- Ella Price’s Journal (1972)
- Miss Giardino (1978)
- The Garden of Eros (1979)
- Killing Wonder (1981)
- Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You (1983)
- A Day in San Francisco (1983)
- The Confessions of Madame Psyche (1986)
- The Test (1991)
- Anita, Anita (1994)
- The Berkeley Pit (2007)
- Myths to Lie By (1984)
- Writing A Novel (1978)
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Dorothy Bryant Books Overview
A pioneer novel of women’s consciousness raising, this quietly powerful narrative traces the journey of a women rebeliing, searching, and gradually coming to know herself, for the first time in her life, at the age of thirty five. The novel begins on the first day of class at a Bay Area community college, and unfolds as a series of entries in the diary the title character has been instructed to keep as an assignment for her English class. Ella Price is a suburban housewife with a reliable, good natured husband, a teenaged daughter, and a typical working class life. Yet she is plagued by fears she cannot name; by a sense of being somehow a ‘freak’ in her comfortable, predictable world; and by a gnawing discontent. For her, deciding to begin college at the age of thirty five is an act of defiance and courage; for her husband, it is a whim to be temporarily indulged. But Ella’s exposure to a new world of books and ideas and to the self revelatory process of journal writing has consequences that even she could not have imagined. As her growing consciousness begins to shake the foundations of her life, she becomes for the first time engaged in the political tumult of the 1960s and also in a passionate, doomed affair with her married English professor. She tries to seek refuge in the security of her home, where her husband is ready to ‘take care of her’ agian. But eventually she must come to the realization that she is irrevocably changed and that to be true to herself, she must make painful choices. First published in 1972, Ella Price’s Journal is a seminal novel of its time an exquisite and deeply authentic literary rendering of a woman’s struggle to give voice to what Betty Friedan in the Feminine Mystique called :the problem that has no name.’ Described as The Women’s Room of the working class and as The Awakening for the 20th century, Ella Price’s Journal inspired 200 letter of response when it was serialized in Redbook, including many from women who wrote that they felt, for the first time, that their lives had been reflected in a work of literature. Dorothy Bryant’s compassionate depiction of the conflicts women face between security and freedom, between attachment and independence, and between the dull comforts of conformity and the frightening challenges of forging a self determined identity will bring no less of a shock of recognition today. A moving and unique version of the traditional bildungsroman, Ella Price’s Journal affirms the possibility of growth toward a richly intense and authentic life at any age.
Faithful followers of Dorothy Bryant’s work revere this subtle, lyrical, and moving novel, originally published in 1978, as a rare testament to the inner life of a teacher and of an older woman struggling to rediscover her place in a world which, increasingly, seems to have no need for her. As the novel begins, 68 year old retired teacher Anna Giardino wakes up in a hospital after having been found lying unconscious in front of Camino Real High School in San Francisco’s Mission District, where she taught for 40 years. She cannot remember what has happened and is unsure even of who she is. In the week that follows, Anna Giardino slowly regains her memory, and the events of her past gradually unfold in a series of flashbacks. The daughter of working class, Italian American parents, Anna recalls her bitter girlhood fights with her father, a tyrannical man hardened and defeated by the struggles of immigrant life; her devotion to her mother and feelings of loyalty toward her family, which clash painfuly with her need for growth and escape; and, above all, her longing to read and to embrace education, which in turn inspires her mission as a teacher. Resolving to teach her students at all costs, and determined to help them break through the barriers imposed by class, race, and expectation, Miss Giardino becomes the epitome of the incorruptible older teacher: strict and exacting, she is feared and detested, but respected and sometimes even loved. Memories of the relationships which punctuated Anna’s mostly solitary life also resurface: her first college romance, crossing class and ethnic lines, with a charming but self absorbed classmate; a passionate but confusing affair with a Mexican man she met while on vacation; and an intense, deep love for a student, which although the feeling is returned can never be openly expressed. Visits to the hospital from old friends, old lovers, and a former student, as well as an unexpected letter from the student she had loved, unleash a myriad of ambiguous feelings. For as the past and present merge and intertwine, Anna acknowledges that she has arrived at the end of her career estranged from herself, from her profession, and from the very students she sought to enlighten. Only when she recalls and confronts the events surrounding her mysterious ‘accident’ does Anna reach an understanding of her experiences and feelings and a real acceptance and affirmation of her life.
