I am woman
“I am Woman. Hear me roar,” was the battle cry for a generation of women (and some of their mothers!) in 1975. Oddly, this song, made famous by Helen Reddy, was written by two men! Women wanted equality with men, in salaries especially, but in all rights, including fighting in wars.
“You’ve come a long way, baby!” hyped the Virginia Slims advertising, proving that women had won the right to kill themselves, just like their male counterparts. But at least these cigarettes were long, slender and elegant.
Women have made some inroads in various areas, but we will never make the same as men and in many circles, we will never get the respect nor will we ever fit in as well as men. With the increase in fundamentalism in all religions on the increase, it seems we may have actually taken a few steps backward.
However, I have to admit that while I am used to the term “chick flick” and all it implies, I was a little surprised and not a little perturbed to find “women’s fiction” on the back of a recorded book to which I was listening. Because there is no such thing as “men’s fiction” and we all know what would qualify under that genre. No “guys just want to have fun,” no guns-guts-‘n-glory for guys. So where’s the equality even in the publishing world.
Get a grip, I told myself; there are children’s literature, mystery, thriller, espionage, general fiction, etc. That is simply something that is done to help browsers determine, if they can’t get a clue from the title or the jacket art, what a book is about. Been done for decades—maybe I’d just never noticed the “women’s fiction” label before. Besides, who really cares?
And why should I? I have no idea why this took me by surprise and why my thoughts derailed in the direction they did. Maybe because I usually don’t read “women’s fiction” but mysteries, fantasy and “general” fiction? Does it make me sound too girly to be reading “women’s fiction”? Sheez…
But there it was, a book suggested by a friend, who also happens to be a salesperson for the audio book vendor we use. The Language of Flowers, which has a beautiful close-up of white flowers on the cover. Did I really need to be told it was “women’s fiction?”
The book, which is a first novel for the author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, deals with the life of Victoria Jones, a young woman who has been brought up in the “system” of foster care and orphanages. Even as a child, she had barbed wire fences around her heart, not wanting to let anyone get close to her, attempting to save herself from further hurt and abandonment.
Although she has one true chance to belong to the one true person destined to be her mother, that is sabotaged by her own fears and misguided actions. Upon emancipation at the age of 18, she has no job, nowhere to live and no prospects for either. She sleeps in the park and fences herself off by planting a small garden there.
For years, she has studied an old book that gives the genus and meaning of flowers. She uses this to leave messages to people who have touched her life, whether in good or bad ways. On her last day in the orphanage, she leaves dahlias for the girls with whom she cohabitated. Dahlias, meaning dignity. As she thinks, “The girls would never understand the meaning of the dahlias (the meaning itself an ambiguous statement of encouragement)…”
With no training, but plenty of desperation, Victoria asks for a job at a local florist. When the owner sees how naturally she puts flowers together, she is hired to help out part time. Eventually, customers find that her suggestions for the type of flowers to give for certain situations, such as a cooling love or a desire for love, actually help them. Over time, her reputation spreads and grows stronger.
Like all good “women’s fiction,” she meets a mysterious stranger who makes her question her past and her current way of life. Through the language of flowers, they begin communication, which develops into an independent, shaky relationship. The author deftly intertwines the child Victoria’s struggles with the confusion of the adult Victoria, like a talented floral artist.
Although I personally thought the ending was predictable, getting there was an enjoyable, but frustrating, ride. If you’ve read this book, or plan to do so, I want to hear your opinion and if/how it affected you. The library has both the hardback book and the audio CD, so give us a call to hold one of them for you, if your interest is piqued.
And going back to the women’s lib thing, my favorite quote about it was from Zsa Zsa Gabor. I’m sure this is not exact but she said something like, “Why would I want to be equal with men? Why would I want to lower myself.”