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April 4, 2006

Can 60 million Baby Boomer women save the world?

BY JOSELLE VANDERHOOFTLike many writers in Kentucky Author Forums before her, former non-fiction author Sue Monk Kidd — who wrote best-selling novels “The Secret Life of Bees” and “The Mermaid Chair” — chose a fellow writer to interview her. Her pick: Jean Shinoda Bolen, a Jungian analyst whose work shares themes with Kidd’s writing. Both often focus on the desires of middle-aged women and the importance of mother figures. Bolen’s work includes the popular “Goddesses in Everywoman,” which draws from Greek mythology to define feminine archetypes, and her latest book, “Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World,” which talks about the power of feminine leadership. She is also the founder of the Millionth Circle Initiative, a grassroots women’s spirituality movement focused on cultivating political and social equality, environmental preservation and world peace. LEO caught up with Dr. Bolen to ask her a few questions about her work and her plans for the upcoming interview.LEO: What specifically drew you to female archetypes?JSB: It began with being a woman as the women’s movement was just beginning. I was in residency in the mid-’60s, right around the time “The Feminine Mystique” was written. During the latter half of the ’60s and the ’70s, there was an explosion of writing about women — women’s psychology and the need for women to define themselves. Eventually, this moved me into writing “Goddesses in Every Woman,” which is the book I’m probably best known for. LEO: Sue Monk Kidd quoted extensively from “Goddesses in Every Woman” in her autobiographical non-fiction work “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter.” What do you think of her novels?JSB: I admire how she writes novels that are engrossing with such believable characters. What I also appreciate is the underlying archetypal, or deeper, questions that are part of the structure. “The Secret Life of Bees” is a fine story on its own, but underneath that there is the story of the Black Madonna and the divine feminine. The book raises the deeper questions that make people who don’t think they are concerned about such things feel an affinity to something in the story.LEO: What do you think about her latest book, “The Mermaid Chair”?JSB: It’s an in-depth psychological-spiritual look at the changes that happen at mid-life, and the inner journey women take to find their own psychological origins, as they move forward into those years where who they become is really up to them. At first there’s relationship, there’s occupation, all the things that have led up to having children or having a career, and you’re so involved in moving through that phase. Then eventually you are wherever you are occupationally and your children are out of the nest and there comes this question about “Who am I” and “What does that mean?” This is where a lot of things get shaken up, some things deepen and some things end.LEO: Can you give us a peek at the topics you want to address in the interview?JSB: I to ask her to tell us about where her books come from and how she writes, because people are always interested in the process of creativity. People can then relate some of it to the stirrings in themselves, which is what is really desirable. It should never be just about the people on the stage I don’t think; it should always stir and raise possibilities in the listener.LEO: Tell us about your latest book, “Urgent Message from Mother.”JSB: I think every once in awhile something comes along that feels like it’s your assignment. That is what motivated this particular book. It talks about how Mother’s Day began in 1870 and leads up to the idea that the third wave of the women’s movement will be a women’s peace movement. Here we are, Baby Boomers, aged, say, 60 to mid-70s, maybe 60 million of us still active. Never has there been a group of women who have been educated, resourceful, networking, traveling who have had the medical care we have, so when we get to be 50 we could live another 50 years. Here we are at a time when the destruction of the world could happen in the same period this generation of women could make a difference. My job is simply to show up and to respond. I am the carrier of the message, and I’m having a good time.Although the Kentucky Author Forum interview with Sue Monk Kidd is sold out, an unedited tape of it will be shown, free of charge, at 2 p.m. on April 7 at the Louisville Free Public Library’s Eline/St. Matthews branch (574-1771), and at 6:30 p.m. on April 12 at the Bon Air branch (574-1795). The interview also will air on KET1 at 10 p.m on May 25. For more information, call the Kentucky Author Forum at 589-2884. The local chapter of Friends of Jung promotes the study of C.G. Jung and his works, with workshops, dream sharing groups and other activities. For more information, send e-mail to kyijung@aol.com. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com