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REVIEW: All the Women in My Family Sing

by Rebecca M. Alvin

The use of the term “women” to refer to more than half the world’s population as a collective group has always been problematic. Sharing gender does not necessarily mean sharing the same experiences, expectations, and struggles. Of course, the same can be said for any identity group, but due to the sheer number of people who are women, the connections are much more diffuse, complicated, and even contradictory. What editor Deborah Santana attempts to do in her 2018 anthology All the Women in My Family Sing is not to erase differences and put forth a collection that speaks some sort of universal truth about the “female experience,” but rather to revel in its diversity, focusing specifically on the voices of women of color.

With brief essays from nearly 70 different women from all corners of the globe, arranged into eight sections with headings ranging from “The Cure for What Ails You: Transcending Illness and Trauma” to “But Beautiful… The Beauty Myth,” the experiences, concerns, struggles, and achievements documented in this book are as diverse as their creators.

In Matilda Smith’s “Outlaw,” the South African attorney tells us about her childhood committing what was then a crime: interacting with white children at a swimming pool, and other transgressions of her society’s rules of racial segregation. Performer Mila Jam, in her “Home Transgender Journey,” recalls her struggle for acceptance, writing “Everyone had a role to play, and there were no exceptions made for me. I would only be loved, it seemed, if I stayed committed to the part I was given.” And Janine Shiota, a nonprofit professional and commissioner of the San Francisco Art Commission, explores her complex biracial identity, her discomfort with describing herself as a “woman of color,” and her own lack of connection to gender as a defining identity until later in life. Each story has elements we connect with, and yet they are unique, entirely specific, and layered with true identity, which goes beyond blanket labels.

What we come away with after reading these mini-memoirs is a deeper understanding of how we are connected in our separateness. All humans are unique and none of us fit into the prescribed roles and labels we are expected to embrace from birth. In examining each individual panel, we are able to better see the whole quilt for the brilliant creation that it is. Likewise All the Women in My Family Sing celebrates women as a diverse set of distinct, individual people, who together represent that which is so beautiful about life itself, as well as that our common human struggle.

All the Women in My Family Sing edited by Deborah Santana was published in 2018 by Nothing But the Truth Publishing. It can be purchased online at or ordered from your local bookseller.

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Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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