Cover Image: Seven Aunts

Seven Aunts

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Member Reviews

Staci Drouillard writes about her family's history with love and admiration, I appreciate her feminist view of honoring courageous women who matter a lot, and I learned a little bit about Ojibwemowin, Chippewa, Anishinaabe, although honestly I found her use of the three terms quite confusing. I don't think the title Seven Aunts is entirely accurate, although she does focus on them, perhaps a more fitting title would be About Fifty Relatives.

Drouillard comes up with a lot of her own interesting phrases like "morbidity of motherhood," "chronic femininity," "emacifeeding," "mothersistering," "sistermotherhood," "motherality," "widrown" some of which were comprehensive and enlightening. At times I felt like this was a couple different books smooshed together - a family storytelling and then social commentary mixed with anthropoly and psychology. I'm in full agreement that there should be more power and less shame in dealing with young girls, that they should be raised to feel capable, the same way that boys are; and clearly this family dealt a lot with a lot of young girls. But by specifying that "our aunties are expected to be surrogate parents for their brothers' and sisters' children"... and yet "Dad was always trying to take care of people, and make things right, which was his role in the extended family" I wonder if Drouillard is saying it's POC in general who are burdened in this way. I might not have liked all the references to bedwetting, but I totally respect Drouillard's straight-forward, full-on honesty in baring her family's collective soul.
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I absolutely like the ideas of writing a book dedicated to the author's 7 aunts, but the writing is not really my type- it feels more like a family history. Honestly, the book could have been more concise with some editing.
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Author Drouillard tells the history of her family in recent generations through the lives of her seven aunts, four on her mother’s side and three on her father’s.

I’ve always been interested in family histories, because no two are the same – that, and that there are generally a lot of secrets to uncover and I am a nosy sort of person. The fact that Seven Aunts is so wholeheartedly focused on the lives of the women in the family, tracing their parallels and divergences, made it especially interesting to me.

The author clearly loves her aunts very much, and the care and sympathy with which she writes about them. I like how she charted all the ways their lives touched and entangled, and how they were all shaped in different ways by their parents and their place within the family. I also liked the conversational tone of the writing, as though the author was relating the stories to another family member.

However, I found that the writing sometimes rambled, and there was often too much between the lines that was not said outright. I also thought some of the aunts got overshadowed by the broader family stories that were related in their chapters, eating up the word count needed to get to know them, so that I felt some chapters were more focused on the aunt in question than others.

Overall an interesting read that relates the stories of ordinary women leading quietly powerful lives.
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Throughout history, the craft and artistry of quilting has been admired for the fabric used, the intricate stitching and the stories they hold, some passing from generation to generation. Seven Aunts is such a quilt. Each chapter is a square, each fluffy piece of batting is a memory and seven women are the threads stitched together to represent the lives they lived. 
They were European and Anishinaabe. They were unique, strong, colorful and all were survivors, personally and culturally. There were many husbands and children. They ran homes, some were bullied, moved frequently but continued to be determined regardless of the tribulations that fell upon them. Often, the money ran out but not the resilience to move forward. Such is the backbone of a family, one of depth and one of character.
Staci Lola Drouillard shares memories, moments and the challenges of seven heroic women and their love of family. They are to be admired and appreciated and as any quilt, will keep you warm and comforted.
Highly recommended with thanks to NetGalley, the author and the University of Minnesota Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest book review.
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This is… okay. 

Overall, the writing was not my cup of tea. The author uses many, many metaphors. As in, about one a paragraph. It was irksome. I also found the stories to drag on a bit. The first chapter about Aunt Faye is the most compelling. I don’t think the other chapters stand strong on their own. But then again, that might be the point. Seven Aunts is summarized as a “patchwork of memoir.” “Patchwork” is the perfect descriptor. The chapters hold one another up; they feel flimsy on their own. 

With that said, I appreciate this book for what it represents. I appreciate it as a contribution to the canon of women’s history. Women’s stories are so important to record and recall. For much of history, men, and only men, have held the pen. Women have frequently been forced to relearn and reinvent the wheel because we often don’t have a history to draw from. This book is a direct expression of these sentiments. For that, I am thankful. 

Thank you to NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This book needed some judicious editing and organization. It reminded me of listening to an oral history filled with abuse, poverty, and alcohol; or a long PBS documentary; or even reading an extended obituary for each aunt.  I guess I was hoping for a narrative more like All Over but the Shoutin’, Rick Bragg’s story of growing up poor in Alabama. (The stories could even have been part of a compelling fiction book, perhaps in the hands of a gifted writer who was also originally from Minnesota with native heritage like Louise Erdrich). I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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