Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book Review "Breaking Through The Spiral Ceiling" by Laura L. Mays Hoopes.

A biography as fresh as it is honest.

This reader is delighted at what I found between the covers of this book..this is not written to garner sympathy or support, it is written to help people and women in general understand the inherent difficulties of having a life-long passion and expertise in a field of endeavor as difficult and time consuming as science, and be a woman, a wife twice over, a mother and a friend ... without having either of the two consummate loves of her life suffer.

Author Laura  L. Mays Hoopes pulls no theoretical punches, she is as honest about her own needs and desires, her fears and her weaknesses as she is about the opposing forces that conspired albeit unknowingly or deliberately to force her to choose one or the other.

Folks kept telling her that combining both a high powered and demanding career with a family, was not possible for a woman. Society had such different expectations of the female gender in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

The world has changed and attitudes along with it. Woman are now unapologetically leaders in every field of endeavor.

Laura L. Mays Hoopes was attracted to a career in science during the Eisenhower years, her fascination for and commitment to her chosen field has never wavered. Kennedy, Camelot , and Vietnam launched the world on a different trajectory ...

Bare in mind that these early years where leather bound in the ways of earlier generations, “Women’s Liberation” was still gently stirring in the wind. Germaine Greer and “The Female Eunich” was an embryo waiting to launch from the belly of a society where women were best kept pregnant, barefooted and in the kitchen!

This is an oversimplification of course…yet when I think back to that time and recall the programs best loved on television, we had ... ”I Love Lucy” “Father knows Best"…”Leave it to Beaver” We had Bonanza, Wagon Train, and “Andy Griffith.” I have difficulty remembering any program where the ‘little woman’ worked outside the home.

All were meant to profile the mother image, the little woman who was the stalwart of the family, the hinge upon which all things emotional pivoted…heaven forbid she should ever know anything more practical than the best way to make ‘cookies’.

The author arrived in the field before the establishment was ready for women scientists.  It was considered quite normal then to ask a woman if she was married or if she intended to have children, and there were no rules against sexual harassment at all.  Harassment wasn’t attributed to the attitudes of those who held the balance of power in the fields of academic endeavor. 

Woman who pursued these arenas were considered at best unusual, at worst as something less than completely “womanly”.

It was expected that women would stay home and have kids; only later in the Baby Boom generation were the molds shattered and some of these assumptions overturned. 

This memoir follows Laura from her early days in an ecology workshop in the mountains of North Carolina through her education at a women's college (Goucher College in Baltimore).

We follow her summers in Woods Hole; her graduate education at Yale University, postdoctoral fellowships at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation and University of Colorado Medical School, and her faculty position at Occidental College in Los Angeles. 

This reviewer is not an academic scholar, however it pleases me that I don’t need to be to understand the drive and passion in this work. 

Many of the terminology uses leave me scratching my head, but as in all things worthy of reading, this work informs and entertains. I Googled much of the scientific language and came away with more knowledge than I had when I commenced reading.

Above all else the work took this reader on a journey with the author, as she made discoveries about herself, as she grew and changed as a result of her decisions and life choices.

I found it an intelligent and honest look at a woman who triumphed in a world that tried to prevent her achieving her dreams, and thankfully did not succeed.

A damned good read.

 Biography profile, Laura L. Mays Hoopes

Laura L. Mays Hoopes is a married college biology professor who teaches and does molecular gerontology research at Pomona College east of Los Angeles.  She has two grown children and a yen to write. 

She has a memoir coming out in spring, 2010 and 21 published articles in magazines and newspapers.

After taking many online writing courses, she completed a certificate in creative writing through UCLA Extension with Distinction in 2009.  One of Laura’s essays won second prize in the Writers’ Journal Travel Article Contest in 2007, and another won first prize in Byline Creative Nonfiction Contest in 2008.  A prequel of her memoir, “Great Ecology Tour,” was published in the North Carolina Literary Review in summer, 2008. In summer, 2010 she received a scholarship to the Norman Mailer Writers Colony to study Biography.

 In fall, 2010 she was admitted to the MFA program at San Diego State University and has continued her study of creative writing (fiction).  She is at work on a biography of two major women molecular biologists and two novels.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment/review on any of the stories/poems contributed.