I have read a few collections of Brenda Miller's essays before and was less compelled by them as this collection. I was introduced to her by my writinI have read a few collections of Brenda Miller's essays before and was less compelled by them as this collection. I was introduced to her by my writing teacher as one of the frontrunners of flash nonfiction. She is also a local Washingtonian, so that feels somehow important.
At first glance, Miller seems simple enough. A single woman writing about her past life, lovers, losses. But as you ruminate on the essays, reading one and then another so that they build into a full photo of a woman's life, you realize how brilliantly they are crafted. There are details shared that were so terribly vulnerable - details enough to usher you into her living room and count yourself a friend - but you also fully know that you actually don't know anything at all about her. You could BE her, for all you know. This kind of universality and relatability and cosmic otherness and commitment to spirituality is what keeps me coming back to Miller.
If you have only a few minutes each day, I suggest the following essays in this collection: "I Need a Miracle" "Music of the Spheres" - especially if you are a writer "How to Meditate" "Infant Ward" "Raging Waters" "The Burden of Bearing Fruit" - perhaps my favorite "Our Daily Toast" "Bodyguard"...more
This is a brutal read, but one I finished in two days. Responding to memoir as a craft, I think the author had a story here no matter what. Anyone couThis is a brutal read, but one I finished in two days. Responding to memoir as a craft, I think the author had a story here no matter what. Anyone could have written it. However, no one could have written it with +the indelible, unflinching, grueling voice she did. I was very impressed not only with her craft, but also with her refusal to tie everything up nice and neat; she fought the temptation to make the story of her unthinkable loss easy for anyone to swallow. I think the thing that made it so compelling for me was my own desire to get to the point where it was okay, where this brilliant woman who is utterly beaten by the death of her children, husband, and parents finds a new normal. This novel is a rare example of the marriage between a sensational story, great writing, and a quick, addicting read....more
When I think of this book, I think of the demon mother Jeanette finally has the freedom to write about. Shocking in many ways, one cannot help but turWhen I think of this book, I think of the demon mother Jeanette finally has the freedom to write about. Shocking in many ways, one cannot help but turn the pages to see not only what new abuse the mother will say to her daughter, but also to perpetuate the hope that we as people can recover from our parent's unanswered questions - the questions we inherit for better or worse.
That being said, I think the memoir lost me in a few places. I had to remind myself to read it once the sensational parts were over - most notably when she launched into the history of her English village.
Overall, an entertaining read and an important memoir....more
Enjoyable and crafted well, but I've certainly read better. Cheryl Strayed recommended this, but I don't entirely know why. I liked it, but wouldn't sEnjoyable and crafted well, but I've certainly read better. Cheryl Strayed recommended this, but I don't entirely know why. I liked it, but wouldn't suggest it to anyone....more
I feel an odd need to defend this book because I made the grave mistake of reading other people's reviews here on Goodreads. One in particular censureI feel an odd need to defend this book because I made the grave mistake of reading other people's reviews here on Goodreads. One in particular censured Romm for her selfishness and heavily criticized her choices about medicating her mother in her mom's last days. I need to say that writers do not write memoir because they are 1-100% sure of every single choice they have ever made 2-willing themselves as an example for every human 3-asking for approval
As the reader, it is not for us to JUDGE her actions as a part of her writing. Judge her actions, whatever...but that shouldn't necessarily be a part of a reader's review. I find it petty and uncareful.
That being said. This was a vivid read, though slow to begin. The last few chapters sing with a honesty rare to the treatment of loss. It feels empty, void. As it should. I admire her courage and will defend her to the end for this. It could have easily been tidying up, but instead of making up something beautiful about how she felt her mother was now in a better place, instead she trusted her readers enough to tell us that she mainly just felt annoyed at the funeral. That she struggled with resentment of all who supported her...mainly because they were living.
I don't know how lasting an impression it made on me for the craft of memoir, but it will stay with me for a long time because of the subject matter. A lovely continuation of my study in creative non-fiction. A must read if you are there as well, but as far as a general read...not suited for all....more
But mainly, she's FUNNY. Though I don't entirely agree with her rants about shoes (no heeThis bitch is funnnyyy.
And also important, right, and clever.
But mainly, she's FUNNY. Though I don't entirely agree with her rants about shoes (no heels!), unders (full-bum for true feminists, she says), or Lady Gaga (still just can't get behind the bad music!), on all these items and more, she has given me pause...mainly in the form of a snorty, oh-my-gawd-i'm-texting-this-to-my-friends-right-now kind of way.
