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The Dance of the Dissident Daughter
ISBN: 0-06-064588-1
By Sue Monk Kidd
Review by: Natasha Whitton

06/06/05

Although most well-known for her novel The Secret Life of Bees, which was a book club favorite last year, Sue Monk Kidd has also written a compelling spiritual autobiography which is aptly subtitled “A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine.”

First published in 1996, the book has been enjoying a renaissance of interest since Bees and this year’s The Mermaid Chair have garnered accolades. More than autobiography, it is a journal of thoughts and a collection of responses to critical theory on the sacred feminine in the writings of philosophers, authors, scientists, sociologists, psychologists, symbologists – anyone that Kidd came across in her search for meaning.

In the introduction, she writes, “In a way my whole life has been about waking up and then waking up some more. This book is about waking up some more” (1). What follows is a decidedly feminine and circular process of discovery that it divided into four sections: Awakening, Initiation, Grounding, and Empowerment. In the narrative, Kidd beautifully illustrates the gradual process of her awakening. Yes, there are sometimes moments of startling impact that jolt her soul, but there are also days, weeks, months, and years of quiet reading and seeking.

She chooses to begin the narrative with a scene in a drug store. She has gone to pick up her fourteen-year-old daughter Ann from her after-school job. As she enters the store, she sees Ann knelling on the floor as she loads a bottom shelf with boxes of Crest toothpaste. Two men come up the aisle and one says to the other, “Now that’s how I like to see a woman – on her knees” (7). It is in moments like this one that Kidd is able to unpack the heavy baggage of her position as a woman and to make decisions about what she will pass on to her daughter.

Kidd was raised in the Southern Baptist Church, and she has raised her children there as well, even though she has at times struggled with its position on women. When Ann was eight she asked her mother when the women deacons would be ordained, and Kidd recalls her own childhood struggles with the lack of equality between men and women in the church. During Vacation Bible School as a child, Kidd remembers a playground argument that escalated until one of the boys ended the fight by announcing that God had made men “the boss” of women. When the girls run inside to tell the teacher and ask her to confirm that this cannot possibly be true, she instead takes the side of the boys and relies on the Bible to support her position.

The strength of this narrative lies in its style and complexity. Kidd is not dictatorial and is clear to point out that this is HER journey. Your journey might take quite a different path, but she provides the primary source material that she found most interesting, particularly the symbols of the feminine like the labyrinth, the snake, and the goddess. Ultimately, she defines a feminine space that women have written of and aspired to for centuries.






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