by Teresa Bruce
Joggling Board Press
released November 5th, 2013
The eight parts of speech – nouns, verbs, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections - are a writer’s best friend. These grammatical building blocks are the foundation of everything literary. But there are some writers who do more than utilize these parts of speech, they transform and re-design them, making something unexpected and surprising. It is they who craft the written word into a living entity – Teresa Bruce is one such author.
Bruce’s newest endeavor, “The Other Mother: A rememoir” (nationally released on November 5th by Joggling Board Press), recounts the lives of two women – herself and Byrne Miller. Though from very different generations, they bond over dance, over loss, over curiosity, over the present and over the future. And while it is true that dance frames the entire book, “The Other Mother: A rememoir” is not a story about dance; it is a story about extraordinary and plain moments alike. It is about real experience and authentic interactions.
“The Other Mother: A rememoir” travels through time as it follows its three narratives: two individual stories (Teresa’s and Byrne’s) along with their shared experience after meeting in 1991. Beginning with a referential date and location, each chapter is one piece of a dynamic puzzle. And while these short vignettes leap from the 1990s to the 1930s to the 1970s and toggle between storylines, the flow is flawless. One particularly lovely cadence is the re-telling of the women’s first introduction – Teresa’s perspective is given in chapter eight and Byrne’s in chapter forty-one.
As noted, “The Other Mother: A rememoir” is not exclusively about dance, but the performing arts thread is strongly woven throughout the work, taking on actual, inadvertent and metaphorical roles. As recalled by Bruce, dance was a very real journey for both women. The reader first meets Teresa as a young budding ballerina and sees how many years later, she returns to contemporary movement as an adult. Byrne’s life in dance was anything but typical, including several long sabbaticals. Her dance trajectory moved through many seasons and included stints as a Burlesque showgirl, contemporary dancer, choreographer/Artistic Director and community dance maven. Those are the dance details, the lines on the résumé.
But on a much deeper level, Bruce shares how dance was present and moved through both lives far beyond the studio, stage and rehearsal hall. Dance terms and verbiage were brilliantly peppered within the regular prose to describe relationships, circumstances, reactions and situations. One particularly poignant example is when dance terminology is used to illustrate Byrne’s reaction to a devastating medical diagnosis in her family:
“She reached for a barre that wasn’t there, off balance. She struggled not to fall, gripped her feet in second position parallel, knees bent in demi-plié…She exhaled, hands flexed at the end of hyperextended arms. She was pushing away the word, the palms of her hands telling the doctor no…” (p. 154)
Another noteworthy instance comes at the end of the book when Bruce compares the connective tissue in ballet to the notion of moving on. Her thoughts on how transitional steps make grand motions possible was transcendent and universally applicable.
The triumph of Bruce’s book is not only in its storytelling but also in its title. Her use of ‘rememoir’ is purposeful, important and revealing. ‘Rememoir’ feels like ‘remembering’ – a verb; an action. And as such, “The Other Mother: A rememoir” proclaims that human life is a work of verbs, both active and inactive: of doing, of believing, of deciding, of being.
For more information on “The Other Mother: A rememoir” or Teresa Bruce, visit her blog at www.teresabrucebooks.com