Sandra Danby emailed me and asked if I would like to review The Milk of Female Kindness: An Anthology of Honest Motherhood by Kasia James (Contributing Editor).
“I’ve just had two of my short stories published in an anthology and wondered if you would review the book on your blog? It’s called ‘The Milk of Female Kindness’ and includes short fiction, poetry, art, memoir and medical writing on the theme of honest motherhood. Some of the writers have recently given birth, others are grandmothers. Some, like me, are childless; my writing is inspired by memories of my own mother. Some of the pieces will make you smile, others are heartbreaking.”
I responded “… be happy to… given the theme which is close to my heart also”. Of course. I have been around mothers my whole life. Many of my family, friends and colleagues are mothers.
But my reactive assumption of familiarity with the subject was way off. It amounted to: I’m a woman; a Sagittarian, ergo I value honesty above all else; and my mother gave birth to me.
Reading the The Milk of Female Kindness contributions was eye-opening. It was like reading science fiction – women but another life-form, inhabiting a planet unfamiliar to me.
A colleague years ago shared the details of her entire pregnancy with our little office clan but that’s far different to what comes later. She resigned to take on a new role of full-time mum. She may as well have left the country as far as those of us who remained were concerned.
Mothers who know me well don’t hand their babies to me but regard me kindly, reading the trepidation in my eyes. We don’t talk about mothery stuff, so I can’t even say what kind of honesty I was expecting from The Milk of Female Kindness.
The truth it revealed is how disengaged from motherhood I am as an adult. As a child, I still shed tears when I hear of someone similarly motherless.
My best friend Mrs S. only occasionally regales me with anecdotes about her mother but until now I never thought about it. Am I not included, or do I not participate, in those conversations because of their inclination to be one-sided? My mother died when I was five has been known to be a conversation stopper.
While I read The Milk of Female Kindness, I doubted my ability to write a fair review. I tender a few lines from a poem I wrote many years ago by way of explanation.
They never told me who she was
I never knew
enough to feel like her daughter
only to be
I can’t remember
what it feels like
to have a mother
two-dimensional skeleton of memory
sepia imagined detail.
I need to think about it more, and read The Milk of Female Kindness again. Is nature, nurture or society the reason for my lack of engagement? There are clues. It’s an anthology everyone should read, whether it supports or challenges our thinking.
The experiences, insights and mode of expressing them in The Milk of Female Kindness are varied.
The Amazon blurb describes it in better words than I’m currently able to:
‘Mother’ is a word heavy with associations. Becoming a mother is surely one of the biggest changes and challenges in a woman’s life. It is at once an absolutely unique experience, and yet one which is so common that it is often overlooked. Motherhood is intense, relentless and absorbing, in all senses of the word. Popular culture seems to have a split personality when it comes to motherhood – at once holding it up as a sacred ideal, and yet being a little dismissive of women as mothers. A diverse international group of women have been brave enough to share their stories, poetry and artwork to encourage you to think and feel about this most influential of relationships in a new and enlightened way. *
Includes Discussion Questions for Reading Groups *
The Milk of Female Kindness: An Anthology of Honest Motherhood
by Kasia James (Goodreads Author) (Contributing Editor), Sarah Cass (Goodreads Author), Judith Dickerman-Nelson (Goodreads Author), Tara Chevrestt (Goodreads Author), Cheri Roman, Gemma Wright, Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali (Goodreads Author), Kitty Brody, Angélique Jamail, Laura Evans, Sandra Danby (Goodreads Author), Maureen Bowden, Sabrina Garie (Goodreads Author), Betty Ming Liu, Jessica Kennedy, Christa Forster, Marie Marshall, Judith Field, Jennifer James, Alison Bartlett, Carla Pascoe, Judy McKinty, Mary Jeavons, Heather Sadiechild Harris, Rhyannon (Yates), Rhyannon Yates, Tram Nguyen, Judith Logan Farias (Illustrator), Ceridwen Masiulanis (author & illustrator), Valerie Walawender (illustrator)
I received a complimentary e-copy of the The Milk of Female Kindness: An Anthology of Honest Motherhood for this review.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” e.e. cummings