Reviewed by Patti Gibbons
Interweavings: Creative Nonfiction
by Carol Smallwood
Shanti Arts Publishing
2017; ISBN 978-1-941830-46-8, paperback, $16.95, 162 pg
Accomplished author, poet, and editor Carol Smallwood’s latest offering, Interweavings: Creative Nonfiction, is a collection of essays that offers readers a chance to view select moments of Smallwood’s life where she pauses, as a woman and as a writer, to reflect, analyze, and contemplate the interconnectedness of her earlier self, life’s universal moments, and the outlook that comes with the passage of time. Smallwood’s perspective brings strength engrained in her as a member of her generation’s feminist movement, a theme that supports the overarching tone of the collection of essays.
Smallwood’s assembly of over forty essays are organized into seven thematic chapters, and work on the individual essay level, as groups of essays, and finally as a whole collection. Looking at the mundane, such as visits to the post office or to the library, Smallwood works in an accessible realm, one which readers of all backgrounds can relate to, but her voice filters her experiences through her vantage point, namely as a woman born in a pivotal generation. Interweavings rings a perspective that prompts readers to go beyond an interpretation of Smallwood’s stories as descriptive pieces, to a body of work that provides a faceted look at the small moments of life that communicates deeper meanings and speaks to experiences Smallwood narrates from her reflections across her lifetime. Smallwood shares her private thoughts in clear and uncensored terms, not for shock value, but as a reflective simplicity that has come clearer into view as she benefits from the long view of maturity.
Interweavings is a peek into a writer’s sketchbook, a collection of ponderings and meditations when the author encounters silently powerful moments in her everyday life, and rubs and massages them to tease out the emotional underpinnings. The work delineates how each speaks not only to the conversation at hand, but to deeper dialogues when examined in light of a lifetime of living and experience. The perspective presented in the individual essays is clarified by the writing process, and Smallwood, as an author skilled in many genres, is able to share feelings, sentiments, and wisdom with an apparent simplicity and economy of words, due in large part to her mastery as a writer.
Readers of all backgrounds could easily connect with the themes, and readers seeking to examine American life and the life of twentieth century women, in particular, would delight in the insight Smallwood provides, and the honest reflections she shares. Smallwood’s essays leak with quiet sentiment and encourage readers to approach her prose intuitively. Honest and uncoated, Smallwood evenhandedly leads readers through a series of richly described vignettes that are relatable and prompt readers to interject themselves into the circumstances she writes about, to experience situations first-handedly themselves, as well as on behalf of the author.
As Dr. William Brevda, Professor of English at Central Michigan University, aptly points out in the foreword, “What Smallwood has written is literature. It has staying power.” Through her descriptive yet careful voice, Smallwood candidly captures how she experiences daily life through the medium of language in a profound manner that reaches the level of lasting art.
Reviewed by Patti Gibbons
Head of Collection Management
Special Collections Research Center
University of Chicago Library