Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
July, 2008

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This month's Now Reading list takes us from Cape Cod to Mayanmar, from the kitchen to the delivery room, from saving tigers to professional wailing. Download the list here and enjoy!

Sarah Kilts, Literary Reflections Assistant Editor, just finished reading Life in the Valley of Death: The Fight to Save Tigers in a Land of Guns, Gold, and Greed. "This is the sixth book by Alan Rabinowitz, a conservationist who has also been hailed as a modern day hero and real-life Indiana Jones. In this book, Rabinowitz tells the inspiring story of how (against all odds) he worked with the peoples and government of Burma (Mayanmar) to help protect some of the world's last surviving wild tigers. It offers a brilliant look at the inherent interconnectedness of politics, economics, culture, and conservation."

E-zine Co-Editor Christina Speed is reading The Sacred Kitchen by Robin and Jon Robertson. "It has been said the heart of a home is the kitchen. In today's world of prepared foods and eating on the go, the Robertsons take the time to rebuild the idea of the kitchen as a centering spot: a place to start mindful cooking and mindful eating. I especially like the chapter aptly titled, 'Self Help with Salt and Pepper.' I personally find creating in the kitchen releases stress and helps me re-center, and this chapter illustrates some new ways of doing just that."

Senior Editor and Columnist Shari MacDonald Strong just "devoured Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. A historical novel about the occupation of France by Germans (incredibly, penned during the actual occupation by Nazis). Soon after writing the book, Nemirovsky -already a famous novelist at the time -- was shipped off to Auschwitz and killed. (Her husband also was murdered at Auschwitz, but her young daughters were hidden and survived; one of them rescued the manuscript, which was only rediscovered in recent years.) The novel's historical importance alone would make it a must-read, but Suite Francaise is so much more. Not only does it tackle the greatest themes in literature -- war, sacrifice, love, the human condition -- it's one of the most gorgeously written books I've ever read. Nemirovsky's words left me breathless, heartbroken at the loss of this stunning literary voice, and profoundly transformed."

Birth:The Surprising History of How We are Born by Tina Cassidy tops Columnist and Marketing/Publicity Manager Elrena Evans' list. "It's a fascinating read -- covering the gamut from why humans encounter obstetrical issues completely unknown to other primates, to a brief history of the role of midwives throughout time, to the current trend toward birthing in hospitals.

I can't quite agree with the Kirkus Reviews' starred review --'Should be at the top of every pregnant woman's reading list' -- because I think some of the descriptions and illustrations (mechanical forceps with cords and pulleys, circa 1929, anyone?) might be a bit much for those in a sensitive hormonal state, but for anyone interested in the history and politics behind birthing, this is a must-read."

Blog Editor Amy Mercer shares, "Whenever my son Will asks me what I'm reading, I tell him, a story about a family. It seems all the books I read are about families, and The Condition by Jennifer Haigh is a perfect example. The story follows the McKotchs (a mother, father, two sons, and a daughter who is diagnosed with Turner's syndrome) during an annual family gathering on Cape Cod. As a woman diagnosed with a chronic illness on the cusp of my own adolescence, I was drawn to this book and Haigh's exploration of illness's ripple effects on a family."

Jen Lawrence, Reviews Editor, recommends What Was Lost, Catherine O'Flynn's debut novel, which explores the theme of loss: lost children, lost parents, lost lovers, and a lost way of life. And yet the book, while not quite a 'beach read,' is not bereft of hope. Equal parts funny and creepy and sad, the book pulls you in on the first page. I'm only half way through, but I am impressed with O'Flynn's fresh perspective on an oft-explored theme."

Another debut novel captured E-zine Co-Editor Merle Huerta's attention. "Sunshine O'Donnell's premier novel Open Me frames mother/daughter relationships within the somewhat cult-ish practice of professional wailing. Mem, the central figure, reflects on the nature of her intense feelings for her own mother as she's being groomed to be a master wailer. The narrative, poetic, metaphoric, and deeply reflective, is a fascinating read and opens a portal to the reader of a deeply rooted practice that's been part of our historical terrain before Roman times."

Finally, Literary Reflection Co-Editor Kathy Moran just finished In the Blood by Britian's poet laureate Andrew Motion. "The story opens with recount of a hunting accident that left Motion's mother in a coma -- an event that he says marked the end his boyhood. In flashbacks, Motion recalls key events in his life, which include the happy memories of growing up in rural Hertfordshire and being sent to a boarding school that could have been the setting for a Dickens' novel. Being an educator and mother, it was heartwarming to read how one of Motion's teachers took note of his interest in Bob Dylan and steered him in the direction of poetry and how his mother forged a reading kinship with him before her accident."

Kathy Moran, former Literary Reflections Editor, has two grown boys and three granddaughters. A retired secondary language arts teacher and literary magazine adviser, Kathy currently works as a teacher consultant for the Greater Kansas City Writing Project and editor of their newsletter Composing Ourselves. Kathy’s reflections can be found at Marmee’s Corner.

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