four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
51-Mar-Apr-2011
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0

My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses

A-PoserClaire Dederer is a freelance journalist whose writing has appeared in the New York Times, Vogue, Real Simple, the Nation, New York, Yoga Journal, and other publications. This is her first book.

The Topic: When new mother Claire Dederer throws out her back while breastfeeding, everyone in her North Seattle neighborhood--from women in the checkout aisle to the local bum--tells her to try yoga. She's skeptical, but she gives it a try and soon discovers all sorts of new physical positions and personal insights. But Poser is neither a New Age manifesto nor a feel-good memoir with accompanying yoga mat. Dederer retains her spunky tone throughout, and Poser turns out to be more about how the author uses yoga to understand specific aspects of life and love in contemporary Seattle rather than to attain some distant nirvana.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 352 pages. $26. ISBN: 9780374236441

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"From the bendier-than-thou instructors to the more-locavore-than-thou preschool parents, Dederer captures everyone in her world with humanity and gentle wit. So many readers will relate to her story; not just the long minutes spent in downward dog or the hours lost wandering the aisles of Whole Foods, but the years of pondering the mysteries of family relationships, past and present." Buzzy Jackson

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"It's heartening to see a serious female writer take such a risky step into territory where writers of literary ambition fear to tread, lest they be dismissed as trivial. ... Poser is a powerful, honest, ruefully funny memoir about one woman's open-hearted reckoning with her demons." Dani Shapiro

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"It plucks a reader out of her own musings and deposits her neatly into the author's absorbing world. It's got the gravitational pull of a good novel and an unusually genuine voice that envelops the reader swiftly." Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett

Cleveland Plain Dealer 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It could just as easily have been called ‘How to Be a Perfect Mom, Wife and Daughter in the Uber-Liberal Confines of the Pacific Northwest.' ... She knows how to set up a punch line, how to foreshadow a big moment, how to create drama out of the everyday bits of a life." Bill Eichenberger

New York Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Did Ms. Dederer really need to write another [yoga book]? And did she need to approach yoga from a relatively cynical point of view, using phrases like ‘I got ready for the bossing' and ‘quietude on the hoof'? In fact she did, if only for personal reasons, not least of which is that this appealing writer's first book is long overdue." Janet Maslin

Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"I feared another headache-inducing twist of chick lit, a self-absorbed yarn with the woe of the well-off middle-class American female who turns to the incensed magic of Indian spirituality. But Dederer redeems herself and her vision throughout Poser because she never takes herself entirely too seriously." Anne Saker

Critical Summary

All of the reviewers enjoyed Poser, but they may have been less than effusive with their praise because they spent so much time explaining what the book was not--not a yoga guide, not a self-help book, not as gimmicky as its title would seem to indicate, not a conventional memoir. That said, Poser does contain scant elements of each, with passages on feminism, attachment parenting, and the history of yoga thrown in. But all that negation suggests that Dederer has achieved something like the self-actualization yoga promises, all without taking herself too seriously. In the end, reviewers seemed to say, the voice of this book is truly Dederer's own, and more than sufficient.