Mairs, Nancy

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

MAIRS, Nancy

Born 23 July 1943, Long Beach, California

Daughter of John Eldredge, Jr. and Anne Cutler Smith; married George A. Mairs, 1963; children: Anne, Matthew

Nancy Mairs is a leading feminist writer who has won acclaim for her poetry, memoirs, and essays. Among her early works is In All the Rooms of the Yellow House (1984), her second poetry collection for which she received a Western States Arts Foundation Book Award. Her other early works include Plaintext: Deciphering a Woman's Life (essays, 1986), Remembering the Bone-House: An Erotics of Place and Space (a memoir, 1989), Carnal Acts (essays, 1990), and Ordinary Time (essays, 1990).

Mairs' writing, which is fierce and funny by turn, most often examines her own condition and experience. Living in a body undermined by degenerative multiple sclerosis (MS), she bends her agile mind and sharp tongue around the daily tasks that confront her. In Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled (1998), Mairs describes in candid and sometimes pained ways the problems and rewards of life as a(as she describes herself) cripple. With lucidity, humor, and freedom from sentimentality, Mairs provides an upbeat account of life in a wheelchair. She has coped with multiple sclerosis for more than two decades, and there isn't any aspect of her illness and its impact both on daily life and on the soul that she hasn't pondered and learned from. She declares that a life like hers, "commonly held to be insufferable, can be full and funny."

Among the concerns Mairs addresses are sex, language, mobility, the rights of the disabled, caregiving and caretaking, euthanasia, and abortion, especially the implications for the disabled of the right to abort a fetus known to be defective. Mairs also describes her adventure as an undercover agent gathering information and evidence in a scam to bilk thousands of dollars from MS victims. Mairs asks her readers to read her book "not to be uplifted, but to be lowered and steadied into what may be unfamiliar, but is not inhospitable, space." With wit, wisdom, and compelling insight, Mairs describes a full life that, as she asserts, "is no piteously deprived state I'm in down here but a rich, complicated, and utterly absorbing process of immersion in whatever the world has to offer." She offers her readers and any who will follow her a rich, startling, and absorbing view of her world.

Other than her writing, Mairs has had a varied career, working as a junior editor at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory from 1966-69, as an editorial assistant at Harvard Law School (1970-72), a teaching assistant at the University of Tucson in Arizona on and off from 1972 through 1986, as well as teaching at Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson (1975-77). In 1983 Mairs became the Project Director for the Southwest Institute for Research on Women, a position she held until 1985. The next year, she ventured to Los Angeles, where she lectured at the University of California (UCLA) until 1987. She currently resides in Tucson.

Other Works:

Instead It is Winter (1977). Voice Lessons (1994).

Bibliography:

Reference works:

CA (1992).

Other references:

Booklist (1 Jan. 1997).KR (1 Nov. 1996).

—CELESTE DEROCHE,

WITH NELSON RHODES