I’ve been fascinated with Anais Nin for a long time. She published seven volumes of diaries (from 1931 – 1974), the most famous part being published as ‘Henry and June’, which explores her romantic relationships both with writer Henry Miller and his enigmatic wife June.
In A Woman Speaks Anais addresses her own relationship with silence. Being a controversial figure, who’s been so honest about her exploration of identity, love and sexuality, it’s surprising to learn that she used to be mute as a teenager and then more of a shy listener in her twenties. In fact, she admits that it was only through writing that she learnt to speak at all.
In a series of lectures and interviews, A Woman Speaks universalises the role of silence beyond her own experience. She describes other women’s reception to her published diaries, how they wrote letters confessing their lack of confidence, how they felt guilty about taking up space but comfortable bolstering others. So many women were silent about themselves and their capabilities.
What I love about this book is that Anais is inciting women to write. She wants to help others to find their voice and practice it, to learn to take up space without self-doubt or guilt. The lectures and seminars in this book are a testament to what a confident and articulate a speaker she became; it’s hard to believe she ever struggled to speak. What an inspiration to any of us who have held back, afraid of claiming our voice, and to any of us who love to write!
Words by Ele-Beth Little
Photo by Ashley Edwards on Unsplash