AMERICAN MOM by Mary Kay Blakely

AMERICAN MOM

On Motherhood, Politics and Humble Pie
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A memoir of a woman in progress, this volume describes the 20 years spent raising two sons to be sensitive, responsible, independent--and, hopefully, to pick up their socks.

"Do you mistake me for June Cleaver?'' says Blakely (Wake Me When It's Over, 1989) with heavy irony to a member of the adolescent male pack that moved in and out of her house chomping on Oreos as her sons were growing up. Not a chance. In these reflections, Blakely often mirrors the experiences of middle-class women who were reinventing themselves and their roles during the feminist wave of the 1970s and '80s. Married, working first simply to bring in money and then to build a career (as a writer and lecturer), divorced, strategizing as a single mother (never kite checks on the grocer, advised a more experienced friend), Blakely early on refuses to accept the burden that mothers are solely responsible for the behavior of their children. "Even if I had managed to prevent my sons' exposure to sexist or violent images at home, I could not have prevented encounters [in]...locker rooms...movies...newsstands that displayed women as cheesecake every day,'' she says. Among the best chapters is the dramatic recounting of Blakely's own mother's metaphorical shock treatments at the hands of the psychiatric establishment as she sought help for her manic-depressive son, Blakely's brother. Also thought-provoking are telling discussions of the economic and societal obstacles facing single (or would-be-single) mothers and surprisingly empathetic observations about the surge of physical power in the adolescent male. Yet Blakely frequently refers to her sons as "jocks,'' to many, a term as derogatory as "airheads'' would be for daughters. Parallel to that, she seems to regard sports as a male prerogative--a serious lapse of the feminist consciousness she eloquently espouses.

Still, American moms of the post-Kennedy era will recognize--and even admire--themselves here.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-56512-052-3
Page count: 348pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1994