Vote Mother? Vote, Mother!

June 13, 2008 at 12:44 am | Posted in Raves & Rants | 4 Comments

Since P’ito came home, I’ve gotten pickier about my reading material. I have to – it’s a matter of fitting my blog reading in survival in between work, chores, friends and family.  The measure of a really good book for me is when I turn to Pili and poke her and say, YOU, YOU HAVE GOT TO READ THIS RIGHT NOW and I do not care what vital activity of yours I am interrupting.  Even sleep.

I encountered quite a few of those “must read” moments in paging through Shari Macdonald Strong’s collection of essays, The Maternal is Political.  The forty-four short essays in the book cover a lot of ground, from Kathy Bricetti’s moving account of how personal and political intersected when they came “to court for a rare event in 1993: a woman adopting a baby boy in order to up his number of legal mothers to two,” to Jennifer Graf Groneberg’s breath-taking account of being moved to political action in order to protect her right to home-school her son with Down syndrome.  Okay, you have to read this.  She writes:

I’m not a political person by nature. I’m a peacemaker, a smoother-over, a find-the-middle- ground kind of woman.  But reading the language of SB291, particularly section 8, part 3, which stated that any child with developmental delays must be educated in a classroom, caused something within me to shift.  I recalled the Constitution, which until now seemed like nothing more than a dusty old document I’d read in a history book, and it’s guarantees in the preamble to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  The words came alive for me: I was a citizen; I had rights – and if I didn’t exercise them, my sons would pay for my apathy.

The idea that holds all these diverse essays together is, as Macdonald Strong writes in her introduction, that “there is no more politically powerful act than mothering.”  Our children motivate us to make differences in the world, small and large.  I was fascinated by the range of ideas on exactly how mothering makes a difference in the world, by authors from Cindy Sheehan and Benazir Bhutto to Anne Lamott and Susie Bright.

Other reviewers have already written about my main quibble with the book, which is the lack of political diversity in the essays.  Macdonald Strong envisions a world “when the most active political groups in the world are not those obsessed with winning a war, but those determined to win the peace.”  She assumes that this will occur when “the driving force behind politics in my country [and elsewhere, I presume?] is not power or money, but maternal love.”  I am sure that maternal love motivates some of the people who believe that we are fighting a just war in Iraq.  I am sure that maternal love motivates people who believe we should abolish reproductive choice.  I’m not so sure that a mothers’ movement = a progressive political movement, as much as I’d like to believe that.  A few of the essays cross over the line of political and verge into preachy self-rightousness.

But then, just as I turn that pessimistic corner, I reread the closing essay, Valerie Weaver-Zercher’s fabulous “Peace March Sans Children,” and recognize myself.  “I’m also learning, she writes,

That social movements will go on, even if nursing mothers or parents of toddlers have to drop out for awhile. We will be back, someday, maybe when the youngest turns two or whenever we can afford to dream like activists rather than work like dogs… And when we do rejoin the movement, it is possible that we will agitate and march and advocate from a deeper place within ourselves than we had known existed.  It is possible that we will act from that cavity our children have hollowed out of us, that place where breath begins.

I can’t finish without mentioning the essays that first stopped me in my tracks, and made me wake Pili up to read them.  One was Barbara Kingsolver’s essay, “A Letter to My Daughter at Thirteen,” which described my experience of new motherhood so exactly, precisely perfectly, that it gave me goosebumps.  And I can’t leave out fellow adoptive mom Violeta Garcia-Mendoza’s beautiful discussion of the complexities of international adoption.  I can’t choose one section to quote so instead, I poke you.  Hey you – you there reading this blog – go read it. NOW.


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4 Comments »

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  1. […] Artificially Sweetened says, “Since P’ito came home, I’ve gotten pickier about my reading material. I have to – it’s a matter of fitting my blog reading in survival in between work, chores, friends and family.  The measure of a really good book for me is when I turn to Pili and poke her and say, YOU, YOU HAVE GOT TO READ THIS RIGHT NOW and I do not care what vital activity of yours I am interrupting.  Even sleep.” […]

  2. just ordered the essays. looks like a great idea for book group. thanks!

  3. I wanted this book when I saw the title; the reviews are making me want to read it even more!! Thanks for taking the time to read and share on your blog.

  4. Thank you for reading, and for quoting my essay. You just made this mama’s day!

    (And I never, never have been mentioned in the same space as Barbara Kingsolver. What a kick!)


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