Author of the Month
Sue Monk Kidd
[November 2008]
Chosen by reviewer Laura Strathman Hulka , MyShelf.Com


Sue Monk Kidd First Light by Sue Monk Kidd

I feel myself truly blessed in having been able to recently (October 24th, 2008) see Sue Monk Kidd in person at the Marin Center in San Rafael, CA — her only California appearance this year. When this remarkable and beautiful author walked on stage, I was somehow stunned to find her petite and delicate; the power of her writing persona and the strength of her feminist voice had led me to believe that she, too, must be larger than life. Listening to her speak was a significant event for me, which I hope I can successfully share with the readers of Myshelf.com.


The Appearance and Sue's Books

Sue walked out on the stage, approaching the isolated podium with what seemed to be both eagerness and trepidation. She had a folder of notes tucked under her arm, but she barely seemed to refer to it as she shared with the mostly-female audience her life as a writer of non-fiction, and how she grew to attempt writing fiction. She spoke with great poise and clever humor for at least an hour, and took audience questions afterward, as well as being available in the lobby for book signing.

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd I first "found" Sue Monk Kidd in 1996, when I was on my own journey for feminine spiritual truths. The book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, addressed my concerns, searches and questions almost as if Sue had been reading my diary! Her childhood in the South, her experiences on the "traditional" path (in her case, as a registered nurse) in working, and in family (husband, and requisite two children, a boy and a girl) are all ones that resonate deeply with women of "a certain age." Certainly, her perspectives on feminist theology and the evolution of the church as a bastion of male dominance reverberate to this day.

In her appearance in San Rafael, she talked about how she came to writing fiction, after the serendipitous detour into non-fiction spiritual memoirs. Sue talked about having actually lived in a house, for 18 years, in Georgia, that had bees nesting in the walls. She told the humorous story about her mother, having decided that the bees weren't The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd going to go anywhere soon, making that room into the guest bedroom, and keeping the room closed off from the rest of the house, so the bees wouldn't take over too completely. This little bit of family history dwelled in the recesses of her writer's brain until it burst forth, much as swarming bees do, to create for itself an identity in The Secret Lives of Bees. Initially, she was discouraged from pursuing a book when a teacher at a writer's class told her there wasn't a book in the story, and she would be best served by publishing it as a short story!

Fortuitously, (for all of us) Sue dusted it off and presented it when she was requested a reading of one of her short stories with a "Southern" voice. A literary agent was there, and her first words to Sue were, "tell me that was chapter one of your novel!" It took another three years, but in 2002, The Secret Lives of Bees was published to universal acclaim. It was followed by The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd The Mermaid Chair, in 2005. In 2006, Sue tiptoed back into non-fiction by publishing, through Guideposts, a collection of stories, essays, and meditations that are intimate and moving, as are most of Sue's works (Firstlight). Other of her books, include the 1990 book (republished since then) When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life's Sacred Questions, which does a stupendous job of allowing the reader to follow along with Sue as she explores midlife, and the frequent crises of faith that plague almost all believers at one time or another.

Sue Monk Kidd comes through to those listening to her speak much as she does on the written page — erudite, comfortable with language and its nuances, and willing to take risks of her own to allow others to have an enhanced opportunity to learn, reach for their dreams and experience a fulfilled life. She has not allowed herself to be sidetracked by the ephemeral quality of fame, instead, finding ways to keep herself grounded, including telling hysterically funny stories about being "put in her place" at movie premieres. For example, one of the ubiquitous When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd black-suited, ear-phoned red-carpet controllers opened her car door when her car pulled up at a premiere for The Secret Life of Bees, stuck his head in and said, "who are you?" When told she was the author, he replied, "Could you circle the block again? I need a real star on the carpet right now!"

Her charm, obvious intelligence and love of books make her someone to read and enjoy wherever you are in your life. I personally am really looking forward to the book she will be publishing in the Fall of 2009, Traveling with Pomegranates, a travelogue that she has co-authored with her daughter Ann. If you have not yet had the pleasures of Sue Monk Kidd, in either her fiction or non-fiction, I suggest you do so as soon as possible. If you are a fan, as this reviewer most definitely is, I think you should do your friends and family a favor, and pass her works on for others to enjoy.

 


Sue Monk Kidd's books:

 

More about her reflections and works at Sue Monk Kidd's
website.

 

 


2008's Honorary List

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