The Conversation Begins: Mothers and Daughters Talk about Living Feminismby Christina Looper Baker, Christina Baker Kline, Christina B. Kline
Sisterhood, not motherhood, has been the focus of American feminism for the past twenty-five years. In fact, during
The first book to take an honest, in-depth look at the difficulties and rewards of being a feminist mother and to ask prominent feminist daughters whether their mother's vision was successfully or unsuccessfully transmitted to them while growing up.
Sisterhood, not motherhood, has been the focus of American feminism for the past twenty-five years. In fact, during the 70s many feminists viewed motherhood as a hindrance to women's progress toward equality, an attitude that alienated legions of potentially feminist women by ignoringeven disparagingthe needs and concerns of those who were mothers.
Nevertheless, many of those women had daughters who now have come of age and are reshaping the women's movement to suit their needs. The passing of the torch has not been entirely smooth, however. As young women define an agenda of their own, they also find themselves having to assess the legacy of their foremothersfor better and for worse.
In The Conversation Begins, Christina Looper Baker and her daughter, Christina Baker Kline, draw on talks with a diverse range of over sixty women of both generations, asking provocative, often painful questions in an attempt to bridge the gap between them. Revealing first-person narratives based on interviews with twenty-two sets of feminist mothers and daughtersincluding Paula Gunn Allen, Letty Pogrebin, Naomi Wolf, Barbara Ehrenreich, Marilyn French, Tillie Olsen, Joy Harjo, and many otherscomprise the heart of this magnificent testament to the strength of American feminism and the bond between feminist mothers and daughters.
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 confidencea 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.
- Random House Publishing Group
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- Product dimensions:
- 6.44(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.13(d)
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