Writing about oneself, says Patricia Foster, ""engages in truth but depends on the imagination, on the life just beneath the skin, a life that's impressionistic and fragile."" These eleven closely linked personal essays are at once an absorbing chronicle of a life fully undertaken and a model for anyone who has contemplated self-investigation through autobiographical writing. The book's three sections each convey a stage of Foster's journey - still ongoing - toward new levels of insight and maturity. ""Inside the Girls' Room"" takes us back to Foster's life in the rural South from the 1950s through the early 1970s. Here she reveals the mixed messages and stereotypes of southern womanhood by which she was raised - and from which she fled. With adulthood, Foster moves to ""Inside the Writing Room,"" a place dotted with discoveries about autobiography as a path to creative expression and inner coherence. Finally, at the place in her life Foster calls ""Inside My Skin,"" autobiography helps her to explore and to claim her cultural identity. Returning to her native South, she holds a writing workshop for a group composed mostly of middle-aged black women, visits a beloved maid from her childhood, and returns to old haunts as a witness to her concerns about race and class. This gathering of lyrical essays explores the intelligent, intuitive heart of a woman struggling to claim both her identity and her place in the world.
Patricia Foster is an associate professor in the MFA Program in Nonfiction at the University of Iowa. She is author of All the Lost Girls, editor of Minding the Body and Sister to Sister, and coeditor of The Healing Circle. Foster is a recipient of the PEN/Jerard Fund Award, the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award, a Dean's Scholar Award, and a Florida Arts Council Award. Her short stories and essays have been published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines.