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Book Bites: New Books from Seal Press

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A brief look at new books from one of Literary Mama’s favorite publishers, Seal Press.

Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up

Leah Odze Epstein and Caren Osten Gerszberg, Editors

Seal Press, 2012; $16.00

Based on the popular blog of the same name, [booklink isbn="1580054110" title="Drinking Diaries"] explores women’s fraught relationship with alcohol. The collection opens with Pam Houston’s essay “Eight Wrecked Cars and the One That Got Away,” a series of nine searing vignettes on family cars crashed and wrecked at the inebriated hands of her mother and father. Many contributors to [booklink isbn="1580054110" title="Drinking Diaries"] describe their alcoholic parents and the devastating effects on their childhood and, in cases, their current parenting. Some mothers continue the trend, others abstain, others oscillate between extremes. But [booklink isbn="1580054110" title="Drinking Diaries"] does not admonish or even advise. The book simply shares many different stories of the force of alcohol—destructive, emancipatory, celebratory—in women’s lives.


Airbrushed Nation: The Lure and Loathing of Women’s Magazines

By Jennifer Nelson

Seal Press, 2012; $16.00

Jennifer Nelson has written for all the big "chick slicks": Glamour, Cosmo, O and many others. She understands how these magazines tick; in [booklink isbn="1580054137" title="Airbrushed Nation"] she reveals all. Nelson begins her book with a fascinating history of women’s magazines from the late 1700s to the current day. In subsequent chapters of [booklink isbn="1580054137" title="Airbrushed Nation"], we learn that women’s mags do now what they’ve always done: appeal to an ideal. Nelson delves into the editorial, advertising, and sales tactics of chick slicks, examines how models are dolled up and content dumbed down, and shows how magazines use sex, youth, and stardom to highlight a minuscule subset of the female demographic. Yet we continue to buy and read these magazines; the lure prevails. Nelson agrees: “I still love women’s glossies for what is good within them, and for all they strive to be on a good month.” She urges us to read, yes, but with a discriminating eye, an intelligent mind, and a confident self image.


I Love Mondays and Other Confessions of Devoted Working Moms

By Michelle Cove

Seal Press, 2012; $16.00

What working mom hasn’t, at some point, breathed a sigh of relief as hectic Sunday turns to predictable, controllable, away-from-home Monday? Relief, that is, tinged with guilt. Michelle Cove understands both sides of the working mom’s emotional dilemma: You love your kids but love your work too. In the eleven chapters of [booklink isbn="1580054358" title="I Love Mondays"], she shares confessions gathered through surveys and interviews with dozens of working mothers: I don’t have time to volunteer at my kids’ school; I don’t take care of myself; I hate missing my children’s “big moments,” but not enough to quit work. After each confession, Cove pauses for a “reality check” to put this perceived problem into a broader social context. She then offers steps to help mothers cope, advice on when to seek more help, and shout-outs to moms who have discovered creative ways to handle the stress.


Fast Girl: Don’t Brake Until You See the Face of God and Other Good Advice from the Racetrack

Ingrid Steffensen

Seal Press, 2012; $16.00

Ingrid Steffensen is a New Jersey mom, an art history professor, a banker’s wife—and a race car driver. Her memoir, [booklink isbn="1580054129" title="Fast Girl"], explains how she left the norms of suburban life in the dust and learned to love the race track. We can file [booklink isbn="1580054129" title="Fast Girl"] under “automotive” rather than “parenting,” as Steffensen chooses to focus on her relationship with cars and driving rather than with her daughter and motherhood. We learn what drivers like to eat, how to maintain a race car, and (bet you never thought of this) what panties are most comfortable under racing gear. Fast Girl is more manual than reflection, more nuts and bolts than philosophy, but Steffensen does allow herself to get “touchy-feely,” as she says, now and then: “We spend most of our adult lives engaged in pursuit,” she writes, but on the racetrack, “you are going in circles... not in pursuit of any particular object or larger goal. Instead you’re engaged in pure pursuit itself... and it is extraordinarily liberating.” [booklink isbn="1580054129" title="Fast Girl"] is an entertaining read for mamas in need of a vicarious—and speedy—escape!

Katherine J. Barrett is a former senior editor for Literary Mama and  current editor-in-chief for Understorey Magazine. A mother to three young boys, Katherine recently returned to Canada after four years in South Africa. She is the author of the Literary Mama columns Mother City Mama and Of This Fantastic Peach. Katherine holds a PhD in Botany and Ethics and has previously taught at the University of British Columbia.

Katherine lives in Nova Scotia with her family.

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