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Ensler's Latest Edition

Bookreview_amemory Throughout the past decade, Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues has been performed at hundreds of "V-Day" events worldwide, raising awareness of and money to stop violence against women. In 2006, a program of new short material was presented in New York as part of a festival called Until the Violence Stops. Written by a variety of women -- and some men -- the monologues, poems, and sketches shined a spotlight on such issues as domestic battery, gang rape, female genital mutilation, and sexual slavery, along with less sensational but nevertheless horrific incidents of physical and psychic violence. Contributors included Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Edward Albee, and Monica Szlekovics, an incarcerated woman who wrote about a childhood visit to a mental ward to visit her mother.

The end that Ensler and Doyle are pursuing with this collection of writings from that program is to duplicate the success of The Vagina Monologues by instigating a new series of consciousness-raising events. Much of the work is potent. Some pieces have a biting, sophisticated dramaturgy, such as Anna Deavere Smith's playlet, "None of Us Are Monologuists (aka Chill)," about a Tutsi woman from Rwanda who becomes a fashion model in New York. Others are more abstract, especially Robin Morgan's "Connect: A Web of Words," a word-association collage that invites all sorts of imaginative staging possibilities. Some of the best selections are straightforward stories, such as "Banana Beer Bath," Lynn Nottage's heartbreaking retelling of the true tale of a Ugandan mother's ultimate sacrifice.

It would seem callous to fault this anthology for being a downer given the dead-serious subject matter. Thankfully, there are some selections, such as Elizabeth Lesser's "The Next Fantastic Leap," that manage to be hopeful. And at least one piece -- Kathy Najimy's droll "Maurice" -- might provoke a chuckle, or at least a knowing, bittersweet smile.

A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant, And A Prayer: Writings To Stop Violence Against Women And Girls, Edited by Eve Ensler and Mollie Doyle, Villard, 2007, paperback, 208 pages, $12.95.

-- Reviewed by Mark Dundas Wood


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