“The studio was decorated in the style of Don’t Be Afraid, We’re Not a Cult. All was white and blond and clean, as though the room had been designed for surgery, or Swedish people. The only spot of color came from the Tibetan prayer flags strung over the doorway into the studio. In flagrant defiance of my longtime policy of never entering a structure adorned with Tibetan prayer flags, I removed my shoes, paid my ten bucks, and walked in….”
Ten years ago, Claire Dederer put her back out while breastfeeding her baby daughter. Told to try yoga by everyone from the woman behind the counter at the co-op to the homeless guy on the corner, she signed up for her first class. She fell madly in love.
Over the next decade, she would tackle triangle, wheel, and the dreaded crow, becoming fast friends with some poses and developing long-standing feuds with others. At the same time, she found herself confronting the forces that shaped her generation. Daughters of women who ran away to find themselves and made a few messes along the way, Dederer and her peers grew up determined to be good, good, good—even if this meant feeling hemmed in by the smugness of their organic-buying, attachment-parenting, anxiously conscientious little world. Yoga seemed to fit right into this virtuous program, but to her surprise, Dederer found that the deeper she went into the poses, the more they tested her most basic ideas of what makes a good mother, daughter, friend, wife—and the more they made her want something a little less tidy, a little more improvisational. Less goodness, more joy.
Poser is unlike any other book about yoga you will read—because it is actually a book about life. Witty and heartfelt, sharp and irreverent, Poser is for anyone who has ever tried to stand on their head while keeping both feet on the ground.
Freelancer and Seattle native Claire Dederer's full-length debut is a few cuts above the current tsunami of coming-of-middle-age memoirs, and there is a lot to like about the particular ways that the author hazards self-discovery through yoga. There are certainly some touching moments, but on balance, Dederer demonstrates a merciless eye to both her own shortcomings and the foibles of the hyper-hip liberal enclave in which she lives. Narrating this charming little dig in the side of smug suburban parents everywhere is Christine Williams, possessed of a light laugh and sarcastic flair that surely do the author proud.
Dederer was raised among hippies, and grew into a deeply anxious mother of two whose thinking space is occupied with such important world issues as what outfit her infant should wear to the first day of baby co-op. Williams does an excellent job of conveying both the seriousness and the ridiculousness of these many daily dilemmas. Highlighting childhood memories and adult decisions that have shaped her lovably neurotic attitude toward life, the author leaps from insight to insight using the conceit of her yoga postures.
Ah, yoga: that most obvious cornerstone of upper-middle-class urban spiritual practices. Dederer gives in to a barrage of yoga recommendations, and though her hunching back may not be much the better for it, her newfound awareness of how that body has been reflecting the condition of her soul shows she certainly got her money's worth. The author doesn't arrive at any major life changes as much as she gains an overall increased satisfaction with the world around her.
As tiny revelations unfold in the image of downward-facing dog and triangle, Christine Williams shows a sharp sense of interpretation that maintains the vinyasa flow of Dederer's connections without devolving into the dreamy, sappy territory where so many of these types of books have floundered. It's the irreverent tone that redeems a collection of life lessons like Dederer's, and Williams has that tone firmly in hand. Megan Volpert
“I absolutely loved this book.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love)
“This funny, spectacularly well-observed, and moving book does what even yoga can’t: it provides solace while making you laugh.” (Henry Alford, acclaimed author of How to Live)
“Dederer is a brilliant writer whose prose sparkles and cuts deep. Poser is a book you will want to immediately share with your friends.” (Maria Semple, author of This One Is Mine and producer of Arrested Development)
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More mommy memoir than yoga memoir
No. Not now.