Born in northern PA.
Home—Flagstaff, AZ. Office—c/o University of Nevada Press, Mail Stop 166, Reno, NV 89557. E-mail—[email protected].
Environmentalist, author, and teacher.
Sisters of the Dream: A Novel, Northland Publishers (Flagstaff, AZ), 1989.
Delicate: Stories of Light and Desire, Nevermore Press (Flagstaff, AZ), 1999.
Bonelight: Ruin and Grace in the New Southwest, University of Nevada Press (Reno, NV), 2002.
Mary Sojourner moved from the northeast to the southwest, concerned for the plight of the natural landscape there and committed to preserving it. As an environmental activist, Sojourner has fought against the increasing development of land in Arizona and been arrested for protesting at a uranium mine. But she has also sought to use her writing as part of her activism, encouraging readers to see the beauty of the land around them and to feel concern for its loss. In both her 1989 novel, Sisters of the Dream, and her 2002 collection of nonfiction essays, Bonelight: Ruin and Grace in the New Southwest, Sojourner has written about the strength and dignity of the Southwestern landscape and the people who live closest to it.
Sisters of the Dream tells the story of Liz Morrigan, a character who follows the pattern of Sojourner, moving from the East Coast to Flagstaff, Arizona, to make a new life. Morrigan makes a circle of powerful women friends and is initiated into the life and rituals of the Hopi Indians. In her dreams, Liz travels back to the Hopi culture of the twelfth century, which Sojourner recreates with historical detail. Reviewers found the strength of the book in the relationships between the women friends. Susan E. Davis, in New Directions for Women, said Sisters of the Dream "vibrantly affirms life and women's struggles to live it to the fullest." A critic for Publishers Weekly wrote that although the dream sequences sometimes slowed the pace with excessive detail, "Sojourner effectively communicates the unquenchable strength of her beleaguered heroines."
The collection Bonelight is a compilation of essays, including columns for Writers on the Range and commentaries for National Public Radio. Most of the essays are very short, some only half a page, depicting Sojourner's growing relationship with the landscape of her adopted home. The poet Maxine Kumin reviewed Bonelight for Women's Review of Books, remarking on the passion and pain evident in Sojourner's writing. Kumin wrote, "Sojourner is not afraid to be personal, to express grief for her dead father, a kind of pride for having left her old life behind, fear for her mortality as she comes into menopause …and pure rage at the developer she faces across the table for a session of pseudo-partnership and compromise." Martin Naparsteck, a reviewer for Salt Lake Tribune, suggested that some of Sojourner's emotions were too easy or simple, and some of her arguments no more than "bumper sticker" slogans. Naparsteck found a sense of superiority in some of Sojourner's diatribes against developers and suburban sprawl, saying "Looking down on other people isn't insight. It's arrogance." Of other pieces, Naparsteck said, "When she is gutsy or confessional, Sojourner is a fine writer."
Sojourner has written that in her fiction and essays she tries to give back to the land that has given her so much. On her Web site, she wrote, "I write and teach from this simple perspective: our stories, our poems, our best works are inextricably drawn from and linked with the land on which we live."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
New Directions for Women, November, 1989, Susan E. Davis, review of Sisters of the Dream, p. 25
Publishers Weekly, June 30, 1989, review of Sisters of the Dream, p. 85; April 1, 2002, Judith Rosen, "Self-pubbed Author Opens Doors for UP," p. 21.
Western American Literature, winter, 1990, James B. Hemesath, review of Sisters of the Dream, pp. 389-390.
Women's Review of Books, July, 2002, Maxine Kumin, "Enough Is Enough," pp. 31-32.
High Country News online,http://www.hcn.org/ (April 15, 2002), Renee Guillory, review of Bonelight.
Mary Sojourner Web site,http://www.magictails.com/marysojourner (October 22, 2002).
Salt Lake Tribune online,http://www.sltrib/com/ (June 16, 2002), Martin Naparsteck, "Bonelight Has Biting Essays and a Few Bumper Stickers."
University of Nevada Press Web site,http://www.nvbooks.nevada.edu/ (October 22, 2002).*