I enjoyed every empowered, salacious bit. Though every chapter was entertaining and informative, I have to say that either because they are a few of the last chapters I read or because they are poignant to my life right now, but the chapters "Why you should have kids," and "Why you shouldn't have kids" are dead-on impressive, hilarious, and poignant - and I was really tired of funny birth stories. Describing that kind of pain just never felt possible, well, until now.
From "Why you should have kids" - Chapter 12 On the perspective gained from labor, "In that respect, childbirth is far superior to Zoloft or therapy. Fairly early on in the event, you will have the most dazzlingly simple revelation of your life, that the only thing that really matters, in this whole goddamn crazy, mixed-up world, is whether or not there is something the size of a cat stuck in your cervix, and that any day when you do NOT have a cat stuck in your cervix will be, by default, wholly perfect in every way"(218).
"To be frank, childbirth gives a woman a gigantic set of balls. The high you get as you realize it's over, and that you didn't actually die, can last the rest of your life. Off their faces with euphoria and bucked by how brave they were, new mothers finally tell the in-laws to back off, dye their hair red, get driving lessons, become self-employed, learn to use a drill, experiment with Thai condiments, make cheerful jokes about incontinence, and stop being scared of the dark"(218).
From "Why you shouldn't have kids" - Chapter 13 "While motherhood is an incredible vocation, it has no more inherent worth than a childless woman simply being who she is, to the utmost of her capabilities. To think otherwise betrays a belief that being a thinking, creative, productive, and fulfilled woman is, somehow, not enough. That no action will ever be the equal of giving birth"(238).
"Feminism needs Zero Tolerance over baby angst. In the 21st century, it can't be about who we might make, and what THEY might do, anymore. It has to be about who we are, what we're going to do" (239).
Really, thoroughly enjoyable. Her premise is to bring laughter to the feminist arena, that it's one of the only ways to truly cope with the MASSIVE SEXISM rampant (though pernicious because it's mostly subtle and "unintentional"). ...more
An important read if you are any of the following: 1. A female 2. A male 3. A mother 4. Never having kids 5. Thinking about never having kids 6. Have kids 7An important read if you are any of the following: 1. A female 2. A male 3. A mother 4. Never having kids 5. Thinking about never having kids 6. Have kids 7. Human.
Valenti is a new mother and feminist who FINALLY takes on motherhood and all it's societal junk from an intellectual, well-researched POV. As a new mother myself, I found I was drawn to her grand message, which is that women cannot and should not be expected to DO IT ALL. Since having children to make us happy is a completely modern notion anyway, we must learn to adjust our expectations of parenthood and remove the pressure on children to be the impetus behind familial fulfillment.
Why do Americans report a lower statistic of happiness after they have children? Why do divorced men with half custody report the highest statistic of parental fulfillment? Why do attachment theories require ALL the work to be done by the mother? Why are stay-at-home moms one of the highest depressed groups in our nation? Why do couples who are egalitarian in gender roles before they have children almost always pushed into them once they have kids?
Did you know that "one in four married mothers - 5.6 million women - stay at home with their kids. (Only 165,000 fathers do the same)" p157. When men DO stay home, they are anomalous and exonerated whereas it is expected of women.
Valenti takes on all of these question and more. She answers them too. She stresses community, true village raising (not just saying "it takes a village" and then demanding females are the only natural caretakers AND the lie that children are best cared for solely by their mothers).
A few kernels that stuck with me"
"We need to prepare parents emotionally and put forward realistic images of parenthood and motherhood. There also needs to be some sort of acknowledgement that not everyone should be a parent - when parenting is a given, it's not fully considered or thought out, and it gives way too easily to parental ambivalence and unhappiness." p107
"The truth is, we can simultaneously love parenting, find it fulfilling and valuable while also recognizing that the minutiae of mothering isn't as critical as society would have use believe. We can love our children without thinking they world revolves around them. We can derive pleasure from care-taking without thinking it's the most important thing we'll ever do or the biggest contribution to society we'll ever make And we can be exhausted, overworked moms while still recognizing that there are plenty of other jobs that are harder! More important. Because when we see parenting as a relationship - not a job - we can free ourselves from the expectations and stiffing standards that mothers are important NOT because of motherhood or biologically attachment (or not) to baby. Mothers are important because they are ONE of MANY critical caregivers to little humans. " p74
"And really, how insulting is it to suggest that the best thing a woman can do is raise OTHER people to do important things."p74
"The truth about parenting is that the reality of our lives needs to be enough. Seeking out an ideal that most of us can never reach is making us, and our kids, miserable." p165
A fabulous, informative read that has broken through a lot of shame and guilt for me, staying home with my daughter. ...more