Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Essential Reading: Beginnings

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With a new year comes a new impulse to examine ourselves and the way the various pieces of our identities fit together.  This month, our editors recommend reading that speaks to the changing configurations of our lives, for whether one is taking the first steps into motherhood or simply waking up to another as-yet-unlived day, there is always a new beginning.

Fiction Co-Editor Kristina Riggle writes, “When I was a new mother, my husband bought me Life’s Work: Confessions of an Unbalanced Mom, by Lisa Belkin (the New York Times’ ‘Life's Work’ columnist at the time, now with the Huffington Post). This was the perfect gift for me. These essays by a woman trying to fit into her life as both a mom and a career woman resonated in me like the clang of a bell. It helped me so much in those early mothering days -- when I was struggling constantly over whether to return to my full-time newspaper job -- to know that I was not alone in my conflicting emotions.  This book feels essential to my ‘beginnings’ as a working mom.”

Literary Reflections Editor Christina Marie Speed shares  another source of maternal guidance: “After becoming a mother, I felt suddenly propelled toward a brand new sense of womanhood.  I craved new meaning for my inner life and a fresh understanding of what it meant to be a woman in addition to my role as mother. An old friend sent me Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and I proceeded to devour it. My copy contains countless notes in the margin and post-it flags to which I refer from time to time. Women Who Run with the Wolves is a timeless book that brings together myths and stories featuring the female experience across the ages and cultures of the world.  My two favorite chapters were (and still are) 'Homing: Returning to Oneself' and 'Clear Water: Nourishing the Creative Life.' These chapters contain truths and reminders that open space where I can reconsider who I am and who I aspire to become, both as an individual and as a member of my family.”

Meanwhile, Senior Editor Maria Scala has drawn parental inspiration from a less likely source, re-reading William Boyd’s novel Any Human Heart: “I first became immersed in this coming-of-age story about the writer, spy, and art dealer Logan Mountstuart more than ten years ago, before I was married, before I had kids. I can’t say what made me dive back into it; maybe it was the longing for a meaty read (my copy has 490 pages), or the fact that Boyd’s hero mixes with some of the most fascinating movers and shakers of the twentieth century: Virginia Woolf, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Ian Fleming, to name a few.  But I am enthralled.  Logan says, ‘Every life is both ordinary and extraordinary.’ If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my own journey, it’s that parenting is full of such ordinary and extraordinary moments.  Even as Logan grows up, we are aware that he is always learning, always on the cusp of something new, whatever role he is playing: son, friend, lover, husband or father. It’s the kind of book that I’m glad to revisit as I begin my New Year; the lessons it holds are as timely as ever.”

Libby Maxey lives in rural Massachussetts with her husband and two young sons. With her academic career as a medievalist having died a stunningly swift death by childbirth, she now works as an editor, writes poetry, reads when able, and sings with her local light opera company. Her work has appeared in The Mom Egg Review, Tule Review, Crannóg Magazine, Pirene’s Fountain, Mezzo Cammin and elsewhereHer first poetry chapbook, Kairos, won the Finishing Line Press New Women’s Voices contest.

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