Unruly Catholic Women Writers

Creative Responses to Catholicism

Edited by Jeana DelRosso, Leigh Eicke, and Ana Kothe

Subjects: Religion, Literature, Fiction, Memoir, Poetry
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438448305, 221 pages, November 2013
Hardcover : 9781438448732, 221 pages, November 2013

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Table of contents

Acknowledgments and Permissions
Introduction: Mysteries of the Faithful, Dreams of the Future
Part One: The Joyful Mysteries
the first joyful mystery (poetry)
Susanne Dutton
Praying Twice (poetry)
Liz Dolan
My Soul Sisters—or, How the Nuns of my Childhood Inspired a Feisty Feminist (personal essay)
Renée Bondy
Jerusalem Road (poetry)
Mary Rice
Where I First Met God (personal essay)
Lacey Louwagie
Age of Reason (poetry)
Suzanne Camino
Uniforms Optional (personal essay)
Leah Cano
Sunday Morning in a Foreign Country (poetry)
Lauren K. Alleyne
Wool Skirts (personal essay)
Martha Marinara
Lord I am not your woman (poetry)
Susanne Dutton
It Takes a Village to Rear a Word Weaver: Memoirs of a Black Catholic Girlhood (personal essay)
Mary-Antoinette Smith
Fact of the world I (poetry)
Lauren K. Alleyne
girltruth (personal essay)
Stacey Ginsburg
the Easter fear (poetry)
Susanne Dutton

Part Two: The Sorrowful Mysteries
Holy Thursday: The Passion (poetry)
Lauren K. Alleyne
That Easter (fiction)
Leonore Wilson
Our Lady of the Library (poetry)
Sarah Colona
For the Vatican Dress Code (poetry)
Annrose Fitzgerald

Nothing Soup (fiction)
K. Biadaszkiewicz
Nailing My Backbone to the Cross (poetry)
Donna J. Gelagotis Lee
True Confessions (poetry)
Patti See
Resolution (poetry)
Lauren K. Alleyne
Excuse me for this, Sister Mary (poetry)
Ava C. Cipri
A Meditation on Sexuality for Catholic Clergy (personal essay)
Dolores DeLuise
Moth Song (poetry)
Sarah Colona
Last of the Tomboy Pings (fiction)
Patti See
Penance (poetry)
Donna J. Gelagotis Lee

Thou Shalt Not Have Strange Gods Before Me (personal essay)
Pamela Galbreath
Sister No One (poetry)
Liz Dolan
Superstitions of a Catholic Childhood (poetry)
Martha K. Grant
Fear and Trembling (poetry)
Lauren K. Alleyne
Rewinding the Wedding Tape (poetry)
Patti See
Invisible Nature (personal essay)
Leonore Wilson
Lying to God (poetry)
Donna J. Gelagotis Lee
Our Father Who? (personal essay)
Carol Cooley
Mass Revolt (poetry)
Caterine McGuire
Hunger (drama)
Kari Ann Owen

Angels (drama)
Kari Ann Owen
Confessions of a (Catholic) Presbyterian Woman (personal essay)
Madeleine Mysko
Blue Lights (poetry)
Mary Rice
Part Three: The Glorious Mysteries
Water’s Wine (poetry)
Allison Whittenberg
Exile (personal essay)
Colleen Shaddox
Anathema (poetry)
Natasha Sajé
Intersections (poetry)
Lauren K. Alleyne

Telling My Mother I Can’t Say the Rosary (poetry)
Patti See
Secrets of the Confessional (drama)
Pat Montley
Ninth Month (poetry)
Leonore Wilson
Resurrecton (poetry)
Mary Rice
The Sentence (poetry)
Leonore Wilson

Interior Castle (poetry)
Sheila Hassell Hughes
Sacrament (poetry)
Donna J. Gelagotis Lee
Sister Ming in the Year of the Monkey (fiction)
Susan Leonardi
Anthony’s Asceticism (poetry)
Ava C. Cipri
The Taste of Apples (poetry)
Lauren K. Alleyne
Untitled (poetry)
Paula Timpson
Notes on Contributors

A literary anthology exploring contemporary Catholic women’s experiences.


Finalist for the 2013 ForeWord IndieFab Book of the Year Award in the Anthologies Category

This unique literary anthology is devoted to unruly Catholic women. In short stories, poems, personal essays, and drama, the contributors describe women's struggles with Catholicism and also complicate contemporary understandings of women's relationships to their faith. Catholicism often oppresses the women in these creative pieces, but it also inspires them to challenge literary, social, political, and religious hierarchies. The collection reflects the considerations of a wide range of women from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, geographic locations, and generations; they encompass the gamut of reactions to the Catholic experience—humor, anger, nostalgia, critique, appreciation, and engagement or rejection on one's own terms. Authors address real life versus Catholic dogma, motherhood, childhood, alienation from the Church, Catholic school days, mentors and exemplary figures, Church strictures on women's sexualities, and leaving or remaining in the Church among many other experiences. Readers will find this a rich and multifaceted exploration, one that offers new perspectives and moments of recognition.

Jeana DelRosso is Professor of English and Women's Studies and Director of the Morrissy Honors Program at Notre Dame of Maryland University. She is the coeditor (with Leigh Eicke and Ana Kothe) of The Catholic Church and Unruly Women Writers: Critical Essays. Leigh Eicke is a writer and independent scholar in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Ana Kothe is Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez.


"Whatever a reader's beliefs, opinions, attitudes, or hopes and dreams about women and Catholicism, this book will open up new vistas. It may provoke taking sides, making a decision at last, or coming to appreciate certain viewpoints. Reading some or all of the pieces will assuredly create a response in the reader. " — American Catholic Studies

"Catholic school features prominently in this collection, as you might expect, and the majority of the stories, essays, and poems use this fertile ground very well … it is not mere rejection of an ancient patriarchal society that drives this anthology. Rather, these are the stories, the songs, the prayers, of children who long to forgive, to see their broken home repaired, to come home. " — San Francisco Book Review

"There are pieces in this anthology that perfectly capture the paradox of distaste and desire … Readers who wish to find critiques of the Church will find their red meat in Unruly Catholic Women Writers, but so will readers who desire more sustained considerations of an imperfect Church that houses a faith that has consoled and cared for so many, women and men alike. " — Marginalia Review of Books

"Conveying a range of feelings from anger to appreciation, the confessional expressions and recollections gathered together in Unruly Catholic Women offer a versatile, entirely feminist view of the Roman Catholic experience. " — Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

"These are honest and poignant writings by women who refuse to be bound by Catholicism's strictures, even while acknowledging what contributor Madeleine Mysko calls, 'a peculiar feeling in my chest, a heaviness reminiscent of homesickness, though I cannot say for what. ' Included are schoolgirls slipping pictures of the Beatles between holy cards of martyred virgins, a group of friends planning racy confessions to a heartthrob priest, a woman wearing a purple halter top at the Vatican, a wedding video viewed on rewind, an artist's model contemplating the body, and a woman considering the weight and beauty of her First Communion dress as it settles into her hands. A rich and varied collection. " — Sonja Livingston, author of Ghostbread

"The authors of this inspired anthology give voice to the complexity and nuance of Catholic women's experience. For all the Church has done to suppress women, this anthology doesn't simply talk back, but by speaking truth to experience, in writing that is perceptive, wise, and sometimes humorous, it transforms experience. These authors—unruly—and otherwise, take the good the faith has offered them—from a reverence for mystery to the recognition of the power of ritual—and triumph, claiming the right to truth on their own terms. " — Patrice Vecchione, author of Writing and the Spiritual Life: Finding Your Voice by Looking Within