the guardian Fri 10 July 2009
A surprising series of essays by novelist Sara Paretsky. She links her personal life with public politics in the Bush interregnum, when these polemics were written, the connection being enforced silence and how she learned to speak, and write, for herself. Paretsky's grim, self-reliant childhood in Kansas prefaced her introduction to a wider world doing volunteer work in Chicago in the summer of 1966, as the social and racial tensions of that city spumed. Her familial understanding of exactly what patriarchy meant (no role for women but as helpmeet, or meat) expanded into an alternative view of what a woman could do if she were to be central instead of decoratively peripheral to the private eye story. And so in time she created VI Warshawski, who has the emotional and practical back-up crew her author lacked when young; who weighs in at 140 pounds (for how, points out Paretsky, could a skinny waif take a man down in a street scuffle?); and who continues to fight the good fight against the carelessness of the rich and powerful.