Let Me Tell You What I've Learned:
Texas Wisewomen Speak

by PJ Pierce

University of Texas Press, 2002. ISBN 0292765932.
Reviewed by Donna Van Straten Remmert
Posted on 09/17/2002

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Active Life; Anthologies/Collections

I needed perspective for my life. Even before finishing the introduction, I knew that I would find it in this book. As I read one fascinating story after another, I made a list of friends to whom I would gift the book. They include a niece just graduated from college, a friend interested in entering the political arena, a single mom who feels guilty about her passion for artistic expression as a painter. I can't give my own copy to anyone because I'll want to read it again someday. My husband has temporarily laid claim to the book and his response is as enthusiastic as mine.

The wisdom of the 25 "wisewomen" featured in this book is profound and inspirational. PJ Pierce's wit and wisdom is revealed in her Author's Notes, where she offers her own insights as she interviewed each of these women. Another example of the author's wisdom is her involvement of her just-out-of-college daughters in the interviewing process and the inclusion of her mother in the Epilogue, as yet another Texas "wisewoman." I think these personal touches make an important statement.

The reader-friendly, entertaining book is full of remarkable insights about living life with a purpose while also taking time to smell the roses. I salute these high-profile Texas women for their willingness to reveal intimate details about their lives. They have all crossed the half-century mark and they represent a cross section of career paths, ethnic groups, and geographic areas of Texas. I'm not a native Texan, yet I loved reading about "the mystique of the Texas woman." Though the stories are unique, they resemble tales told by women everywhere.

Texas women have a feisty, humorous and assertive way that fascinates me. Below are some samples of this feistiness and of the entertaining and compelling wisdom expressed in this book:

"I believe that I have a spirit that is not going to disappear."
—Barbara Jordan, former U.S. Representative (D-Texas) and educator, now deceased

"Lots of solutions happen around a casserole. If you can put a meal on the table, you will find that it comes in handy, even if you are plotting a revolution."
—Liz Carpenter, press secretary and staff director for Lady Bird Johnson

"I am Texan enough that I refer to half of my relatives as 'sister' or 'brother,' even if they are really aunts and uncles. I even have an 'Aunt Sister.'"
—Linda Ellerbee, broadcast journalist

"I prefer the term 'Chicano' to 'Mexican American' because of the connotation. 'Chicano' has come to mean a reclamation of our heritage; it means self-determination."
—Carmen Lomas Garza, artist

"When I see kids who have potential that they aren't developing, I raise hell with them; I push them to do what they are capable of."
—Barbara Jacket, U.S. Women's Olympic coach, 1992, Barcelona

"I am told that I should be careful about criticizing the CIA-that I might get bumped off... If you hear that I committed suicide, I didn't!"
—Sarah McClendon, senior-most member, White House Press Corps

"There seems to be a general feeling that if you are funny, you're not serious. But people don't know how many brain cells it takes to be funny."
—Ann Richards, former Texas governor

Let Me Tell You What I've Learned: Texas Wisewomen Speak is a book worth reading. PJ Pierce captures the spirit of all Texas women in her writing, making it clear that she too is a Texas wisewoman, born and raised in Amarillo. Visit her website.

Check out our interview with the author of Let Me Tell You What I've Learned.

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