eventually led, some 35 years later, to a second memoir about her mother, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice.


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