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Mother Millett

Mother Millett

by Kate Millett

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Kate Millett’s tremulous and hauntingly beautiful memoir begins with a telephone call from Minnesota where her mother is dying. Her return home to a severe, intelligent, and controlling matriarch is the catalyst for a meditation on her upbringing in middle America and her subsequent outcast status as a political activist, artist, and lesbian.



Kate Millett’s tremulous and hauntingly beautiful memoir begins with a telephone call from Minnesota where her mother is dying. Her return home to a severe, intelligent, and controlling matriarch is the catalyst for a meditation on her upbringing in middle America and her subsequent outcast status as a political activist, artist, and lesbian.

Mother Millett is an intensely personal journey through the author’s interior life, a subject she has visited over the years in such classic texts as Sita and The Loony Bin Trip. In these pages are reflections on a life of political engagement, beginning with the sexual politics of the feminist movement, proceeding to the struggle for gay liberation, and culminating in her campaign for housing rights on the Lower East Side of New York where she and her neighbors currently face eviction. Throughout, Millett confronts her fears of losing her mother, the anchor to a world she has long ago rejected but which continues to define her.

Echoing Philip Roth’s Patrimony, Millett writes with great poignancy about caring for the person who brought her into the world, a role reversal that brings with it both devastation and grace.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A confession of a daughter. An extraordinarily rich and sensitive narrative, like a good wine.”—Yoko Ono

“As young activists search for ways to define their own movements, Kate Millett contributes a novel idea: Think outside yourself and fight for your mother’s, or father’s—or grandmother’s or grandfather’s—rights. Eventually, they will be your own.”—The Nation

“This work, a meditation on both the perils of mother-daughter love and old age, is perhaps her warmest and most universal to date.”—Independent

“One of the Best Books of 2001: Written in compelling prose, this poignant memoir of her mother’s final years and the writer’s struggle to face losing the most influential person in her life reestablishes Millet as a major American literary voice ... An essential purchase.”—Library Journal

Mother Millett captures the strength of the bond that overcomes conflicts that inevitably arise between two fiercely independent women, particularly when they are mother and daughter.”—Bloomsbury Review

“You’ll argue with Kate Millett as you read along, but only because she’s succeeded in making you think.”—Gay and Lesbian Review

“No, it doesn’t make for a soothing bedtime read. But imagine the person who could write serenely and soothingly about such an experience—what sort of person would that be? Of course, one could choose not to write the book at all. But this is stuff we need to know.”—Women's Review of Books

“Millett’s book captures the experience of a parent’s old age remarkably well, with a strength and grace of which Mother Millet could be proud.”—Washington Post Book World

Yoko Ono
An extraordinarily rich and sensitive narrative.
Gloria Steinem
A journey of heart and time that many of us will take, and from which all of us can learn.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When feminist icon and writer Millett (Sexual Politics, etc.) was summoned home to St. Paul to attend to her dying mother, she thought it might be her last such journey. Instead, it was merely the beginning of a fervent attempt to reclaim her mother from infirmity and dependence, to liberate her from the highly rated, wholly pitiless nursing home she detested. There is ample irony hereMother Millett had, after all, signed the commitment papers that had placed daughter Kate in a psychiatric ward years before. It was that experience, documented in Millett's The Loony Bin Trip, that made it impossible for her to agree to her mother's incarceration in St. Mary's, with its ever-present threat of medicated confusion and physical restraint. As she struggles to redeem her mother and return her to her beloved Manhattan apartment, Millett's conflicts with nursing-home managers, her own family and her sense of failure and self-doubt become a kind of universal history of children and aged parents in an America where the needs of the elderly commonly take second place to those of their families. Determined to be a better caretaker of her mother than her mother was of her, Millett sometimes claims the moral high ground too readily, though her rueful recognition that she will herself soon enough be old and facing financial circumstances far less secure than her mother's provides a sobering balance. (May 13) Forecast: Millett's reputation should draw review attention to this passionate rejection of the institutionalization and infantilization of the old and ailing, which, via Mother's Day displays, has the potential to appeal to a wider audience than Millett's core readership of boomer feminists. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Modern literature has often portrayed mothers as both nurturing and domineering self-sacrificing yet adamant characters who at once build and destroy their child's sense of worth. In more ways than one, Helen Feely Millett is such a mother. Like Mersault's mother in The Stranger, she was responsible for much of her child's anguish but was also the driving force behind her victories. And despite the occasional lapses, she was fiercely independent and valiant. Unsurprisingly, then, her death should not symbolize the beginning of pain but a celebration of an extraordinary life and her child's realization that she is deserving of so much more than tears. This deeply personal and brooding memoir about Millett's mother's last days may not intrigue those who have an insatiable appetite for Millett's ideas on feminism (see Sexual Politics), but her writing is so impeccably fluent and her thoughts so articulate despite the lack of linear narrative that Millett's openness should appeal to anyone who values the technique at least as much as the theme. And since the memoir is as much about the daughter as it is about the mother Millett says so at the onset it is really a unique mix of autobiography and biography. An essential purchase. Mirela Roncevic, "Library Journal" Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
While Millett continues to be preoccupied with the themes that she explored in such seminal works as , here these motifs are leavened by the lesbian feminist's reflections on caretaking her mother and facing mortality. The memoir concludes with a tender eulogy. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

Verso Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 7.88(h) x 0.94(d)

Meet the Author

Among Kate Millett‘s other books are Flying Sita, The Basement, and The Loony Bin Trip. Millett is a founder of the Women’s Art Colony in Poughkeepsie, New York. She also lives in New York City.

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