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On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose, 1966-1978

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  952 ratings  ·  56 reviews
On Lies, Secrets, and Silence is a sort of travel diary, documenting Adrienne Rich's journeys to the frontier and into the interior. It traces the development of one individual consciousness, "playing over such issues as motherhood, racism, history, poetry, the uses of scholarship, the politics of language".
A. Rich has written a headnote for each essay, briefly discussing
Paperback, 310 pages
Published April 17th 1995 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1979)
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Edit 7/16/2020: Due to the kind of traffic this review has been attracting of late, I'm putting out a disclaimer that, radfems, this review is not for you. Any part of my writing that uncritically normalizes radfem ideologies is an error on my part, and such will eventually be revised at an appropriate time.

I've been considering getting a gun since the Isla Vista shootings. My pacifist ideals are all very well, but it's my sister I'm concerned with, my sister who once desired to go to UC Santa B
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Adrienne Rich was a fierce poet, but also an academic, and this is an academic collection. It includes lectures to students, speeches to administrators, presentations to commissions, articles, essays, reviews and columns. At times it was a bit too academic for a general reader like me, but what brilliance.

She spoke from experience, of patriarchy and feminism, motherhood and teaching. But the parts I enjoyed most were when she applied her knowledge and experience to literary analysis.

On Wuthering
Aug 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I feel rejuvenated. I can use a lot of this book as inspiration for my life's work. Some of it is a little 1970s for me, but some of it rings so true, that I fear we haven't come very far at all since she wrote this. Like the precariousness of birth control and women's reproductive rights. Like the general disrespect society and culture have for women, even with the positive stereotypes of the angel of the house and the self-sacrificing mother. Sure, everyone wants to HAVE one of those, but if y ...more
Luzma Umpierre
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This essential book in Feminist thought taught me the value of having no lies, no secrets and no silence in the relationships among women. She has an essay/chapter on Re/vision that is a must read in dealing with the concept of what Lesbian revisionism is. Now there are authors who think that this term comes out of the new culture as used today but it goes back, exemplarily so, to Rich who although constantly glorified is not used as a role model for the intestinal wars among women writers such ...more
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: women-writers, lgbt
One serious cultural obstacle encountered by any feminist writer is that each feminist work has tended to be received as if it emerged from nowhere; as if each of us had lived, thought, and worked without any historical past or contextual present. This is one of the ways in which women's work and thinking has been made to seem sporadic, errant, orphaned of any tradition of its own. (p. 11)

This was, hm, disappointing. I really enjoyed some of the essays, especially 'Toward a Woman-Centered Uni
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I picked this up because I like some of Adrienne Rich's poetry. Turns out I like her prose too! It's depressing that much of what she said about feminism in the 60s and 70s is still true. It made me feel more motivated to do things about it.
Ioana Pintea
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Every effort that left no trace... The efforts of women in labor, giving birth to stillborn children, children who must die of plague or by infanticide; the efforts of women to keep filth and decay at bay, children decently clothed, to produce the clean shirt in which the man walks out daily into the common world of men, the efforts to raise children against the attritions of racist and sexist schooling, drugs, sexual exploitation, the brutalization and killing of barely grown boys in war. Ther ...more
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Months ago, my decision to purchase this book was an act of intellectual calculation. I’d heard an excellent recommendation on a podcast, and believed dipping into the mind of Adrienne Rich would be edifying. In the wake of the recent election, however, I grabbed this collection of essays off my bookshelf in an act of desperation. What was I seeking? Solace in the words of a radical writer from my mother’s generation of feminists? A reminder that courageous people struggled for equality in Ameri ...more
Ming Jiu Li
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In the foreword, A.R. writes in response to the question, 'how shall we ever make the world intelligent on our movement' - "I do not think the answer lies in trying to render feminism easy, popular, and instantly gratifying. To conjure with the passive culture and adapt to its rules is to degrade and deny the fullness of our meaning and intention."

This work fully embodies its initial promise. It is not an easy read, but by difficult it is not in the mold of male-dominated academic writing, delib
Erol Yeşilyurt
Jul 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
As a male reader of A. Rich, I must say, I am glad to have read this book. She is writing in a style that is personal, direct and without irony. There are many points that she makes I am not agreed with, but she is asking the right questions and searching for answers from a feminist stand point. In 1970's it must have outraged many, but, provides a liberating point of view for males too. This book is a must read in order to examine the life as it is. She is also sharply warning about turning fem ...more
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
WOW -- how can a book so many decades old continue to have such relevance? The sad answer is that the issues Rich discusses so eloquently are still in need of fixing. The chapters simultaneously riled me up in their clear articulation of the issues faced by women and provided a careful recourse to those issues. Of course the fact that the issues are still at hand left me with despair, but the articulation and responses gave me a way to talk about them to others, and think about them for myself. ...more
May 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
There are essays in this book that I will reread the rest of my life. "Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying" and "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-vision" are as compelling as they were when I first read them 15 years ago nearly 20 years after they were first written."
Alex Kudera
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
rereading a few essays from here including "When We Dead Awaken". . .
Dec 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Any person who is acquainted with some of the more common criticisms levelled at patriarchy will find Richs' analysis familiar. What is striking about Rich's essays are her impassioned tone; you feel, at times, her desperation to be heard so that the bevy of women that she attempts to speak for can be heard as well. This makes many of the essays endearing, even though many of the ideas and arguments begin to repeat themselves as you read further into the collection.

