Having It All

Leaving behind beauty myths and backlashes, three new books about women and their accomplishments share a surprising optimism.

Writer Joyce Maynard is the token aberrant, offering a jagged tale of a marriage for which she sacrificed her New York City ambitions and moved to the country, where she wrote a syndicated Domestics column. Ironically, her subsequent divorce effectively disqualified her as a sound authority on home and family issues and resulted in the discontinuation of her column. Despite its title, A Question of Balance is overwhelmingly weighted in favor of comfy academics, who speak eloquently of partnerships with husbands based in mutual commitment to one another's work and the welfare of the family unit.

There is a strong temptation to take these three authors to task for focusing on heroines of the meritocracy, and ignoring women who haven't yet met that sensitive partner (or never will), or whose art/science/jurisprudence has not been rewarded by the structures that be. But that would be selling short the value, however simplistic, of their cartography. What I'm saying is: Thank God for baby boomers unconstrained by self-doubt, content not to qualify, confident that these stories will help more than hurt, secure in their knowledge that critics like this one--who might conclude that these women's bourgeois privilege and faith in the power of individual creativity constitute a kind of tyranny--will someday appreciate hearing their voices, whatever their choices. And they are absolutely right.

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