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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Blog book tour: It's A Girl

Break out the snack food and pull up a comfy chair. Today I am a stop on the blog book tour for It's A Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters, a book of essays edited by Andi Buchanan. There are some famous names here, like Amy Bloom and Jacquelyn Mitchard; there are some not-so-famous names, authors with no other publication credits listed. There are Disney princesses, playgrounds, and the color pink. There are boob jobs, bulimia, and a Buddha-in-a-box. There are expressions of love between a mother and daughter that bring tears to your eyes. There are the tidal push and pull of parenthood -- the heartrending expressions of love, the heartstopping declarations of independence. There are, here in this pink volume of essays, a hundred little moments that jump out at me, whether it is because they mirror my own experience of motherhood back to me, or because they show me a vision of motherhood very different from one that I've known. Also, there are nipples.

In fact, one of the strongest essays in the collection is all about the nipples. Rachel Hall's "Breasts: A Collage" uses an incredible mammalian economy to express the circle of life embodied in the mother-daughter relationship: the seven-year-old girl examining the women in the locker room after a day at the pool, the trip to buy the first bra (she had the sort of knowledgable saleslady that the rest of us only know about through the tireless evangelism of Bitch Ph.D.), nursing her baby daughter as public spectacle, nursing her baby daughter as private grief in the shadow of her mother's diagnosis with breast cancer. The emotional heft of her writing takes my breath away. But her touch is light. When her daughter inherits a bin full of Barbie dolls, Hall tosses off the gleeful feminist bon mot that Barbie's "breasts, erased of nipples, are purely decorative, just another accessory one can acquire." Do they sell hard plastic breasts at Club Libby Lu?

There are other essays here strong enough that I'm planning to look up other work by the writers. "Garden City," by Jessica Berger Gross on pregnancy loss, infertility and the ways in which motherhood revisits -- and heals -- the scars of childhood abuse, is a stand-out. So is "Passing It On," by Leslie Leyland Fields, about watching her daughter grow up in the stern of an Alaskan salmon-fishing boat. Andi Buchanan's own essay about the day her daughter presented her with a piece of paper which read "No LOVE MOMMy" made me tremble for my future. Shall I start counting the days until my strong-headed baby girl stops lisping "I wuh yuh, Mama!" and sings a new song?

It's A Girl is the kind of essay collection that I craved back in the days before I knew what blogs were, when I wanted nothing more than to sit with a bunch of intelligent, articulate women and say, "Hey, this motherhood thing? What's it all about?" It's the kind of book I wanted during my first pregnancy, when I scanned bookshelves anxiously and came away with only Anne Lamott's classic Operating Instructions, and the late lamented Salon collection, Mothers Who Think. (When they changed the name of the section to "Life," I knew I wouldn't be bothering to shell out for the paid subscription.) I am so glad that this kind of writing is out here for our devouring, all of us mothers trying to get through the day, the week, the years of our lives. It is fortifying, good comforting company in its pink jacket on my bookshelf.

But it looks lonely somehow.  I am the mother of a daughter, but also the mother of a son.  So tomorrow, I think I'll go out and get It's A Boy.  Together they'll make excellent company.

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