One quality that I respect abo
Hannah Gadbois
Apr 21, 2020 rated it liked it
“An honorable human relationship—that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love’—is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.”
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book came to me as a mention in another work I've read. I expected something very different and was taken with a pleasant surprise of how powerful this book actually is.
Feminism in 21st Century is oftentimes controversial label, many people do not want to be associated with 'men haters', but this is not the gist of feminism. But what saddens and even angers me, is how many female-centered issues are not resolved since the 60s, not much has changed.

I have learned new facts I was unaware of
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
To be honest, I’ve often thought that Adrienne Rich was a better (more compelling) essayist and analyst, than she was a poet (“Diving Into The Wreck”, “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”, and a few other poems, might be exceptions).

I really loved this collection (particularly her writings on Emily Dickinson, and on the “Lesbian Continuum”), and it was very important to me in college.

Looking back, I think (hope) that Ms. Rich is viewed as one of the most important feminists, thinkers, and public intellectua
Meghan Keaney
Jan 05, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a worthwhile read. A few of the essays are more challenging and dated than others which means it’s not always a riveting book to Beth through, but the majority are insightful, underline-able, and relevant.
Sep 11, 2020 added it
I can't remember when I read this... Certainly almost fifty years after it had been written. It was a dutiful read, but because of that, and because I tend to shy away from feminist issues, I also really can't remember much about it. I don't see that I kept a record of any salient sentences.
Jun 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Probably was a revolutionary book at publication. Now continues to be an interesting look at feminism and feminist solidarity, but parts of the book have clearly aged against the grain of progress.
Cameron Foster
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read a few of Rich’s essays for a presentation. I have studied and admired her poetry, and the essays were very insightful and thought-provoking!
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mostly brilliant, occasionally terfy/dated
Doris Raines
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sue Davis
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only read the chapter on Jane Eyre. I still don’t see how we can consider it a happy ending except in the context of the Victorian era.
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
A collection of essays written by Rich, that bring awareness to the academic climate toward feminism.
Simon Dobson
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was brought to this book through one of the essays in it, Claiming an education, that talks about the need for students (and especially women students) to actively claim their educations rather than passively receive them. I still think this is the most powerful element of this collection, but there's lots more to engage the reader.

It's not an easy collection for a man to read, not least because of the sense of powerlessness it evokes – which is ironic, given that many of the essays are replet
Dec 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
“Re-Vision--the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction--is for us more than a chapter in cultural history: it is an act of survival. Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves. And this drive to self-knowledge, for woman, is more than a search for identity: it is part of her refusal of the self-destructiveness of male dominated society. A radical critique of literature, feminist in its i ...more
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An interesting and diverse collections of essays on literature, language, activism, race, education, and feminist aims, all very readable, though written with strikingly intelligent and aesthetically talented mind. Nearly a better prose writer than a poet, Rich's work here is consistently both strongly impassioned and calmly rational. Not to say that I don't think she's a good poet, but I certainly felt more radicalised after reading her essays than her poetry!

Rich's commentary in this book, wit
Jan 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
I wish I had found and read this essay collection when I was writing my thesis... This collection houses a series of essays and reflections by the recently late poet Adrienne Rich. Rich's perspectives on feminism, women scholarship, poetry, and civilization are powerfully expressed and very single-minded. You can trace her basic, guiding principles through every essay, whether it be about modern motherhood, Emily Dickinson, or the treatment of women students at universities. A worthy and heady e ...more
Jan 03, 2014 marked it as to-read
An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love’ — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with ...more
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Adrienne Cecile Rich was an American poet, essayist and feminist. Born to a middle-class family, Rich was educated by her parents until she entered public school in the fourth grade. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Radcliffe College in 1951, the same year her first book of poems, A Change of World, appeared. That volume, chosen by W. H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, and her n ...more

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“An honorable human relationship – that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word "love" – is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.”
“Women have been driven mad, "gaslighted," for centuries by the refutation of our experience and our instincts in a culture which validates only male experience. The truth of our bodies and our minds has been mystified to us. We therefore have a primary obligation to each other: not to undermine each others' sense of reality for the sake of expediency; not to gaslight each other.

Women have often felt insane when cleaving to the truth of our experience. Our future depends on the sanity of each of us, and we have a profound stake, beyond the personal, in the project of describing our reality as candidly and fully as we can to each other.”
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