Book Review: 'Running Barefoot' by Susan Lang
From the radiant cover photograph of Susan Lang’s barefoot granddaughter running on a desert dirt road, to the equally joyful pictures of a barefoot Susan and granddaughter on the back cover, Running Barefoot is a memoir filled with love, raw honesty and true desert grit.
Prescott is fortunate to contain more than a few literary treasures, but perhaps none more grounded in the desert Southwest than Susan Lang.
Susan writes about her hardscrabble childhood — part of that time in a Mojave Desert canyon homestead; and perhaps more crucially, full time as a wild child, an independent thinker and perceptive and curious “girl child” in the American '40s and '50s. “Wild seemed like the only true thing I could count on.”
That curious child matures into a teenager, then woman, fascinated by knowledge. “I loved the challenge of having to research and write papers, too, especially about literature.” She honors that love in the beloved chaos of raising her 7 children — and the balancing act required of a smart woman confronting and embracing counter-culture life.
Susan Lang pushes through what might seem insurmountable odds – personal, cultural, physical (a horrifying car accident) and the challenges self-imposed by her credo of honoring wildness. She becomes a respected Southwestern writer and a beloved teacher at Yavapai College, all the while staying true to her belief in the wild beauty of words — and the importance of nourishing the gifts of curiosity and honesty in her writing students.
In the finest writing mentor spirit of “showing, not telling,” here is one of my favorite passages in this passionate and unsparing memoir: “… my favorite professor, Milton Miller, would present each poet in the philosophical context of the time. Then he would actually read a few poems in a voice so rich and melodic that…[I was] transported to heights I’d never dreamed of….These were realms I had sensed as a child, as I slept out under the night sky or stood alone in the wild canyon. I’d had no idea that poems could also be windows into the mysteries there.”
Running Barefoot is a window — into the life and courage of a remarkable writer.
Susan Lang will be at the Peregrine Book Company on Saturday, Sept. 14, at 2 p.m. for a book launch celebration (with refreshments).