Saturday, May 11, 2013

For Mother's Day: "What My Mother Gave Me," edited by Elizabeth Benedict

Today's post is in honor of Mother's Day tomorrow. As a woman who has a wonderful mother, and is a mother to a wonderful adult daughter, I was of course drawn to a collection of essays by women writers titled “What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts that Mattered Most” (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2013), edited by the novelist Elizabeth Benedict (whose edited book, "Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives," was one of the very first books I wrote about on this blog). This book is easy to read quickly, but many of the contributions merit being read, or re-read, slowly. This could easily have been a collection of Hallmark-y, tritely sentimental pieces, but it isn’t; the brief essays are original, thoughtful, surprising, and touching. Not all of the writers had good relationships with their mothers, and some are very clear-eyed about their mothers’ shortcomings. But each of the writers has a memory of some point of connection and love, whether it be representative of a wonderful relationship or an exception in a difficult relationship. Sometimes the gift described is a physical object; sometimes it is a shared memorable experience; and sometimes it is a trait passed on from mother to daughter. Among the gifts are a photograph, a book, jewelry, clothing, a quilt, trips, a love of dressing well or of creating a hospitable home, and a positive attitude toward life. A bonus for me, and for many other readers, I am sure, is the chance to read some of our favorite writers as they share these very personal memories. The writers include, to name some of the authors with whose work I am most familiar, Mary Gordon, Joyce Carol Oates, Elissa Schappell, Caroline Leavitt, Katha Pollitt, Rita Dove, Lisa See, Marge Piercy, Mary Morris, and Elinor Lipman (about whose two 2013 books I have very recently posted).


  1. Thank you so much for this eloquent and generous review of my anthology, as well as for the review of the Mentors anthology. I'm honored you've taken the time to read these and write about them so thoughtfully, and happy to have come to your attention. Please consider going to the book's tumblr page and posting a photo and story of a favorite gift from your mother. Or just to look at some of the gifts and photos of the mothers in the book that are posted. To see additional pages, at the bottom click on NEXT PAGE on the left. Thanks again.

    1. Elizabeth Benedict, you are very welcome! I so appreciate your books, and I appreciate your comment here.


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