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The Beauty of Connection: Ten Books from Women Writers

Each given day, I find comfort in the sameness that grounds me through my challenges and fears. The magical sparkle of the icicles that hang from the pine tree on a dreary late winter morning, the snap of the kindling as my little son lights a bonfire, and the way my young rooster runs to me as I approach the chicken coop–these are the small things that make the hard things just a little bit easier to face. In consideration of the words that have been offered through time by women writers, a multitude of titles across many genres speak of rhythm, simplicity, and our need for connection to nature and to each other.

These stories span several genres and represent a variety of age groups.



Carol Ryrie Brink

BABY ISLAND Carol Ryrie Brink our galaxy publishing

I recently found my sister’s childhood copy of the middle-grade novel, Baby Island, in a box of old books that had been in our barn. Written in 1973 by Carol Ryrie Brink, Baby Island is the timeless tale of two sisters who escaped a sinking ship to find themselves in a lifeboat with four babies. The girls settled on a deserted island and made a home for themselves and their tiny crew. I was intrigued by this book through my own childhood and beyond, not only because I could think of nothing that I would rather have done than to care for so many babies with my sister, but also because the book took me to an island where I could nearly feel my toes in the sand, imagine the purple skies as the storm rolled in, and taste the coconut milk that the girls shared with the babies.



Toni Morrison

THE BLUEST EYE Toni Morrison our galaxy publishing

Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye, is an exploration of racism, the influence of societal expectations and, I believe, an expression of the depths of grief in the absence of love and support. Through snapshots in time and vivid imagery, steadied by the rhythm of the simplicity of her days, young Claudia shares the story of Pecola, a girl who has come to stay with Claudia’s family. Because of their own struggles, Pecola’s family is unable to love her as she needs to be loved. Pecola believes that she is ugly, that “whiteness” and blue eyes are beautiful, and that she, too, will be seen as such when her eyes are blue.

Through her circumstances and struggles, Pecola believes in the end that her eyes have become blue. This book has stayed with me as a reminder and an anthem of how what we have been through shapes who we become and, with the understanding and support of others, our struggles, if not our personal truths, may be softened.



Shea Darian

SEVEN TIMES THE SUN Shea Darian our galaxy publishing

A beacon for me as a young mother, Seven Times the Sun is a collection of verses, stories, and ideas that encourages readers to establish a rhythm to their own families through ritual, a connection to the outdoors, and by finding magic in the ordinary. My grown sons will recall this verse to Darian’s Parting Blessing, words that I still rehearse in my head as they return to their homes after a too-short visit back to the farm:

“Open wide the door…,

Take love as you depart;

Walk gently on the earth,

With kindness in your heart.”

Even through the chaos of today’s family life, taking time to share the reverence in the simple things brings connection and comfort. This book is an inspirational reminder that what we have is, truly, enough.



Margaret Wise Brown

LITTLE FUR FAMILY Margaret Wise Brown our galaxy publishing

Margaret Wise Brown has written many cherished children’s classics, but this one, to me, stands before the others. Little Fur Family is the tale of a tiny fur animal who spends his day exploring in the woods. With words as intriguing and beautiful as the enchanting illustrations, Brown weaves a story that encapsulates the love of family, the importance of connection, and the wonder of childhood. The little fur child goes to play in the wild, where the grass tickles his nose and makes him sneeze. He visits his grandpa, who lives in a hollow stump, and he catches a flying ladybug. As the sun sets and the sky grows “wild and red,” the fur child runs for home where he is embraced by his mother and tucked in bed.

This story is a charming end to any day. I am lucky enough to have a tiny faux-fur-bound copy that has inhabited my bookshelves for decades and reminds me, always, of the comfort in being just where I am supposed to be.



Betty Edwards

DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN Betty Edwards our galaxy publishing

When my grown sons were babies, I chanced upon a drawing studio, a haven of creativity and camaraderie, that opened above my favorite coffee shop. Art class and book club merged as we studied Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, an instructional drawing book that offers readers a new way of looking at the creative process, thereby improving drawing skills and sharpening perception. By engaging the right side of the brain, the budding artist actually learns to “see” and is then able to translate this vision through the medium with a fresh perspective. The methods in this book reach far above traditional art instruction. Betty Edwards teaches us that much of the beauty around us comes simply from our ability to truly see what is right before us.



Robin Wall Kimmerer

BRAIDING SWEETGRASS Robin Wall Kimmerer our galaxy publishing

My most recent read, Braiding Sweetgrass has been my companion in audiobook form as I tended to my late winter tasks at our farm. This book is, essentially, about our relationship with the earth. Through vignettes, history, lore, science, and stories of Native American tradition, Kimmerer emphasizes the deep connection between what we do and the effect of our actions on the land around us.

