On The Wandering Womb:
"audacious incisiveness and wit" --Donna Seaman, Booklist
"at turns funny, dark, and heartbreaking, bound together with beautiful, thought-provoking writing that makes for a richly nuanced collection of essays"--Layla Khoury-Hanold, Hippocampus
"It is a fact-filled exploration of the Jewish body, the Jewish woman and her place or absence in tradition, and what a Jewish inheritance means on a soul-level in America today."—Emily Sulzman, Jewish Book Council
"Wisenberg excavates layers of her personal, family, and cultural history, drawing connections to the present that will resonate with a broad audience" --Emily McClanathan, Chicago Reader
"intellectual, deeply personal, and delightful"--Rachel Lutwik-Deaner, The Southern Review of Books
I read a lot of joke books as a child. Readers say they relate to my angsty way of moving through the world. My usual topics are breath, blood, cancer, Jews, Texas, history, Freud, women's bodies, me.
Wednesday, Aug 16, 6-9pm. Attic Institute, Portland, Oregon, workshop, details tba
Wednesday, Nov. 1, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, reading, details tba
Friday, Nov. 3, Temple B'nai Israel, Hattiesburg, reading, details tba
Now & forevermore: I help writers with fiction and nonfiction, mostly through my Red Fish Studio.
PUBLISHED MARCH 31, 2023
The Wandering Womb: Essays in Search of Home
Winner of the 2022 Juniper Prize in nonfiction
from University of Massachusetts Press
"What does a woman want?" Freud asked. "A clean bathroom, a lined trash basket," writer S.L. Wisenberg answers, after discovering both in Freud's preserved Vienna apartment.
Called "humorous, melancholy, and universally relatable" by distinguished essayist Phillip Lopate, The Wandering Womb: Essays in Search of Home by S.L. Wisenberg is a collection that weaves together archival record and memoir to ask how we decide who we are—and how the past influences our identity and our lives.
Wandering from a Chicago mikvah to a Houston Neiman Marcus, from the Broward Womyn's Group in Fort Lauderdale to an undercover adventure on sorority row, Wisenberg ponders the shapeshifting nature of we: we Jews, we Americans, we women.
The collected essays also explore the body, through blood, cancer, and especially, breath. As a Jewish child afflicted with asthma Wisenberg imagined she would not have survived the ghettos and camps of the Holocaust. But when she eventually tours Auschwitz, she is surprised that it has little emotional impact. Elsewhere in Poland she finds sisterhood among Jewish feminists.
With witty self-deprecation and a withering eye for patriarchal tradition, The Wandering Womb explores what it means to find home in our bodies and home in the world.
"A sharp, deeply questioning mind and a wayward heart inform these delicious essays. They are wry, humorous, melancholy, and universally relatable, filled with the shock of recognition."
--Phillip Lopate, distinguished essayist, celebrated editor of The Art of the Personal Essay, and many others
"In The Wandering Womb, our bodies (the vulnerable, the despised, the used) are the receptacles of history. Regimes and religions control and define our bodies, through traditions and laws that kidnap us right out of our own skins. Wisenberg's years as a journalist for progressive papers shows in the precision of her writing, as she leads us through both the distant and proximate past, from Civil-War reenactments to the private world of the Jewish ritual bathhouse—the mikvah—that both honors women and demeans the very functions of their wombs. In The Wandering Womb, history breathes into our lungs and speaks through every word we say."
--Riva Lehrer, author of the award-winning Golem Girl: A Memoir
"Wisenberg is that rare essayist whose sentences are as thrilling as her ideas, whose lyric skills measure up to, and heighten, the power of her prose. I can't overstate the cumulative effect of this work: The Wandering Womb leaves the reader speechless, breathless, and changed."
--Marya Hornbacher, author of Madness: A Bipolar Life, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, and others
"Sometimes subtle, sometimes fierce, these brilliant feminist essays explore Woman's role as patient, cultural warrior, daughter, partner, and artist. Lyrical and targeted, they express what it's like to be a Jewish woman today, and what it's like to be an embodied human being."
--Paula Kamen, author, All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache; and the play Jane: Abortion and the Underground
"Each essay is a lens through which we are invited to view in Joycean detail the author's deeply personal present, yet at the same time to ponder and to rethink larger worlds of history and cultures. It's a collection that often is wry but never cynical, deeply learned and always alert to humor and wonder."
--David Toomey, author of Weird Life: The Search for Life That Is Very, Very Different from Our Own, and professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst