It is important to read the Preface to this book to be able to appreciate better its contents, its format, and, why it is the way it is. One, the book consists of accounts of the struggles of women from diverse cultural perspectives using multidisciplinary approaches in their writings, Two, the forum (from where the book has emerged) provided ‘for a variety of women’s voices, allowing women to speak for and about themselves in ways that have often been excluded from academic discourse’. This freedom to authors to use their preferred writing styles, has, according to the editors, provided a diverse range of opportunities for women to tell their stories without the constraints of specific writing styles being imposed on them. Three, while the content dwells largely on defining women’s work, workspaces and of the need to balance multiple roles simultaneously and continually, the contributors to such content go beyond ‘professional’ women and those having ‘legitimate working space’ to include those not belonging to ‘professional category’ and/or those working within and from home. The contributions are thematically organized into five parts with part six providing an overall conclusion. In all there are nineteen contributions; understandably we can only provide glimpses from some.
In her contribution titled, ‘Experiences of a Black South African Woman’, Thenjiwe Magwaza questions the usefulness of the often imparted advice to balance work and family life when in fact women often have to opt for an unbalanced life! ‘I reflect on the challenges of my efforts in trying to strike the balance as I strive to satisfy all parties involved in my work-personal life. I argue for the recognition of a scale that may not be balanced but is functional for women. I have found that striving towards gratifying all parties brings unnecessary pressure, leads to depression and in turn has negative effects on everyone’ (p. 5). Magwaza’s thick narrative explicates very clearly how she consciously ‘combined’ rather than ‘balanced’ family, social, community and employment roles, which in fact, according to her, is the reality of most women’s lives.
Heide Kaminski’s account of life as a single mother in America is at the same time poignant and fascinating for the manner in which it combines details of everyday time management (emphasizing the precarious way every activity hangs together), the sequence of events that ultimately forced her to divorce her self-centered, selfish partner and the constant negotiations into which she is pushed to prove herself worthy and eligible for public assistance. What stands out is her amazing spirit that actually enables her to say: ‘Everyday when I ask God: Why me? I try to remind myself: I survived. No, I WON! I won, over my fear of losing comfort and security in exchange for being able to be proud of myself’ (p. 24).