This Is Not the Ivy League


This Is Not the Ivy League

A Memoir

Mary Clearman Blew

American Lives Series

224 pages


September 2011


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April 2020


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March 2013


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September 2011


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About the Book

Mary Clearman Blew’s education began at home, on a remote cattle ranch in Montana. She graduated to a one-room rural school, then escaped, via scholarship, to the University of Montana, where, still in her teens, she met and married her first husband. This Is Not the Ivy League is her account of what it was to be that girl, and then that woman—pressured by husband and parents to be the conventional wife of the 1950s, persisting in her pursuit of an education, trailed by a reluctant husband and small children through graduate school, and finally entering the job market with a PhD in English only to find a whole new set of pressures and prejudices.

This memoir is Blew’s behind-the-scenes account of pursuing a career at a time when a woman’s place in the world was supposed to have limits. It is a story of both the narrowing perspective of the social norm and the ever-expanding possibilities of a woman who refuses to be told what she can and cannot be.

Author Bio

Mary Clearman Blew is the author of the acclaimed essay collection All but the Waltz and the memoir Balsamroot. She is the editor of When Montana and I Were Young: A Memoir of a Frontier Childhood, available in a Bison Books edition. Her most recent novel, Jackalope Dreams, is also available in a Bison Books edition. She is a professor of English at the University of Idaho and has twice won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, once in fiction and once in nonfiction. She is also the winner of a Western Heritage Award and the Western Literature Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award.


"The author of this lucid, elegant memoir was a pioneer both literally and figuratively: Raised on a Montana homestead, she became a trailblazing woman in the academy."—Ms. Magazine

"[This Is Not the Ivy League is] a fierce and unsentimental book that stands eloquent testament to the high price that women of a certain generation had to pay to pursue their dreams."—Kirkus Reviews

“Blew’s unflinching self-scrutiny is to her credit, and it’s hard not to be sympathetic. . . . There’s something fascinating about the notion of the anti-memoir. Paradoxically, it’s honest. Who can justify her own life? When a snooty Northern Montana College professor would say, ‘At Yale, we used to . . . ,’ Blew’s colleagues would hoot, ‘This is not the Ivy League!’ It makes a terrific, defiant title.”—Louisa Thomas, New York Times Book Review

"Blew is a wonderful writer whose work has never reached the audience it deserves."—Diane Leach, PopMatters

"Blew's memoir is an honest, tense, and balanced behind-the-scenes account of defying tradition and accepting blame. Her settings are atmospheric, her scenes are rebellious and her story will inspire anyone in pursuit of goals that seem out of the box."—B. Lynn Goodwin, Story Circle Book Reviews

"Though Blew says she can't fathom Derrida, postmodernism permeates her craft. She offers groups of snapshots, a kaleidoscope of memories, a brave new quilt. . . . It is not the rags-to-riches story we expect of the classic memoir, but a more lyric, hard-won, and loving testament."—Lois M. Welch, Western American Literature

Table of Contents


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