The Conversation Begins: Mothers and Daughters Talk about Living Feminism

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In this timely, important, and compelling exploration of mother-daughter relationships, Christina Looper Baker and her daughter Christina Baker Kline bring us the provocative dialogue between two generations of feminists based on revealing interviews with prominent mothers and daughters. Baker and Kline draw on talks with a diverse range of women of both generations in an attempt to bridge the gap between them. Mothers and daughters tell their stories in first-person narratives that explore their development as ...
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Overview

In this timely, important, and compelling exploration of mother-daughter relationships, Christina Looper Baker and her daughter Christina Baker Kline bring us the provocative dialogue between two generations of feminists based on revealing interviews with prominent mothers and daughters. Baker and Kline draw on talks with a diverse range of women of both generations in an attempt to bridge the gap between them. Mothers and daughters tell their stories in first-person narratives that explore their development as feminists, their lives as women, and their relationships with one another. Women of the Second Wave of American feminism - including Paula Gunn Allen, Helen Rodriguez-Trias, Barbara Ehrenreich, Barbara Seaman, Joy Harjo, Patsy Mink, Nkenge Toure, Eleanor Smeal, and many others - address the pressures of their dual roles as mothers and activists, the particular challenges posed by applying their feminist principles to raising their daughters, and their hopes for their daughters' futures. The daughters, many of whom count themselves among the emerging Third Wave, discuss the effects - both positive and negative - of growing up in a household where the personal is political. They speak about the values and lessons their mothers instilled in them, and the ways in which they would like to emulate - or distance themselves from - their mothers as role models.

This landmark addition to the literature of the American women's movement probes one of the most intimate and complicated relationships of a woman's life--that between mother and daughter. Based on interviews with more than 60 prominent mothers and daughters, The Conversation Begins is a timely, important, and often controversial look at feminist motherhood, its triumphs and challenges. Photos. 416 pp. National ads. Author publicity. 12,000 print.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Mother-daughter team Baker (In a Generous Spirit: A First-Person Biography of Myra Page, Univ. of Illinois, 1996) and Kline (Sweet Water, LJ 5/15/93) interviewed other mothers and daughters, one or both prominent second-wave feminists. They then edited the material into first-person narratives, a technique they admit some participants objected to (a list of the questions asked is included in an appendix). Initially, 65 women were selected, of whom 44 permitted their stories to be published (after extensive editing and in some cases omission of material). The results are curiously bland. Somehow, the experiences of such diverse women as Tillie Olsen, Patsy Mink, Alix Kates Shulman, Barbara Seaman, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Eleanor Smeal, Barbara Ehrenreich, Naomi Wolf, Paula Gunn Allen, and Joy Harjo have come to sound too much the same. Some of the material contradicts questionable suggestions made in the introduction (the notion that feminists of the 1970s seldom addressed the subject of motherhood, for example), though overall the work provides some valuable biographical details about leading feminists. For comprehensive women's studies collections.-Beverly A. Miller, Boise State Univ. Lib., Id.
Booknews
A mother and daughter team present revealing first-person narratives based on interviews with more than 30 sets of feminist mothers and daughters, including Naomi Wolf, Barbara Ehrenreich, Eleanor Smeal, and Helen Rodriguez-Trias, among others. The authors pose provocative, often difficult questions in an effort to identify the specific stresses and rewards of feminist motherhood and to chart its effects on future generations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A revealing yet comforting overview of the generational passage of feminism that discloses as much about elemental family conflicts as about the future of the women's movement.

In 23 sets of interviews and personal statements of second- wave feminists and their daughters, Baker (English/Univ. of Miami) and novelist Kline (Sweet Water, 1993) probe each woman's growth as a feminist and the effects of her beliefs on her family. Interviewees range from politician Patsy Mink to social critic Barbara Ehrenreich to poet Joy Harjo to Holocaust survivor and lesbian anthologist Evelyn Torton Beck; the variety of their childhoods, ethnic heritages, and economic backgrounds demonstrates that feminism is not simply a white middle-class phenomenon. Yet common touchpoints emerge: Friedan and de Beauvoir were profound influences; the interviewees were often driven into activism and feminism by the experience of personal injustice; their children were the center of their world and are now more free to make choices than they. Most daughters of feminist leaders cite an increased confidence—a feeling, as Lori Smeal says, "that I could do anything." There is also an understanding of the costs of being a superwoman; says Abigail Pogrebin, "Maybe it's just not possible to have a husband, kids, career, and toned body all at the same time." Yet most daughters appreciate their mother's commitment, and some, like Wendy Mink, continue the activist tradition. Surprises in the book include the frequent examples of active two- parent childrearing, equitable marriages, and children facilitating their mother's emergence as a lesbian.

Read as a blueprint to the next wave of feminism, the interviews offer only partial views: More must be done, today's problems are different and perhaps more subtle. But as a collection of discrete stories of a social movement and of the eternal bond of mother and child, this is an impressive book.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553375244
  • Publisher: Bantam Books
  • Publication date: 3/3/1997
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 5.28 (w) x 8.13 (h) x 1.13 (d)

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