This is a curated conversation that challenges the limiting outcomes we seem to hold for aging women.
Today, I’m discovering that aging women not only imagine a different future for themselves than that of their mothers, they are also redefining aging and choosing to reinvent themselves or explore what it means to be themselves in later life.
The Book of Old Ladies offers a selection of works that I hope you will want to explore yourself, and I hope my discussion of these stories uncovers a broad picture of older women’s range of lived experience over the course of their lives, including the surprises, illuminations, and intensities of old age.
I have now lived longer than many of the female protagonists whose stories I had hoped would inform me and offer alternative visions to inhabit as an older woman, just as a young girl tries on costumes and inhabits multiple roles as she matures. I have discovered through my own experience that loss does not need to define us, and that old women have at our disposal many ways we can adapt and learn and continue to see the world with wonder and joy.
Fiction sets a cultural tone for what we believe to be true about ourselves. The Book of Old Ladies encourages readers, young and old, to think critically about the ramifications of fiction in all of our lives, inspiring dialogue and ultimately more profound and plentiful storylines from future novelists that will feature older women for the fascinating, dynamic, and complicated subjects they truly are.
–RUTH O. SAXTON