Welcome to a lively, provocative gathering of women talking about the force that inspires, compels, thwarts and confounds them: ambition. Bring along your own life experiences and compare notes as these essayists give the word its due. Double Bind, edited by author and memoirist Robin Romm, is a collection of 24 essays, authored by novelists, playwrights, psychiatrists, poets, critics, scientists, actors, producers, editors, professors, a tech industry executive, a butcher and a dogsled runner. They are also stay-at-home moms, wives, mothers and daughters. Some are immigrants or daughters of first-generation immigrants. All make the reader think.
In her essay “Doubly Denied,” Cristina Henríquez ponders the unique difficulties of being an ambitious woman of color. If she should “achieve something,” she may be told—overtly or otherwise—that she doesn’t deserve her success, that her gender or color got her there.
Camas Davis grew tired of her successful career as a food writer and became a teacher—and butcher—at the school she created in Oregon, the Portland Meat Collective. Actor Molly Ringwald could not follow her grandmother’s advice—“It’s bad manners to talk about yourself.”
Is it nature or nurture that imparts the desire to achieve something greater? Can a stay-at-home mom sustain ambition? Can the daughter in a patriarchal culture use ambition as her lifeline to escape a destiny she cannot accept?
These remarkable women may thrive or struggle on their various life paths, but what holds them together in Double Bind’s diverse assembly is that complex, culture-fraught word: ambition.