- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Posted June 30, 2011
When I saw Elif Shafak's new memoir Black Milk on display at my neighborhood B&N, I purchased it without any forethought, so entranced I was by her work. I had read another novel by Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love, exploring Sufism and the life of the mystic poet Rumi, who lived in central Anatolia in the thirteenth century. Being Turkish, of course, I am drawn to Shafak's novels and characters. But to enjoy her new memoir, you don't have to be Turkish, or have an interest in Turkey or Turkish politics. You don't even have to be a writer or mother. Ultimately though, women who are writer-mothers will feel especially pulled into the memoir's main theme: the tug of war between the all encompassing writing life and motherhood. Shafak writes of this struggle with the mind of a literary writer but in a style all her own-an utterly refreshing down-to-earth candor. Her story begins with a life altering conversation over a cup of tea. Shafak is invited to the home of a famous Turkish novelist. The woman, who is now in her eighties, confronts her with the choice of motherhood and the writing life after revealing that she herself had forsaken children for the pursuit of writing. Shafak begins to dwell on the subject, and it is at this conjunction that her harem of finger-women make their debut: the six thumbelinas that live inside of her head. Each is a different facet of Shafak, ranging from the ambitious professional to the pure motherly figure. For instance Little Miss Practical remarks, "Women can be good mothers and good career women. And they can be happy. It's simple. The key is time management." Miss Ambitious Chekhovian counters: "[The writing life] It's a lifestyle. It's a lifetime passion. An artist needs to be ambitious and passionate. You don't work nine to five. You breathe your art twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week." Inevitably, the novelist is selfish (everything comes second to writing), and the mother selfless. It's an immense conflict that Shafak shows though the confrontational conversations of her finger-women. For the most part the bickering and power struggle between them is engaging and believable. Giving the book five stars, which I believe it deserves, I must make a disclaimer that there are parts that fall short: the thumbelinas sometimes drone on, the bios on famous writer-mothers fail to tie in with the writer herself. I would have enjoyed Shafak sharing with the reader how these writers shaped her as a writer and thinker. Also, the narrative sometimes reads like a journal, a hodgepodge of subjects mixed together, its continuity lost as we switch from topic to topic. And most importantly, one of the most compelling issues she faces, her postpartum depression, is only discussed at the end of the book (during this time she loses her ambition and cannot write for eight months). Still, Shafak has reached a breakthough in addressing a topic that hasn't been addressed enough: the challenges of balancing the all encompassing writer's life and the all encompassing mother's life. How can they both co-exist? Shafak's writing exudes her own lyrical style, lush and vivid, spiritual and otherworldly; her inspiration from Sufism is evident. She is witty and entertaining. Her ideas are bold, inspirational, brilliant, and universal. Any woman can take her golden nuggets of wisdom, but writer-mothers can especially take great comfort from her musings and conclusions.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 12, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted September 3, 2011
No text was provided for this review.