She weaves her words as the basket maker tends to his craft, imparting the idea to readers that there is love and purpose behind every living thing, and that our reverence to the gifts of nature will be reflected back to us. Sweetgrass, used by many Native American tribes as a purifying herb, symbolizes peace and healing. Three strands are often braided together and offered in gratitude.

Kimmerer teaches us to take only what is given, treating it with respect. Earlier this winter, I listened to the author describe her experiences with maple sugaring even as I trudged through the snow to collect sap from my own trees. Once you are familiar with Braiding Sweetgrass, you won’t see your acres or rooftop gardens the same way again.



Anne LaMott

BIRD BY BIRD Anne LaMott our galaxy publishing

Of all books that I have read written by this author, Bird by Bird has left the strongest message. While this book is known to be about the craft of writing, the value in the stories recollected by LaMott extends far beyond the methods of putting pen to paper. She expresses that writing is challenging, that it is about our needs: to be visible, to be heard, to make sense of our lives, and to belong. The book’s title comes from advice given by LaMott’s father, who had also been a writer, when his son had procrastinated finishing a school report about birds. To encourage his son to begin the task, his advice was to just take it “bird by bird.”

LaMott’s flow of words and wit enhance the valuable writing advice that she offers through these pages. When setting up a descriptive passage, readers (and writers!) are urged to envision a “one-inch picture frame” as a guide, writing only of what is in the tiny space contained within. It is through this concept, forming words that begin from the smallest space, that Bird by Bird teaches us to look with careful attention, for a true work of art comes from what is simply right in front of us.



Tasha Tudor

AROUND THE YEAR Tasha Tudor our galaxy publishing

A coffee table staple at our home, Around the Year, has brought as much joy to me through the seasons as it has to the many lap companions with whom I have shared this story. Tudor takes her readers on a circle of the sun with her delightful rhyming verses and ever-so-charming illustrations, showcasing with simple beauty the flowers, woodland creatures, farm animals, and children at her beloved homestead. Her reverence for nature, tradition, and love for all living things teach readers–young and old–the beauty in nature’s changing landscape and the importance of togetherness through the passage of time.



Sarah Ban Breathnach

SIMPLE ABUNDANCE: A DAYBOOK OF COMFORT AND JOY Sarah Ban Breathnach our galaxy publishing

Simple Abundance is a collection of essays with one entry for each day of the year. Written some years ago by a woman with words intended for women, the pages have offered different meanings for me as I have gone through the seasons in my own life. Each passage presents a point of contemplation; the messages are intended to urge the reader to look within, to celebrate each day as it has been given. Themes such as “Loving Yourself into Wholeness,” “Repose of the Soul,” and “Encountering Hestia” encourage us to reframe how we see ourselves and urge us toward self-acceptance. The calendar format and uplifting messages make this book an easy and inspiring read for women of all ages, year after year.



Betty Smith

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN Betty Smith our galaxy publishing

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is the story of Francie, a young girl who lives in a Brooklyn apartment with her younger brother and her parents. Francie’s mother, Katie, works hard to support the family while Johnny, her father, is unreliable and an alcoholic but very charming. The beloved story highlights both the struggles of family life and the way the Nolans love and care for one another. A tree grows in the courtyard where they live; it thrives even in poor conditions. This tree is reflective of Francie’s resilience, her ability to see beauty and positivity, and the way she is able to overcome hardship to forge a future for herself.

Many of these books have been on our family’s shelves for years, sharing their messages of hope, connection, and unburdening through time. The words contained in these volumes–from the voices of women writers–encourage us to be bold, brave, and resilient, to love wholly and deeply, to learn from our shortcomings, and to open ourselves to the beauty and reverence in what lies before us.


Patty Ihm is an author, former early intervention therapist, and teacher living in Illinois on a farmette where she is a mother to many; three biological, six adopted, and 18 children she has offered her home to as a foster parent—some for a day and some to stay forever. Fueled on coffee and the soul-cleansing therapy of the written word, Patty also tends to thirty-something chickens, a mix of hens and roosters, four bee hives, and a thriving garden. She is the self-published author of Ode to a Boy, a poetic tribute to her grown sons. Isn’t That Enough? Musings of Motherhood and the Meaning of Life is her debut memoir, revealing Patty's intricate journal entries about her experiences as a mother to those in the child welfare system. Patty is working on her first fiction book, Goldie Bird, a middle-grade, coming-of-age novel. Her narrative prose is also featured in the anthology, Venus Rising: Musings & Lore from Women Writers.

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