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Memoirist and Emerita professor of English returns to campus

Professor Joanne Frye returns to Wooster, will give joint lecture with fellow memoirist Jane Lazarre


Retirement doesn’t stop most Wooster professors, many of whom retain strong ties to the College while pursuing works of academia and other profound interests. In the case of Joanne Frye, who left the College in 2009 but maintains the status of emerita professor of English, retirement was just another way to delve more enthusiastically into her primary passions — reading and writing.

Her latest and greatest writing comes in the form of a book entitled “Biting the Moon: a memoir of feminism and motherhood,” which came out on March 15 and is available on The book focuses on Frye’s life and family, and is split between her time in Wooster, OH and Bloomington, IN. This is her third book, following the well-praised “Living Stories, Telling Lives: Women and the Novel in Contemporary Experience” and “Tillie Olsen: A Study of the Short Fiction.”

“In the 90s, there were hardly any narratives that portrayed the mother’s point of view,” Frye explained. ”I wondered why this was, and decided to figure it out by writing a book myself.”

However, Frye wasn’t always a writer. Her first love was for reading. ”I kept going to school because that was where they let me keep reading. I ended up with a Ph.D. and then what was I supposed to do? I needed a job and was divorced when my daughters were young, but I had grown up with people who loved education and books.” Teaching, for her, was the logical next step.

It was a path the pursued for a number of years, and although she enjoys teaching and working with students, Frye explained that the everyday tasks of the profession began to weigh on her.

“I wanted the tine and flexibility to do other things. It’s not like I was burned out on teaching, but I was ready to give myself permission to do some other things,” she said.

“Biting the Moon” is the realization of a number of years of mothering, thinking, teaching, and drafting. It has been called a “deeply felt, courageous portrait of a woman’s life” that promises to be “will be intimately familiar to an older generation of mothers and an inspiration to a younger generation.”

“It took a really long time. I can’t even say when I officially started. I had some written, and then I went to NYC to really get serious on it — I sent it to Syracuse maybe 10 years after I first began writing. We signed our official contract in the fall of 2010.

Frye will present her work tonight at 7 p.m. in the Lean Lecture room, and an informal, follow-up discussion on feminist parenting is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m., also in Lean.

Accompanying her is Jane Lazarre, a friend and author of “Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness,” “The Mother Knot,” “Inheritance” and other titles. Their joint presentation will cover a variety of topics within the fields of memoir writing and motherhood.

“One of the things that interests both Jane and I is how we think about the boundaries of fiction and memoir. How do you write about something that isn’t sequential?” asked Frye.

Another challenge of the memoir as a genre is the fluid nature of the topic. Frye quickly learned firsthand that life goes on, even when a book about it needs to wrap up. “I ended up having to add an epilogue on the birth of my grandson to the memoir,” she said. “I really needed a resting place, although it wasn’t an ending — it was a beginning.”



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