Clean, tight book. Unclipped dust jacket. A novel of ideas. Uses a traditional mystery format as a vehicle for commenting on the joy and pain of writing. 178pp.
art love story, part utopian fantasy, part spiritual fable, The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You is ‘a beautiful, symbolic journey of the soul’ Berkeley Monthly. Into the world of the Ata comes a desperate man, running from a fast life of fame and fortune, drugs and crime. He is led by the kin of Ata on a spiritual journey that, sooner or later, we all must take.
1987 American Book Award Winner This ambitious and enchanting novel is both modern day epic and a work of great emotional and spiritual death. Bold in its historical scope, rich in colorful settings, and eminently readable, Confessions of Madame Psyche also reaches inward, toward quieter truths. The novel is narrated by Mei0li Murrow, born in San Francisco in 1895, the illegitimate daughter of a charismatic confidence man and the Chinese prostitute he has ‘rescued’ from the streets. After her mother’s early death, Mei li is left to care of her mercenary half sister Erika. When the young Mei li, by pure coincidence, predicts the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Erika contructs her identity as ‘Madame Psyche’ exploiting Mei’li’s exoticism and her clients’ yearnings for contact with the dead in a series of ingeniously orchestrated seances that win her renown as a medium in California and then in the death soaked Europe of the First World War. Ironically, it is when she manages to finally reject the popular ‘spirituality’ that has made her famous that Mei li experiences a truer spiritual vision: One day, while walking on the beach, she has a revelation of her connection to all of life ‘an experience of hidden reality which I have never doubted…
and which left me permanently changed by what I then knew and know still and will always know.’ Mei li’s subsequent journey leads her through the aspirations and disappointments of a utopian commune in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the 1920s; to the poverty of migrant work camps in the Depression era Salinas Valley; and to the courage of the first strikes on San Jose’s cannery row. Finally, when the relentless Erika cheats her out of an inheritance by having her committed to the Napa State Hospital, Mee li finds her greatest wisdom and peace among the outcasts of the asylum and there writes her ‘confessions.’ Mei’li’s story is ensconed in the rich history of Northern California in the first half of the twentieth century, and peopled by comrades of many clas*ses and cultures and lovers both male and female; but her central odyssey remains one of inner discovery. In Confessions of Madame Psyche, Dorothy Bryant has created a character who is so honest in her search for truth, growth, and spiritual understanding that this quest becomes inherent to her survival.
With complexity, bravery, and dry humor The Test details the frustrating push and pull between Pat and her eighty year old father who is attempting, for the third and last time, to pass The Test to renew his driver’s license. Bryant s unflinching gaze sees deep into the hearts of both parent and child, revealing the dramatic, awkward, and universal struggle each faces with aging, memory, and love. In a deeply sensitive, thoughtful, and honest examination of one woman s coping with the changes of aging, Bryant offers a rare and moving testimony. Marketing Plans for The Test: Booksense Radio interviews West Coast readings Dorothy Bryant is the author of such acclaimed novels as Ella Price s Journal and Confessions of Madame Psyche. She lives in Berkeley, California.
Harry’s first poem describes his nightmare, The Berkeley Pit, which, in 1962, gouged the heart out of his hometown, Butte, Montana. The pit mine’s namesake, Berkeley, California becomes his dream of hope. He arrives there in the late 1960s as political turmoil and hope reach a peak, from which many dreams tumble, including Harry’s. Back in Montana, he cherishes his dream of what his life might have been. But, twenty years later, when he manages to get back to Berkeley, he can hardly recognize the city of his old hopes and dreams. His determination to accept and overcome new challenges may not be enough. Dorothy Bryant draws on her family history in Montana, on her lifetime of living and writing in the Bay Area, and on meticulously researched history. With characteristic irony, compassion, and honesty, Bryant weaves these elements into another of her unrelenting accounts of good intentions, high hopes, mixed motives, unpredictable consequences and lessons learned or denied.