Author to speak about yoga, motherhood in Port Townsend

PORT TOWNSEND ­— Yoga is funny. It can also be “incredibly annoying.”

So Elizabeth Gilbert, she of Eat Pray Love fame, says on the back of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses.

“Yoga sometimes makes people talk like jerks,” Gilbert continues. “Thank goodness, then, for Claire Dederer.”

She’s referring to the Bainbridge Island writer who is coming to the Port Townsend Library, 1220 Lawrence St., for a free reading of Poser at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Dederer’s memoir of yoga and young motherhood in Seattle came out earlier this year to good reviews — mostly.

There were a few critics who were disgusted with it.

But Dederer, herself a book critic who writes for The New York Times, The Nation and Real Simple, can take it.

“Bring it on,” she said in an interview from her Bainbridge home. “I’ve doled it out.”

Dederer toured the West, reading from Poser and hearing from other women who had dealt with the kind of expectations — breast-feeding as a moral mandate, co-sleeping, homemade baby food — she did as a young mom.

Requests for poses

And then, she took quite a few requests.

“A funny thing was, I had a lot of people asking me if I would do yoga poses,” she said.

“It took me long time to realize that they wanted to do yoga poses,” as in, “‘Let me show you my Downward Dog.’”

Dederer has also been likened to Gilbert, whose best-seller became a movie starring Julia Roberts.

But Eat Pray Love “has a high fantasy quotient,” Dederer said.

Poser “has a high reality quotient.”

The book is about Dederer struggling to practice yoga, struggling to understand the choices made by her family members and friends, and struggling with those annoying yoga people.

Winding path

In chapters named after yoga poses — Eagle, Crow, Mountain, Monkey, Corpse, Lion and so on — she takes readers on a winding path.

Along the way, Dederer discovers an unexpected kind of peace.

She thought yoga was going to make her “more virtuous and good,” with all of that stretching and bending and talk about the divine within.

But after years of doing yoga, after penning this 330-page memoir that got good reviews from The New York Times, she feels about as virtuous as she did before.

“Yoga taught me to actually accept the fact that I’m a mess,” Dederer said.

“Life is messy,” and like yoga poses, you have to experience life’s twists and balances and “move through them.”

Dederer “is by no means cured. But I’m a little more patient and accepting of life’s foibles.

“I can only give myself credit for a little.”

These days, Dederer and her husband, Bruce Barcott — author of The Measure of a Mountain, Port Townsend’s 2009 Community Read — are raising their two children, ages 9 and 12.

Dederer is working on a new book, a “nonfiction, memoir-y kind of thing,” but she’s not ready to talk about it yet.

She’s looking forward to her Port Townsend reading, since this community is a place she loved to visit as a teenager; she and a flock of friends came here the night of their high school graduation.

Dederer’s Poser will appeal to anyone who’s encountered yoga, feminism, parenthood and children of the 1960s, librarian Cris Wilson wrote in her announcement of Thursday’s reading.

“This will be a great evening out,” she wrote, “for moms, dads and yoga devotees.”

For details about Dederer’s reading and other activities at the library, phone 360-385-3181 or visit


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at [email protected]

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