Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sandra Tsing Loh and Julia Sweeney express mutual admiration in Northwest Passages forum

Sandra Tsing Loh and Julia Sweeney have been fans of each other’s works for decades.

So when the two writers and comedians came together Tuesday night for a virtual Northwest Passages forum, they hit it off, delving into the pros and cons of writing comedy, writing memoirs and – Sweeney’s new love – writing fiction.

They also discussed the release of “The Madwoman and the Roomba,” Loh’s latest memoir.

“I’m interested in seeing what the female journey – whether biological or however you identify – is going to look like as we go forward,” Loh said about her new book in a recent interview. “I don’t know how that is going to look over the next 25 years.”

But her experience of the last 25 continues to provide fodder for her growing collection of memoirs.

An account of Loh’s 55th year, the new book is largely concerned with subjects she has always found underrepresented in popular culture: menopause and midlife womanhood.

Loh explained that going through menopause she was shocked at how little “the change” was publicly talked about, so she resolved to do it herself.

“It was always a puzzle to me why it hadn’t been written about,” she said. “Even in 50 years of feminism, we can’t admit that at any point we feel anything odd because we’re still making 79 cents on the dollar. I mean women feel a lot of different emotions, but so do men … we could all have a larger bandwidth for admitting the emotions that we have.”

“It almost makes me sad that men don’t go through menopause,” Sweeney said. “The world would be a better place if they did – it’s like finally getting your head above water.”

Sweeney praised Loh for her ability to approach the often taboo subject with authenticity and humor.

As the conversation turned to writing styles and the benefit of “writing within structure,” Sweeney shared her recently developed love of fiction. Without the lockdown, she explained, she might never have realized that all she wants to do for the foreseeable future is to sit at her desk and write.

“It actually felt like I was let out of jail this morning,” Sweeney said, briefly touching on a short story she is writing for The Spokesman-Review. “There’s a freedom in fiction that’s so heady and visceral and palpable …. My ideas just start flowing out.”

Loh’s “The Madwoman and the Roomba” and Sweeney’s “If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother” are both available at Auntie’s Bookstore.