Transfiguring life into art, Barbara Kingsolver, Laurie Colwin, Mary Gordon, Sue Miller and Perri Klass are among the 20 writers, mothers all, who contribute stories-all previously published-to this well-chosen anthology about bearing or raising children. Editors Kenison (series editor for The Best American Short Stories) and Hirsch (Songs from the Alley) have chosen stories that illustrate "the complexities of mothering in America today." Klass's "For Women Everywhere," spiked with humor, tells of a 35-year-old single woman, nine months pregnant, who refuses to identify her baby's father: "I am not the kind to kiss and tell," she states. In Kate Braverman's disturbing "Pagan Night," a young mother contemplates killing her unnamed, unwanted infant son. Meanwhile, Kingsolver's "Quality Time" limns a divorced mother, hurriedly dropping off her daughter at daycare before running errands and going to work, who reflects that "Parenting is something that happens mostly while you're thinking of something else." Several tales deal with losing a child; of these, Alice Elliott Dark's "In the Gloaming," about a mother caring for her 33-year-old son dying of AIDS, is the most moving. Each entry is followed by a brief author's note on the story's genesis. In their thoughtful introduction, the editors express their wish that this group of tales may "serve as a step toward a `mother's literature'"; it does, admirably. (May) FYI: Naturally, Mothers will be published on Mother's Day.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Feminist writers Kenison and Hirsch consider their collection of short stories the first about motherhood by mothers in America today. Originally published between 1981 and 1994, mostly in the New Yorker and Redbook, the pieces include Mary Gordon's "Separation" and Kenison's work on Olive A. Burns's unfinished Bildungsroman Leaving Cold Sassy. This could have been an interesting collection, but it is marred by the editors' skewed perception of women who do not regard motherhood as a legitimate literary subject and their contention that in the 1970s and 1980s, maternity was so unfashionable that it, rather than institutional sexism, was the barrier to creative achievement. Aiming to "bring the celebration of motherhood into the fold of feminism," Donnelly and Bernstein-who both teach English at a community college-have collected essays, short fiction, and poems about motherhood, most by contemporary writers, including themselves. Many of the contributors to their "womb-book" are well known, e.g., Gwendolyn Brooks, Sylvia Plath, and Robert Bly. Anna Quindlen's "The Glass Half Empy," reprinted from her New York Times column, explores her recognition of the sexism her daughter faces and her son does not. There are also excerpts from major works such as Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior and Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Both collections will interest the general reader but will not compete with Mother Journeys: Feminist Writing About Mothering (LJ 11/1/94).-Helen Rippier Wheeler, formerly of UC-Berkeley, SLIS
"I could feel my life changing, the old familiar parts of it crumbling away and a new shape emerging." The narrator of Mary Grimm's "Before," reflecting on her emotions as she is being wheeled into a delivery room, sounds a note repeated, with some artful variations, in many of the reprinted tales in this diverse collection: Motherhood changes everything. Another theme, succinctly rendered in Barbara Kingsolver's "Quality Time" (from Homeland, 1989), is that "Parenting is something that happens mostly while you're thinking of something else." Most of these stories, dwelling on the complex negotiations of mothers and young children, are exact but hopeful. In "Starlight" (from Floating, 1984), Marian Thurm catches the delicate growth of trust and affection between a mother and her two young sons, separated by a divorce. "Chances with Johnson," from White Boys and River Girls (1995) by Paula K. Gover, traces the struggles of a single mother to provide some sense of security and certainty for her son. There are several grimly downbeat works as well: A young, drug-addled mother in "Pagan Night," by Kate Braverman, plots how to murder her child, and in "King of the Sky," by Roxana Robinson, a battle of wills between a mother and her son culminates in tragedy.
Strong stories, a startling variety of voices, and some very precise meditations on the nature of modern motherhood combine to create a unique, useful, moving anthology.
"Transfiguring life into art, Barbara Kingsolver, Laurie Colwin, Mary Gordon, Sue Miller and Perri Klass are among the 20 writers, mothers all, who contribute storiesall previously publishedto this well-chosen anthology about bearing or raising children." -