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Women’s talk — and typical

01 March 2013

Penny Seabrook finds a conversation little out of the ordinary

Getting from Here to There: Conversations on life and work
Margaret R. Miles and Hiroko Sakomura
The Lutterworth Press £15

THE conversation partners of this book met when the Japanese-born exhibition-producer Hiroko Sakomura asked Margaret R. Miles, Emerita Professor at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, to lecture on the use of vision in religious practice at the American venues chosen for her international exhibition of Buddhist Art. The discussion recorded here, however, does not dwell on that commission. In their own words, this is a book of memoirs which stretches the boundaries of the genre as it compares and contrasts their different experiences of life and work.

Reflecting first on their childhood, socialisation, relationships, and children, Miles and Sakomura go on to identify some of the strategic issues that have helped or hindered their progress: positive and negative role-models and self-images; good and bad habits; critical stances; questions of style, energy and power, pleasure and happiness. The final section encapsulates the here and now of their professional, religious, social, and public life.

While there is interest enough here for an extended feature in an exhibition catalogue, it is not a memorable or particularly inspiring book, and the only question it raises is who will buy it.

Do not be swayed by the professional distinction of the authors. This is women's talk, which reflects the inside rather than the outside story, and that is the pleasure of reading. It does nothing more than affirm the trials and tribulations of seeking meaning and purpose in a culture that is still strangely biased against women who challenge conventional expectations. I respect the value that these two conversation partners confer on each other, but do not think that their voices are unique. Ask any woman the same sort of questions, and you will get similar answers, even though some have not had the courage or opportunity to express themselves so honestly in public.

The Revd Penny Seabrook is Associate Vicar of All Saints', Fulham, in London.

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