The blog book tour for the Literary Mama anthology kicked off this week with seven bloggers writing about the book. I'd like to shine the spotlight on one of the bloggers, who has also been published on Literary Mama and has a piece in It's a Boy: Susan Ito. Susan was at our January reading in Oakland and writes a wonderful entry about her reaction to the book:
- Ever since attending a dynamic, amazing, standing-room only reading for the Literary Mama anthology a few weeks ago, I've been devouring the book. It's really an extraodinary collection, and one that belongs on every mother's bookshelf. These mothers are real. Their voices are authentic, they are weary and joyful and irritable and awestruck and honest. They tell the real story about motherhood in a way that so many parenting books just don't. They go places that we've all gone and yet few have been willing to tell about in a voice louder than a whisper.
But they're not all gloom and doom and despair. Some of the pieces are hysterically funny, like Jennifer Eyre White's "Analyzing Ben." (at Diesel Books, she read this piece using a visual aid poster that depicted the vast differences between her son and her daughter) While incidences of her daughter "eating dirt" at 16 months was "none," for Ben it was "uncountable."
Linda Lee Crosfield's short but powerful poem, Packing the Car, provided one of the most poignant moments in the book for me, as she helps her son prepare for his final departure away from his childhood home.
- I stand aside
as books stream from shelves
into boxes, out the door
and I envy them their invitation
to accompany him on this journey
to the rest of his life
The writing in this book is solid and gorgeous. None of the contributors come across as mothers who happen to have a writing hobby; these are writers who happen to be mothers. Ericka Lutz's essay, Why My Garden, about her journey to Auschwitz is both lyrically beautiful and appropriately solemn.
Rachel Sarah is a bold young mama with a great, fresh writing style. Her short piece, "Coming," is about exactly what your dirty little mind thinks it's about. She wants to date a guy who seems perfect father material, but his fatal flaw is leaving her orgasmless while he snores on the pillow. It's funny, it's true, and it's also an important voice that isn't afraid to ask, "What about me?" It made me want to cheer.
When I read Sybil Lockhart's essay, "Gray," I felt as if she had entered my own home and family. She writes so poignantly, lovingly and honestly in her Mama in the Middle columnabout her mother's life with Alzheimer's - with appropriate doses of fear, frustration, disgust, humor and affection. Her essay is the one that prompted me to write my first fan letter to Literary Mama.
Only one of the pieces in the book evoked a strong negative response, but I think this speaks to its power. When I began reading Lizbeth Finn-Arnold's Out of the Woods: Or How I Found My Muse at Walden Pond,, I was thrilled to read these words:
- I am a solitary person. Where others may seek out company, I seek out secluded places of thoughtfulness and self-discovery.
I felt a shiver of recognition. Yes! I thought. That's me! I dove into the essay, thrilled to be reading a piece by a mother who also apparently loved solitude. But as I read, my heart sank. This was not about a mother who managed to champion for her own solitude, but one who resigned herself to never being able to really have it. She ends the essay saying that she writes in "snippets" in the midst of the chaos.
- I try only to "Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of each."
Maybe she's right. Maybe Thoreau and Ecclesiastes and the Byrds have a point about every time having a season, every thing having its time and all that. But personally, I want more. This piece is a great one because it's wonderfully written and because it caused me to sit up and scream, "No!"
Hardly any of the pieces in this book will evoke a neutral response. Readers will scream, and cringe, and laugh until they pee as they read this book. They will wipe away more than a few tears. And more than anything they'll feel not alone.