Menopause hit Darcey Steinke hard. First came hot flashes. Then insomnia. Then depression. As she struggled to understand what was happening to her, she slammed up against a culture of silence and sexism. Some books promoted hormone replacement therapy. Others encouraged accepting the coming crone. Beyond that, there was little that offered a path to understanding menopause in a complex, spiritual, and intellectually engaged way. She felt lost until she encountered a scientific fact that had escaped her through the early stages of dealing with this life change: the only two creatures on earth that go through menopause, she discovered, are human women and female killer whales.
Her fascination with this fact became the starting point for Flash Count Diary, a powerful exploration into aspects of menopause that have rarely been written about, including the changing gender landscape that reduced levels of hormones brings, the actualities of transforming desires, and the realities of prejudice against older women. Steinke learned that in the seventeenth century women who had hot flashes in front of others could be accused of being witches, that the model of Marcel Duchamp's famous Étant donnés was a post-reproductive woman, and that seeing whales in the wild can lead to orcagasms. Flash Count Diary takes readers from Brooklyn to the red light district in Amsterdam, and finally to a watery encounter with a wild killer-whale matriarch in Washington State’s Salish Sea. Flash Count Diary will change the way you think about menopause. It’s a deeply feminist book, honest about the intimations of mortality that menopause signals, but also an argument for the ascendency, beauty, and power of the post-reproductive years in women’s lives.
“Flash Count Diary glitters with a startling intimacy, as Steinke confronts a biological change that has metaphysical implications . . . The subject feels truly fresh and transgressive, while nubility is beginning to seem like, well, old hat."—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times Book Review
"I hope that Steinke’s book, which I consumed hungrily, will encourage a wave of work by and about women undergoing what is, quite literally, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Steinke makes the case that the inexorable slide away from fertility is a rebirth of agency, and her book is the fruit of the very creativity it describes."—Sarah Manguso, The New Yorker
"[An] incandescent account of menopause . . . [Steinke] luxuriates in a sense of gender as fluid, a hormonal tide between two poles, along which we all bob and drift, sometimes making drastic crossings and sometimes remaining tethered in place."—Olivia Laing, The Guardian
"Steinke’s book takes an unflinching look at what happens when fertility, her fertility in particular, ends—and something else, wild and unpredictable, takes over . . . Flash Count Diary is so much more than a menopause travelogue. Throughout, Steinke weaves her personal story with philosophy, science, art and literature, a hybrid that feels fresh and new in the landscape of traditional memoirs . . . Luckily, her cri de coeur has become the book we now hold in our hands."—Cathy Alter, The Lily
"[Steinke explores] a variety of topics through the lens of menopause: Sex; grief; the patriarchy; whales, gorillas, horses, and elephants; God; art; the transgender community; and, of course, women’s bodies, along with our minds, our spirits, our anger, and our animalness. She braids all of this into sparse, patient prose that’s somehow lush and explosive, not to mention formidable and exquisitely sensitive to all beings."—Jane Ratcliffe, Longreads
“Many days I believe menopause is the new (if long overdue) frontier for the most compelling and necessary philosophy; Darcey Steinke is already there, blazing the way. This elegant, wise, fascinating, deeply moving book is an instant classic. I’m about to buy it for everyone I know.”—Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
“Part memoir, part manifesto, part natural history, Flash Count Diary is a profound white-knuckle ride through unnamed territories.”—Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation
“Meticulously researched and passionately written, Flash Count Diary examines the shame and stigma attached to female aging so closely that their opposites are revealed. Steinke posits menopause as a channel through which new realms of possibility, depth, strength and growth can be revealed. An inspiring and visionary book.”—Chris Kraus, author of After Kathy Acker
“For what Darcey Steinke has just taught me about my own body—all of our bodies—I will love her eternally. After readings bits of Flash Count Diary aloud to my twelve-year-old, she confided in me, ‘I can’t wait for menopause.’ This fearless and fiercely intelligent book needs to be read by every woman, man, and child as it explores and explodes ideas about aging, desire, our wildness, and our wonder.”—Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark: Stories
“A keen exploration of menopause . . . Provocative ideas and illuminating personal stories centered on the idea that ‘it is not menopause itself that is the problem but menopause as it’s experienced under patriarchy.’”—Kirkus Reviews
“Steinke brings a fervent feminism and vibrant voice to a subject that has, for far too long, been talked about only in whispers.”—Booklist
“Simultaneously contemplative and messily visceral, this extraordinary fugue on menopause, a book ‘situated at the crossroads between the metaphysical and the biological,’ centers on the experience of the aging woman . . . [Steinke’s] ability to translate physical and emotional experiences into words will make menopausal readers feel profoundly seen and move others.”—Publishers Weekly (starred)
1 Night on Fire
2:11 a.m.: I wake, heart thwacking, as heat flows up from my stomach, courses behind my face, and radiates out through the top of my head. I watch a lamp with a pink shade drift out of my neighbor’s window and hover...