Arcana, Judith 1943–

views updated

Arcana, Judith 1943–


Surname is pronounced Ar-cah-nah; name legally changed c. 1978; born February 5, 1943, in Cleveland, OH; daughter of Norman (in real estate sales) and Ida (an artist) Rosenfield; married Michael Pildes, July 26, 1964 (divorced October 31, 1973); children: Daniel. Education: Northwestern University, B.A., 1964; Goddard College, M.A., c. 1978; earned a Ph.D.


Office—The Fund for Women Artists, 3739 Balboa St., PMB 181, San Francisco, CA 94121. Agent—Jean V. Naggar, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, 336 E. 73rd St., New York, NY 10021. E-mail—[email protected]


Teacher of English at high school in Skokie, IL, 1964-70; Abortion Counseling Service Clinic, Chicago, IL, medical worker, administrator, counselor, and driver, 1970-72; Columbia College, Chicago, teacher of women's studies, 1973-79; Parents Primary School, Chicago, teacher of human sexuality, 1979-80. Lecturer on women's issues throughout the United States, 1971—; coconvenor of women's writing workshops, 1978-79; taught to prisoners, 1964-2005.


Chimera, Feminist Writers Guild, National Writers Union, Association of Writers Programs, PEN-West.


Literary Arts grant; Deming Memorial Fund grant; Puffin Foundation grant; Rockefeller Archive Center grant; grant from the doctoral faculty at Union Graduate School; held fellowships from Ragdale, Soapstone, Montana Artists Refuge, Mesa Refuge, and the Wurlitzer Foundation.


(Contributor) Ann Landers, editor, The Ann Landers Encyclopedia, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978.

Our Mothers' Daughters, Shameless Hussy Press (Oakland, CA), 1979, Women's Press (London, UK), 1981.

Every Mother' Son: The Role of Mothers in the Making of Men, Women's Press (London, England), 1983, Seal Press (Seattle, WA), 1986.

Grace Paley's Life Stories: A Literary Biography, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1993.

(Author of introduction) Dear Mother—: An Anthology of Women Writing to or about Their Mothers, Women's Press (London, England), 1994.

What If Your Mother, Chicory Blue Press (Goshen, CT), 2005.

Contributor to Journeywomyn, Chrysalis, and Frontiers.


Judith Arcana began to write as a child, creating stories and poetry. However, she understood that it was probably not a practical thing to aspire to be a writer, so she became a teacher instead, and wrote in her spare time, delving heavily into the political environment of her young adulthood for inspiration and writing about the changes in the roles of women as feminism came to the forefront of the national consciousness. She has also written extensively about motherhood, and how that role has altered given the opportunities available to women outside of the more traditional career of wife and parent. A proponent of a women's reproductive rights prior to Roe vs. Wade, Arcana wrote What If Your Mother, a book that addresses that position through poetry. In a review for Moondance Web site, Julie Enszer wrote glowingly of Arcana's effort, stating: "I knew it was a necessary book with necessary history. I didn't know that it would transcend necessity. I didn't know it would be artfully crafted with precise language to illuminate its important stories. I didn't know it was a stunning book until I read it."

With Grace Paley's Life Stories: A Literary Biography, Arcana looks at the life work of short story writer Grace Paley and notes the autobiographical quality of her fiction, and how it reflects Paley's roles as wife, mother, and activist. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt Arcana was too reverential toward her subject overall, but concluded that the resulting book is a "scholarly but readable examination of Paley's life and work."

Arcana told CA: "My writing and all the rest of my life are informed and encouraged by the women's movement. That is, both the information and the courage I embody or put forth come largely from that source. I read the Tarot, I scan the sky, and I take criticism, loving, and support from a small circle of friends."



Publishers Weekly, January 18, 1993, review of Grace Paley's Life Stories: A Literary Biography, p. 458.


Moondance Web site, (November 19, 2007), Julie Enszer, review of What If Your Mother.