April 22, 2009

Giveaway: Win a Copy of the "Because I Love Her" Anthology

Just in time for Mother's Day we're giving away a copy of Nicki Richesin's new anthology Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond. The collection features thought-provoking essays by Karen Joy Fowler, Joyce Maynard, and Jacquelyn Mitchard, among many other talented contributors.

To enter, simply comment and answer the question: Who is your favorite mother in literature? To get it started, Nicki, Amy, and I will share our picks. We'll choose our favorite comment by end of day Monday the 27th so we can ship you the book in time for Mother's Day.

Rumer Godden
When considering mothers in literature, the most obvious choice for Mother Superior seems to be Marmee from Little Women. She was devoted, loving, and let’s face it, too perfect. The past few years, I’ve been inspired by the work of Rumer Godden. I’ve particularly enjoyed her memoirs in which she movingly recounts her adventures living alone with her daughters Jane and Paula in Kashmir. She writes beautifully of growing her own food and creating a rich life with very little money. I couldn’t resist jotting down notes from her books like how to be happy when you are miserable: she suggests planting Japanese poppies with cornflowers and having Jane paint a really good picture. What I found most incredible is that she was able to write many, many books, care for her daughters, and live a life on her own terms during the forties and fifties. Ms. Godden was truly a woman ahead of her time. I highly recommend her memoirs A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep and A House With Four Rooms. --Nicki


Ma Joad
The most famous mothers in literature aren’t always the good ones: Anna Karenina, Daisy Buchanan, Edna Pontellier, Becky Sharpe... Truth be told, these depictions of motherhood are generally more intriguing than the sugary-sweet variety that’s usually a default in too many classic novels. But these desperate economic times call for a desperate economic Mama, so I’m selecting Ma Joad from Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath as the most stalwart and determined of matriarchs in seriously tragic circumstances. As the backbone of her clan, she calmly and selflessly keeps the family together during their harrowing and humiliating struggles for survival, always restoring order and somehow managing to whip up a skillet of biscuits out of seemingly thin air to feed her family. Sometimes you just do what you’ve got to do to make it through, and while I might not go so far as young Rose of Sharon’s breastfeeding feat at the end of the saga, the women in The Grapes of Wrath are a testament to those women everywhere who know the true meaning of sacrificial love. --Amy


While good mothers do exist in fiction, it's the wicked mammas that make for the best stories. After all, what would Beowulf be without Grendel's vengeful mother and Snow White without the wicked stepmother? But the queen of all notorious mothers has to be Gertrude, for without her Hamlet and his oedipal frustration wouldn't exist. She married Claudius too quickly after the death of her husband (and possibly had an adulterous relationship with Claudius before Hamlet's father was murdered). However, when Hamlet violently accuses Gertrude, her response reveals she's more complex than a one-dimensional femme fatale:

O Hamlet, speak no more:
Thou turn'st my very eyes into my soul,
And there I see such black and grained spots
As will not leave their tinct (III.iv.88-91)
...O speak to me no more;
these words like daggars enter my ears;
No more, sweet Hamlet!

By the time her lips touch the poisoned goblet during the play's tragic conclusion, she's become human and pitiable. --Kim


  1. Anna Frith

    The most recent mother that moved me in a novel was Anna Frith, the protagonist in Geraldine Brooks' "A Year of Wonders". She is a maid living in a small English town in the year 1666, When the town succumbs to the bubonic Plague, they elect to quarantine themselves. Widowed with small children, and living in isolation right in the heart of the epidemic, Anna is forced to make a living and try to protect her remaining family from the disease. Even when she has to endure unthinkable loss and tragedy, she manages to keep her faith in humanity, and more importantly, in herself. When even the most powerful figures are breaking down, Anna becomes, in a sense, the mother to those in her care.

    What struck me about her character, and that of other mothers that I have admired in literature, was her courage. Not unlike Marmee in "Little Women", she keeps her head about her even when things seems at their most bleak. She is not immune to human weakness, she is misdirected at times. But she emerges from her situation with a maturity and newfound strength that show the power of hope and faith and the ability to rise above even the most dire of circumstances. And when we look to a mother figure, it is these qualities that give us our own strength to endure.

  2. Molly Bloom

    She might not be best known for being a mother, but she is the wife of Leopold Bloom, the main character in James Joyce's "Ulysses," and mother of his teenage daughter, Milly Bloom. She is mainly remembered for being a woman who is not afraid to express her need for love and sex, even if it means having an affair with Blazes Boylan. She is a wonderfully human character, who in the end accepts her husband with all his flaws -- just as he accepts her -- and reminisces about when they met. Her unabashed sensuality in the final words of "Ulysses" is the stuff that dreams are made of:

    "...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. "

  3. Anonymous6:39 PM

    Kim, even if you had not put your name on you essay I would have known which one was yours. Mom ;-)

  4. Not that I'd want her for my own, but my favorite mother is the "Other Mother" in Neil Gaiman's Coraline!

  5. And Because I Love Her goes to.... Liz! A copy of the book is on its way. Thanks so much to Chantrelle and Bloomsday for their contributions. We really appreciate it!

  6. Oh boy!! Thanks, guys. Bloomsday, I will share my copy with you :)