Moving Mother’s Day reading for the fearless and brave—though some readers may want to have their therapist on speed-dial.

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.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982107-34-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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