MAMA TRIED by Emily Flake


Dispatches from the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting
by illustrated by
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A graphic narrative provides a hipster’s guide to motherhood.

A spate of books has illuminated the current father, the guy who still likes to rock (to what has henceforth been dubbed “Dad Rock”), drink craft beer, and identify as much with the guy he was as the man he has become. Graphic artist Flake (These Things Ain't Gonna Smoke Themselves: A Love/Hate/Love/Hate/Love Letter to a Very Bad Habit, 2007, etc.) provides the feminine perspective, direct from “Brooklyn…ground zero for [every] manner of parenting craziness.” In a chronological series of short essays that combine personal experience, how-to advice, and a self-deprecating, frequently profane sense of humor, she takes readers from “Trying to Conceive, Sorta” through toddlerhood. The expectant mother might blanch at much of this—the changes ahead, the prospects ahead for sex, rest, and finding time to work or even breathe—but much of it might seem funnier after the fact. “This is not a parenting manual,” the author insists. “I do not have any words of wisdom or sage advice for parents.” The text is more like a change-of-pace interlude to the full-color illustrations, some of them four-panel comics but many of them full-page stand-alones without captions. As she deals with everything from bodily changes through the trimesters and various types of baby showers through preschool, playgrounds, and relations with more vigilant mothers, Flake retains her club-girl spirit. “Saved by Rock and Roll,” the penultimate chapter/essay, describes the feeling of how she “just didn’t want to hear certain songs, I wanted to be annihilated by them. It was a very physical thing to me, then; it ran on a parallel track to sex but was not quite the same thing.” And now? “Those fires have been tamped down in places and redirected in others.” Her daughter increasingly becomes a presence in the narrative, and the father remains mostly behind the scenes, with the focus throughout on the mother.

A mixed bag of a graphic memoir. Alternadad, meet Indie-mom.

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4555-5823-0
Page count: 220pp
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2015


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