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Jul 17, 2019

The only two creatures on earth that go through menopause are human women and female killer whales. This esoteric fact became a strange point of fascination as author Darcey Steinke grappled with her own hard experiences with menopause—first came hot flashes, then insomnia, then depression. Steinke struggled to understand what was happening to her, and all her research slammed her up against a culture of silence and sexism.

To offer a guiding hand to understanding menopause in a complex, spiritual, and intellectually engaged way, Steinke joins us at Town Hall in conversation with marine biologist Dr. Deborah Giles to share thoughts on Flash Count Diary, Steinke’s powerful exploration into aspects of menopause that have rarely been written about. She delves into the changing gender landscape brought on by reduced levels of hormones, the actualities of transforming desires, and the realities of prejudice against older women. Steinke reveals menopausal insights from throughout history: how 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. Listen in with Steinke and Giles for an honest, feminist story about the intimations of mortality that menopause signals—and her argument for the ascendency, beauty, and power of the post-reproductive years in women’s lives.

Darcey Steinke is the author of the memoir Easter Everywhere and the novels Milk, Jesus Saves, Suicide Blonde, Up Through the Water, and Sister Golden Hair. With Rick Moody, she edited Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited. Her books have been translated into ten languages, and her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Boston Review, Vogue, Spin, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The Guardian.

Dr. Deborah Giles received her PhD from the University of California Davis in 2014. Her master’s thesis and PhD dissertation both focused on the federally listed southern resident killer whales. Formerly the research director at the Center for Whale Research, she is currently a resident scientist and lecturer at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs, where she teaches Marine Mammals of the Salish Sea and Marine Biology.

Recorded live in The Forum at Town Hall Seattle on July 8, 2019.