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Breeder: Real-Life Stories from the New Generation of Mothers Paperback – May 1, 2001
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The voices of mothers--the real in-the-trenches voices of mothers--always threaten the status quo. Tell the truth about your ambivalence, rage, and passion--whether about miscarriage, breast pumps, or (as profiled here) your welfare-avoidance job as a stripper--and watch the general public recoil. But as every mother knows, there is nothing more comforting than finding another woman who is willing to sit in your kitchen and share the honest-to-God truth about mothering. So it takes a lot of best-girlfriend loyalty to write the gut-wrenching motherhood stories that you'll find in Breeder. And fortunately, coeditors Bee Lavender and Ariel Gore (The Hip Mama Survival Guide, The Mother Trip) had enough grit and pluck to get them published. (Both women are also the editors of the online and print magazine Hip Mama.)
This collection of Gen-X essays is especially courageous because of all the taboos it shatters. Writer Julie Jameson confesses that she was talking on the phone with her mom when she looked up and discovered that her teething son had found her newly purchased vibrator and was gnawing on the tip. Gayle Brandeis boasts about the heroic treks she's taken through the hidden folds of her children's bottoms, searching for pinworms like a cave explorer. Sara Manns writes about the desire to have a child with her lesbian wife, which leads her through the terrain of sperm donors, then miscarriage, and finally international adoption. And we can all be grateful to Peri Escarda for helping us find the "Perfect Name" to offer a daughter when she points between her legs and asks, "What's dat?"
Not all the stories are masterfully rendered. Some rely on raw urgency, such as Alex McCall's "Bomb Threat," in which she anxiously retrieves her daughter from a federal-building childcare facility on the same day as the Oklahoma City bombing. Yet many offer mature crafting as well as tender narration. When Min Jin Lee became pregnant, she thought about her own Korean immigrant upbringing and her downtrodden mother's enormous sacrifices. She writes, "These were my fears: One day my child would feel the need to make my life whole through her accomplishments, or worse, as an adult, she would be unable to ever remember me smiling at her as a little girl." Jessica Rigney writes a chillingly exquisite story about altering her family's legacy of suicide and silence through the conscious mothering of her son. These are the rough-and-ready voices of the next wave of motherhood, and like the generation of feminists before them, they continue to break new, fertile ground. One can hardly wait to hear the voices of their daughters. --Gail Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
Contrary to the intent of editors Gore and Lavender of the zine Hip Mama, this collection of essays by Gen-X writers proves that motherhood is much the same no matter what generation one is from. Many of the essays attempt to rely on the strength of their stories to keep the reader involved, but the stories are often carelessly written, predictable and generic. Among the exceptions is "Learning to Surf," in which Jennifer Savage thoughtfully recounts her journey from being 22-year-old single mom and punk rocker to a married mother of three learning to surf. Other stories are also unusual, but less reflective. "When I Was Garbage," Allison Crews's sangfroid account of her teenage pregnancy, does not explain how Crews was able to simply deny that she was pregnant for the first 16 weeks. "On the Road (with baby)" by China is equally unsatisfying, never illuminating why the author chose to hitchhike across the U.S. with her baby in tow for the first eight months of her daughter's life. Sadly, the recurrent themes sounded by these Gen-X voices alienation, economic insecurity and the importance of health insurance ("the beauty of health insurance tolls like a soft, sweet chime at three in the morning," writes Joy Castro) are never articulated clearly enough to express what makes this generation different from those that came before.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Meanwhile, back in some residual but diminishing version of a real world, a real life, things are falling apart and the world, once again, is spinning to chaos, but these self-absorbed, vacuous souls will still be demanding "look at me! I'm carrying a sign! I'm getting another tattoo, getting something else pierced...lifting my shirt to show my pregnant breeding belly again.... I'm so very unusual and - um - smart. look....look...look at me."
If this is a "new generation of mothers", the future just keeps looking bleaker and bleaker.
Now, come on, all you classy new generation of mothers - or muthas - have at it with your combativeness and your bad language. Make your bred offspring really proud.
"Breeder" also makes us aware that not all feminists are upper middle class, childless, humorless drags. One can be a feminist and a mother and still be a good cross example of both. The book along with both it's contributers and readers prove that.
My only complaint is that there wasn't more of Ariel's own writing. "HipMama's Survival Guide" helped me "survive" my last pregnancy and I love her attitude, her words and her work. I hope to see more of her own words in her next book. I'm sure Ariel will be writing and publishing for years to come. She is in the process of becoming a Parenting Icon, as much as she would hate that title....
From a "sweet" reader....
Even the mothers who are not obviously disenfranchised from larger society have something new to say about mothering and how one can be a kickass mother and still be a whole and interesting person besides. The women in Breeder tell their stories with truth, humor, and love. If these women represent the New Generation, the future looks bright indeed.
I'd expected friends who are more conservative than I am to find little to relate to, but one of my most conventional friends (who recently suffered a miscarriage) was moved to tears by an account of a similar story in Breeder. After hearing how much this story moved my friend, I changed my mind and sent the book to my mother, who I'd initially thought would be too distracted by the specific situations and attitudes of the authors to enjoy the book. No word back from my mother yet!
I think the moral is that there's something for everyone in this very well-written book. I applaud the editors for compiling stories to encourage mothers to give themselves a break, and for providing a much more diverse set of parent role models than mainstream publications do.