Selected Works

Memoir
Letters between Tolkien and a college student who wants to sing him her songs
Graduate student, mentor, Hebridean lobster: an unusual meeting.
e.g. Fiction, History, Magazine Articles, etc. goes here
Very brief description goes here
Poetry
A chapbook that explores monsters of self and society, some beautiful, all dangerous.
A collection of poetry and art that reflects "a rapacious affection for life" (David Biespiel)
Nonfiction
"Lucky is the community that has someone with the skill and sensitivity of a Sue Parman to record its passing voices."
–George Spindler

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The imagined life

London from a spider's point of view

Anthropologist
Poet
Playwright
Essayist
Short story writer
Novelist
Artist
Tentative blogger

As an anthropologist I worked for years in the Scottish Outer Hebrides, now called the Western Isles, and am the author of “Scottish Crofters” and numerous research articles (and a few short stories, essays, poems, and plays) related to this experience--a good chunk of my heart continues to dwell there. I’ve written about Europe, sleep and dreams, evolution of the brain, the biology and culture of salt, how a gorilla would interpret Beowulf, California from the Native American point of view, death rituals in Sulawesi, and the titles of travel books. I’m a writer who conceives of herself combining the journalistic detail of John McPhee with a dash of Umberto Eco.

I imagine this web site to be a bit like Montaigne's retreat: a tower of one's own to collage with life fragments; to be playful with the life one has lived.

A Scottish version of Montaigne's Tower

The Artist

If I were to draw a self-portrait, it would be divided in half: one half in shades of gray, representing my attempt as a scientist trained in psychology (B.A., Antioch College) and anthropology (Ph.D., Rice University) to record what I see, the other in brilliant color, representing my search for beauty through words and the visual arts. I am especially enamored of faces. All faces are masks, and I love them for what they conceal and reveal about their stories—the distrust and hope, the desire and suffering in faces starkly different in sex, age, or ethnicity; the alien peering out from the familiar. When I use line and color and diverse media, I am exploring the terrain of human identity and the contrast and conflict between interior and exterior.

At the close of a Navajo Blessing Way ceremony are the words “to walk in beauty.” “With beauty all around me may I walk. In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.” To be an artist is to walk in beauty—immersed in it, gathering it, experiencing it, sometimes capturing it. To be an artist is not paint or technique or school or reputation but a way of life, consciously living from one unpredictable moment to another without a skin.

An academic and literary life