The Woman Who Gave Birth to Her Mother

The Woman Who Gave Birth to Her Mother

by Kim Chernin
     
 

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With the "eloquence of a poet and the gifts of a born therapist" (San Francisco Chronicle) Kim Chernin offers a new paradigm for women’s development as mature, creative, and free adults. "Giving birth to one’s mother" is a symbolic act of self-creation that opens the door to autonomy and achievement; it is a model for breaking the pattern of the endless cycles

Overview

With the "eloquence of a poet and the gifts of a born therapist" (San Francisco Chronicle) Kim Chernin offers a new paradigm for women’s development as mature, creative, and free adults. "Giving birth to one’s mother" is a symbolic act of self-creation that opens the door to autonomy and achievement; it is a model for breaking the pattern of the endless cycles of blame and forgiveness of mothers within which many women live out their lives. Tales from Chernin’s clinical practice vividly illustrate this model. One client’s question, "If I tell you that a daughter is looking for me, a daughter who died when she was born, can you make sense of that without thinking I am crazy?" is the beginning of her journey. Another woman, adopted into an abusive family, embarks on an unlikely--but ultimately life-changing and successful--search for her birth-mother. Chernin’s work is groundbreaking and necessary; this is a book that belongs on the shelves alongside Hope Edelman, Mary Pipher, Carol Gilligan and Mary Catherine Bateson as a major contribution to how women understand their lives.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Drawing on accounts of mother-daughter conflicts that she heard about as a practicing psychoanalyst, Chernin (Reinventing Eve) provides a method for resolving the problems that can dominate this relationship in her perceptive and creative study. According to the author, many women are locked into a cycle of blaming and forgiving their mothers for any difficulties they have experienced. To transcend this pattern, Chernin recommends that a woman learn to "give birth" to her mother by changing the destructive dynamic that has existed between them through the healing power of storytelling. Telling and retelling the story of this relationship is supposed to take a woman through the seven stages of idealizing, revising, blaming, forgiving, identifying with, letting go of and finally giving birth to a new vision of her mother. Chernin recounts the compelling stories of several women for whom this process, she claims, has fostered self-development, including a woman who brought her mother home from a 30-year stay in a mental institution and another who extricated herself from a stifling mother-daughter relationship. Author tour. (Aug.)
Library Journal
California-based psychoanalyst Chernin (e.g., In My Father's Garden, LJ 8/96) presents a series of mother-daughter stories told to her in private counseling and in chance encounters in daily life. These stories are organized according to seven stages of a woman's life and relationship with her mother--idealizing, revision, blaming, forgiving, identifying, letting go, and giving birth--which offers new insight and gives new meaning to family anecdotes. There is seemingly no casual anecdote that Chernin doesn't attempt to explain, no emotion she won't work through. The book is clearly written and is quick and easy reading, but the content needs to be considered quietly and at length and perhaps discussed with a therapist. A book for mothers and adult daughters to share, this belongs in the psychology section of most public libraries.--Susan E. Burdick, MLS, Reading, PA
Kirkus Reviews
A psychoanalyst uses storytelling to explore the complex and, for some women, all-consuming and difficult mother-daughter relationship. The prolific Chernin (My Life as a Boy, 1997; In My Father's Garden, 1996; Crossing the Border, 1994; etc.) envisions the psychological life of women as made up of seven stages: idealizing the mother, seeing her from a new perspective and revising the idealized image, blaming the mother and feeling rage toward her, forgiving her, identifying with her, letting go of the attachment to her, and finally taking one's life into one's own hands. This latter stage is marked by a breakthrough moment that Chernin calls "giving birth to one's mother." The symbolic new mother can now give birth to the daughter's new self, and thus is established a new mother-daughter relationship. To illustrate these stages, Chernin has created characters based loosely on real women she has known. The storytelling format varies: Sometimes Chernin introduces a character and has her tell her own mother-daughter story; sometimes Chernin narrates; sometimes Chernin and the storyteller interact in a dialogue. Yet there is a certain sameness to six of the seven storiesþtheir main characters, whether abused, neglected, or controlled, seem to be singularly obsessed with their mothers. Only in the seventh, in which a mother recounts the ordeal of her daughter's chaotic wedding preparations, does a bit of life-restoring humor emerge. Chernin presents her own mother and daughter in a banal epilogue that unintentionally raises the question of how differently those two might have written their scenes. Readers who identify with intense and troubled mother-daughter relationshipsmay find Chernin's views on women's psychological development plausible and these accounts sympathetic and engrossing; others may find themselves muttering, "Get a life!"

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780140284669
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/25/1999
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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