Wednesday, January 30, 2008

From "The Daily Iowian" by Lauren Matovina

Nursing the world to hope
By: Lauren Matovina - The Daily Iowan
Posted: 1/29/08
Many think today's world is still a man's world, but there is still hope, according to Nancy Leigh Harless' book, Womankind: Connection & Wisdom Around the World. An Iowa City local, Harless fits in with the critically acclaimed authors who traipse through town. She will be at the UI Hospitals and Clinics Wild Rose Books today from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. reading from her d├ębut anthology.

Womankind is a collection of stories compiled by Harless while on international journeys as a nurse practitioner. She writes about the women she's met, often struggling for survival, and these narratives represent hope in the face of daunting odds.

The book began as a journal, which she kept daily when abroad. In 2003, Harless attended a three-week writing retreat in Norcroft, Minn., and the women's stories began to evolve from simple entries to full-fledged stories.

Womankind is truly a glimpse of women worldwide, linked by a certain sense of unity - sisterhood. Although not following in the witty tone of the Ya-Yas, the stories of these women, such as a Mayan woman who inquires how to stop the babies from coming or Agripina, an 8-year-old Peruvian who is called to be a midwife, are still compelling.

"I have been an ear for so many women, so many stories. It was time to be their voice. What I find most rewarding is sharing their stories and seeing how people respond to them," Harless said. "I hope that the message readers go away with from Womankind is a message of hope. Hope in a world where there almost is no hope. Hope with a capital 'H.' "

Her efforts in countries such as Belize and Guatemala originated as a professional study exchange through the Rotary of Iowa in 1997. The cultures that she and her retired husband, Norm, experienced moved them so greatly they decided to return to Belize in 1999 and build a women's clinic. After completion of the project, Harless retired from her job as nurse practitioner at the Planned Parenthood of Southeast Iowa to immerse herself in her newfound passion.

"At the Burlington Library, we had a book discussion about Womankind. One woman said it perfectly: 'We're really all alike, aren't we?' " Harless said. "There are a lot of underlying themes in Womankind, but the single truth is we are all the same, world round."

E-mail DI reporter Lauren Matovina at

Womankind: Connection & Wisdom Around the World, with author Nancy Leigh Harless
When: Today, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Where: UIHC Wild Rose Books

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