Fifteen essayists—many luminaries—write unflinchingly about their mothers.
From the first page of the introduction, where editor Filgate—an MFA student at NYU and contributing editor at Literary Hub—names cooking as a way of staying connected to the mother she doesn’t talk to very often, this collection is honest and riveting. Kiese Laymon writes about the difference between loving someone and loving how that someone makes you feel, while Carmen Maria Machado explores how her feelings about the mother from whom she’s estranged shape her thoughts about having, or not having, children herself. In her sharp contribution, Lynn Steger Strong considers what she cannot find a way to say about the anger she feels toward her mother. Julianna Baggott describes being her mother’s “confessor.” André Aciman’s ruminations about his mother’s deafness also serve as odes to language and bodies and communication. Brandon Taylor illuminates the experience of cancer and examines his lack of empathy for his mother, and Leslie Jamison rounds out the collection with a loving piece in which she attempts to “project my admiration back through time to reassure the woman my mom had been, that woman who felt only that she had somehow failed the man who loved her first—that women who did not know, could not have known, the road ahead.” Most of the essays are pointedly literary and lyrical; many include meta-reflections on the nature of truth-telling, and the narrators show themselves thinking and rethinking the claims they hazard and then revise about their mothers. For the most part, the collection avoids cliché and sentimentality; equally remarkable, each one of these intimate and gut-wrenching essays reaches beyond itself to forge connections with readers. Other contributors include Alexander Chee, Melissa Febos, and Sari Botton.
Moving Mother’s Day reading for the fearless and brave—though some readers may want to have their therapist on speed-dial.