Several years ago, my friend Nancy Jane Moore recommended a book that I keep coming back to. It’s called Necessary Dreams, by Anna Fels. The subtitle is “Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives” but less than ambition, what keeps recurring in my thoughts is our need for recognition. After I read the book, I was fired up, and decided to ask my boss for a raise. I worked in an all-male department, and while there was no duplication in job descriptions, I sensed that I was the lowest paid (which was probably not because I was a woman, but the idea was in my head). My boss was supportive, and the organization was not in the red, so I got a raise. Not as much as I asked for, but generous even so. It was very validating.
I often recommend Necessary Dreams to women who are grappling with what they want to do with their lives, or having mixed feelings about doing the work of raising children or taking care of life at home–a job that is often invisible, and certainly undervalued in larger society. It’s such important work, but if a person is a good parent (and not a bad one) it often goes unrecognized.
While I have lots of support from my immediate people, I have been yearning for broader recognition, both as a new parent and a writer. So maybe it is ambition, or “sheer egotism” (as Orwell said in his essay, “Why I Write”) that makes me want to finish my birth story and get it published.
Anyway, for anyone interested in these issues, I recommend Necessary Dreams. If you read it, let me know what you think.