Before her death, Williams's mother gave Terry her journals. Later, when Williams went to read them, longing to hear her mother's voice again, she found each one was blank. Through When Women Were Birds, Williams meditates on why her mother might have left the journals unfilled. What did that signify to her mother? What was her mother telling her?
In fifty-four chapters that unfold like a series of yoga poses, each with its own logic and beauty, Williams creates a lyrical and caring meditation on voice and the strength found in silences. Williams says that she wrote Refuge from the point of view of a daughter; she wrote When Women Were Birds from the point of view of a woman. It is the book, she says, she was meant to write.
Terry Tempest Williams has been called "a citizen writer," a writer who speaks and speaks out eloquently on behalf of an ethical stance toward life. A naturalist and fierce advocate for freedom of speech, she has consistently shown us how environmental issues are social issues that ultimately become matters of justice. "So here is my question," she asks, "what might a different kind of power look like, feel like, and can power be redistributed equitably even beyond our own species?"
Williams, like her writing, cannot be categorized. She has testified before Congress on women's health issues, been a guest at the White House, has camped in the remote regions of Utah and Alaska wildernesses and worked as "a barefoot artist" in Rwanda.
Known for her impassioned and lyrical prose, Terry Tempest Williams is the author of the environmental literature classic, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place; An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field; Desert Quartet; Leap; Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert; and The Open Space of Democracy. Her book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, was published in October 2008 by Pantheon Books. Her next book, When Women Were Birds, will be published in Spring 2012 by Farrar Straus & Giroux. She is a columnist for the magazine The Progressive. Terry divides her time between Castle Valley, Utah, and Moose, Wyoming with her husband.