Look Both Ways: A Double Journey Along My Grandmother's Far-Flung Path

Katharine Coles (Author)


"Tense, abundantly researched, and heartbreaking . . . Coles makes sense of the unique forces that shaped women in the twentieth century." --Foreword Reviews

Walter Link and Miriam Wollaeger, a young geologist couple in 1920s Wisconsin, set out to find oil to supply the surging U.S. demand. This exciting work will allow them to build their lives in South and Central America, Indonesia, and Cuba. But from the first posting in Columbia, they quickly discover that no women are working in the field in these places. While Walter faces the hardships and thrills of exploration in the jungles and mountains, and eventually becomes chief geologist for Standard Oil, Miriam is left behind in the colonial capitals during Walter's often lengthy times away. She defines herself through the limited means left to a woman within their small societies: playing bridge or polo by day and dancing into the wee hours with early KLM pilots, diplomats, and the footloose sons of moneyed Americans and the European aristocracies. She also raises three children, has intimate involvements, learns the local languages, and takes up teaching. But she is not satisfied. And finally she does something about it.

Following in her grandparents' footsteps, author Katharine Coles looks backward and forward, through documents and imagination. She looks at their journeys and hers, and mingling their words with her own, examines the delicate balances that must exist in a successful marriage and a feminist life.

Product Details

Price: $18.95  $17.43
Publisher: Turtle Point Press
Published Date: November 06, 2018
Pages: 304
Dimensions: 5.9 X 0.8 X 8.9 inches | 1.1 pounds
Language: English
Type: Paperback
ISBN: 9781885983589
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Katharine Coles is the author of two novels and six collections of poems, the fifth of which, The Earth Is Not Flat, was written under the auspices of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. The recipient of grants from the NEA, the NEH, and the Guggenheim Foundation, she has served as Poet Laureate of Utah, and was inaugural director of the Poetry Foundation's Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute. She is a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Utah, and is currently working with Poet's House to develop a program that will bring poetry into libraries and natural history museums.


"With exquisite insight and radiant energy, Katharine Coles enters the reckless hearts of Miriam and Walter, her mercurial, brilliant, charismatic grandparents. Profound and provocative, Look Both Ways unconceals the catalytic convergence of two volatile personalities in a time of scientific discovery, cultural turmoil, and political transformation." --Melanie Rae Thon

"My using words to describe the adventure, the history, the love and heart and mystery found in Look Both Ways is to do the book a disservice. Though this beautiful and moving memoir spans continents and cultures, centuries and climates, generations and the day to day, Katharine Coles keeps the tale as intimate, and as meaningful, as any memoir I have read." --Bret Lott

"Katharine Coles creates an arresting simultaneity between the past and present, a woman's need for freedom and belonging, adventure and love. She delves into the diaries and journals of her grandparents, following their footsteps, finding everywhere a means to recalibrate her own sense of self-definition within a 21st-century marriage. In exploring how desire plays out for women within the constraints of their time and character, this composite memoir offers a compelling portrait of what it is to live mindfully in a female body." --Alison Hawthorne Deming

"I'm over the moon about Katharine Coles's new book. In it, we watch a woman ahead of her time battle the strictures of that time, a woman in a far different era doing the same, examining in the process the delicate balance between love and freedom that must take place in a truly feminist life, the delicate balance between honesty and compassion that must exist in a truly successful marriage. Rapturous, wise, and lyrical, fascinating in terms of history, science, and social custom, deeply moving, this hybrid biography/memoir is as transcendent as the best of novels, fierce, dazzling, and true." --Betsy Burton, Owner, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City