The Women I Think About at Night: Traveling the Paths of My Heroes

S. & S. Nov. 2020. 416p. ISBN 9781982129194. $27. SOC SCI
Finnish author Kankimäki, in her first English translation, finds inspiration and strength from women throughout history who broke with the expected norms of their times. To understand unconventional women who were world travelers in the 1800s or professional artists during the Renaissance, the author travels to Italy, Japan, and a few African countries, reading their writings and biographies, viewing what she can find of their artwork, and experiencing the places they lived. The retelling of this journey is interspersed with vignettes from her life as a writer making her own way. As she learns about these accomplished women, Kankimäki writes them wry notes asking for help with her own travels; for example, while preparing for a prolonged trip, she asks journalist Nelly Bly, renowned for going around the world in 72 days with only a single suitcase as luggage, for advice on packing light. A poignant chapter reflects on the life of writer Alexandra David-Néel, most well known for her 1924 visit to Tibet.
VERDICT A thought-provoking blend of history, biography, women’s studies, and travelog, this should appeal to readers interested in any of these subjects, and those who love eclectic narrative nonfiction.
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