Sounding Differences: Conversations with Seventeen Canadian Women Writers


371 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-8020-2762-8
DDC C810'.5408




Reviewed by Thomas M.F. Gerry

Thomas M.F. Gerry is a professor of English at Laurentian University.


Far more than merely a collection of interviews, this book represents a
thoroughgoing meditation on the experiences of a variety of Canadian
women writers. Janice Williamson as mediator subverts the implicit
authority of the questioner by casting herself as a collaborator.
“Conversation” is loosely defined in this book, in that the material
Williamson presents was revised and recast over a period of five years.
She suggests in the introduction such alternative terms for the form she
uses in Sounding Differences as “thinking in process,” “oral
essays,” and “fluid dialogues over time.” While the
“conversations” are more finished than transcriptions would have
been, then, they nevertheless retain a degree of spontaneity. Each
“conversation” is prefaced by a photograph of the Canadian woman
writer, and by an excerpt from one of the writer’s works. The book
concludes with brief “biocritical essays” that note each writer’s
important dates and works as well as selected criticisms of those works.

Williamson’s selection of writers reflects her overall aim of
challenging such dichotomies as “academic feminists”/“community
writers” and “elite theorists”/“unsophisticated activists,”
and her interest in Canadian francophone and anglophone women writers
who worked across genres, particularly such contributors to Tessera as
Daphne Marlatt, Gail Scott, Nicole Brossard, Smaro Kamboureli, Erin
Mouré, Lola Lemire Tostevin, and Betsy Warland. The remaining
“conversations” are with Clair Harris, Marlene Nourbese Philip, Lee
Maracle, Jeannette Armstrong, Di Brandt, Elly Danica, Kristjana Gunnars,
Joy Kogawa, Bronwen Wallace, and Phyllis Webb.


Williamson, Janice., “Sounding Differences: Conversations with Seventeen Canadian Women Writers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,