51 pages 1 hour read

Miriam Toews

Women Talking

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2018

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Authorial Context: Miriam Toews

Content Warning: This section of the guide includes discussions and depictions of domestic and sexual violence, rape, and suicidal ideation.

Miriam Toews is a Canadian writer and author of nine books. Born in 1964, she grew up in a Mennonite colony in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada. Her father, Melvin C. Toews, was an elementary-school teacher who lobbied to establish the first public library in Steinbach. He lived with bipolar disorder for most of his life and eventually died by suicide. Toews also lost her older sister and only sibling to suicide 12 years after her father.

Although Toews’s parents were relatively free-thinking, she left home and the colony when she was 18, burdened by the community’s overall atmosphere of shame and strictness. Many of her novels are set in Mennonite colonies and are critical of the religion. In an interview with the New York Times, Toews discusses the ramifications of growing up in the colony: “If you don’t end up filled with self-loathing and/or guilt and/or inexplicable rage, living in that community, then you are not paying attention” (Porter, Catherine. “Miriam Toews’s Mennonite Conscience.” New York Times, 28 Mar. 2019).

The women of Women Talking embody all of these emotions and characteristics.