“What My Mother and I…”: On Not Addressing Things

Moving Mother’s Day reading for the fearless and brave—though some readers may want to have their therapist on speed-dial. Kirkus Reviews, regarding What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About

The highly regarded What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence is a new anthology compiled by Michele Filgate, whose own contribution describes how her revelation of abuse by her stepfather led to a mother-daughter rift.  

“My dream would be that we could have a conversation where both of us are listening to one another, and where my mother is not denying the truth,” Filgate recently told Jane Ratcliffe, pw.org.

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR: “…(T)here are four main topics that these writers aren’t talking about with their mothers: terrible things their moms endured, terrible things the writers endured, what their moms were like before they were moms and the ways their moms failed to be good moms.”

Gleaned from various book reviews, tidbits from What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About follow:

From Buzzfeed, which reprinted Bernice L. McFadden‘s “How My Runaway Daughter Unearthed My Mother’s Secret Shame.” Opening lines:

The first time I ran away from home was because your husband, my father, slapped me. He was drunk and I was fifteen years old. The blow was so hard; it sent me reeling into the closet. I remember cradling my stinging cheek with one hand, and using the other to shelter myself from the rain of clothing and metal hangers.

From Veronica Suchodolski, Observer.com:

Brandon Taylor‘s essay:

…(A)fter his mother’s death, he found himself left to reckon with how her abusive behavior towards him was part of a larger pattern of abuse in her own life. His inability to see this before she died clouded their relationship, leaving Taylor to wish now that he had gotten to know her better, wish he ‘had tried harder. Sooner.’

From Azarin Sadegh, LAReviewofBooks:

André Aciman:

…a love ‘letter’ to his deaf mother, and how living with a mother who never listens has taught him a new kind of language, one not made of words, but of perception through tactile movements, physical touches, and immediate gestures.

Nayomi Munaweera:

…Munaweera talks about her mother’s undiagnosed borderline personality disorder, questioning whether the wounds of a childhood shadowed by mental illness ever heal. Now as an adult, could she ever move past the painful confusion of witnessing constant fights and her mother’s multiple suicide attempts?

Alexander Chee:

In his internal conflicts, on one side a man had sexually abused him, while at the same time, in Chee’s memory of that 12-year-old biracial misfit, the social pariah at his school, the life as a choir boy with a recognized and admired gift for singing, appeared like an opportunity to finally be seen, loved, and accepted. Only through this experience, had he found his niche, his community of queers, his people, and most importantly himself. He chose to remain silent and kept the secret from his mother for years, not out of shame, but to shield her from more grief. Chee movingly shows that silence, sometimes, stems from love.

The Book in Summary

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR:

… about the soul-rattling realization that despite often having the astronomically best of intentions, our mothers still mess up — sometimes in life-altering ways. It’s about how, despite our love or desperate need for them, we mess things up too. And it’s also about the gut punch that happens when some children are forced to legitimately wonder just how good their mothers’ intentions ever were.

But then, it’s about how much more livable those relationships might be if someone just said those three magical words.

Those words are not ‘I love you’ but, rather, ‘Are you OK?’ Or, even more difficult: ‘Hey — I’m hurting.’

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.