In her memoir This Is Not The Ivy League, Mary Clearman Blew discusses her experiences as a woman who went to graduate school to get her PhD in a time where a woman’s role was very limited and expected to be in support of her husband. Blew does more than get her PhD: she goes on to move her whole family to an isolated region in Montana after she accepts her fellowship. This memoir focuses on the difficulties and pain she suffers as she walks this path.
I had mixed feelings on this book. On the one hand, I found reading about her experiences within the context of her time period to be very interesting; I think that it is good to be aware of these kinds of experiences because it does puts things in perspective. On the one hand, I think things have improved, but I also still see those kinds of pressures that Blew describes. For the description of her experiences devoted to this particular topic, I am grateful to Blew.
I will say that the memoir rambled more than I cared for. I wasn’t always a huge fan of how she skipped around, nor was I always clear why she put certain things in. I didn’t really know why I had to read about her childhood in a rural area. I also had a similar problem that I had when I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: I found Blew’s discussion of some of her personal family problems to be really uncomfortable for me. Things like her theater time/alcohol overdosing time and her relationship with her son, while related to her main theme somewhat, were just flat-out awkward to read. Maybe I should get used to people sharing everything about their lives. Anyways, it’s not a bad book–it’s well-written and there are some interesting themes, but if you’re not into over-sharing, then maybe this book wouldn’t be for you.