Finding Fran: History and Memory in the Lives of Two Women

Lois Banner, Author
Lois Banner, Author Columbia University Press $80.5 (272p) ISBN 978-0-231-11216-1
Reviewed on: 11/02/1998
Release date: 11/01/1998
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Banner and her friend Fran Huneke were best friends in high school who had lost touch until they were recently reunited. By that time Fran had become Noura, a devout Muslim, and Banner a professor of gender studies and the author of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Banner examines their different paths with an even tone (remarkably so, considering she is one of the subjects) and delves into their pasts with great insight. Her recollection of growing up female in the 1950s is both personal (e.g., a brief rundown of the movies the two friends watched and the music they liked) and historical (e.g., the cultural influence of McCarthyism). Banner went on to graduate school at Columbia, married a fellow graduate student and moved to Princeton, N.J., where she met Elaine Showalter, joined a local NOW chapter and embraced feminism. In the meantime, Fran, who also married, was experimenting with different forms of spirituality, eventually moving to the Lama Foundation, a spiritual commune near Taos, N. Mex. There are a couple of minor problems in Banner's recounting of their pasts: she confusingly refers to her old friend as ""Fran"" in the old days and ""Noura"" in the new, and she glosses over the story of how Fran and her brother-in-law (one of the founders of the Lama Foundation) left their spouses and eventually married each other. But throughout Banner retains admirable openness to various perspectives, making this a tightly focused, illuminating look at women's lives and the many ways in which the personal is indeed political. (Dec.)
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