Title: Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters
Author: Jeannine Atkins
ISBN: 9780805089349
Pages: 209 pages
Publisher/Date: Henry Holt and Company, c2010.

You’re like your grandfather, Mam writes.
He always thought he’d find something better
somewhere else

Rose wonders if he did. (58)

Through this book of poetry Atkins tells the stories of three inspirational women who were all born two short years after the Civil War ended; Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, and Marie Curie. She begins each of these women’s stories while their daughters are still young, effortlessly shifting the point of view from mother to daughter and back again. The diversity of these women is astonishing when you realize their similarities. All three women seem through Atkins portrayal to be self-reliant and self-sacrificing, but also work-aholics, consumed by their own lives rather than those of their daughters. Laura Ingalls Wilder refuses to leave the farm to visit her daughter. Madam C.J. Walker seems frightened that the money from her business will someday run dry (“Don’t wait for an open door, she says, /Open one yourself.” Irene Curie describes the discovery of radium as being “nudged between her parents as they stared /the way she is certain they once gazed at her.” (151)

Jeannine Atkins has a unique way with words that I envy. Her poetry skillfully presents feelings with facts, and there are facts laid out in three overlapped time lines for the three women. It’s amazing in my mind how driven these women were and the parallels that can be drawn between their lives and their daughters’ lives. All three women went on to write about their extraordinary mothers, with Rose Wilder Lane editing the works of her mother. I’m not sure to who I would recommend this book. Possibly fans of these women who want a different perspective, although besides the bibliography in the back it’s not meant for research. Another suggestion is a mother/daughter book club, considering the topic. I personally thought this was a good choice for today, as it closes out March (Women’s History Month) and begins April (National Poetry Month).

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