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Review: Water Cooler Dairies

What do a paint tester, orthopedic surgeon, doll sculptor, and race car driver have in common? They are just four of the unique careers held by women featured in Water Cooler Diaries: Women Across America Share Their Day at Work, the third book in the This Day in the Life series by Joni B. Cole and B. K. Rakhra.

The concept of the series is pretty simple — women from a whole variety of economic, social, and personal walks of life were asked to keep diaries on a single day.  Cole and Rakhra then collected the hundreds of diaries and put them together in the book.  Many are included in full, while they also include select passages from other diaries.  The result has been three books that manage to capture unique perspective on what it’s like to be a woman in American today.

I picked up the first book in the series, This Day: Dairies from American Women, on a discount rack at a local bookstore a few years ago, and immediatly couldn’t put it down.  The diaries are short — usually just a few pages — and each one seemed to speak to some experience I have felt in my life and wondered if someone else had experienced too.  Water Cooler Diaries had the same sort of pull, once I started reading I just couldn’t put it down.  There is something comforting to see how common some feelings and experiences can be.

My one criticism of Water Cooler Diaries is that I didn’t like the age distribution.  Of the 35 diaries, only six of them were by women under 30, and only one was by a woman under 25.  I think I found this unsatisfying mostly because of the age I am right now.  As a recent college graduate, most of my friends are struggling to find jobs, and the ones that have jobs aren’t entirely happy with them.  There was only once diary in the book, a section by 23-year-old Emily Gaare, that really reflected the sense of trying to find yourself and your career that my friends and I are experiencing.

Other than that small piece, I highly recommend this book.  I love the concept, and the snapshots of a day in the life of average women is fascinating.  I would also highly recommend the other two books in the series — This Day: Dairies from American Women (which I have read) and This Day in the Life: Diaries from Women Across America (which I want to read).

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