Wednesday, August 04, 2004

A Readerly Interlude

Before I launch into our recent trip, here's a quick report on the few books I've read:

The Mother Trip: Hip Mama's Guide to Staying Sane in the Chaos of Motherhood by Ariel Gore. I can't even begin to imagine living Ariel Gore's life. At 16, she ran away to China and embarked on a wild, harrowing trek across Europe. The trip culminated in giving birth to her daughter in Italy at 17. After returning to the United States, she went on welfare, earned a bachelor's and master's degree, and founded the zine Hip Mama, all the while battling both her abusive ex-boyfriend (and the father of her daughter) and the family court system.

This book is a series of really short essays about, of course, motherhood, but filtered through the lens of a remarkably intelligent, resourceful, funny, cool, politically engaged woman. Unlike Faulkner Fox, whose stridency left me cold, she leavens a lot her strong political views with self-deprecating humor. Her main point is that we need to reject the myth of the perfect mother, and instead embrace who we are, especially if we fall outside the traditional spectrum of what society considers "acceptable". My reaction: a refreshing and candid defense of why "good enough" is a perfectly reasonable approach to motherhood.

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

First thoughts: A love letter to both the author's parents and to Africa. One of the most remarkable things about the book is the author's complete avoidance of judging her parents' virulent racism. She lets them speak for themselves, with damning results. And despite a childhood of near-constant heartache, physical discomfort, and danger, Fuller, technically British and now residing in the U.S., considers Africa to be her home, a part of the very fabric of her being. To my friends who told me this would be a funny book despite the grim topic: Huh? Did I fall asleep and miss it? Okay, there were some extremely dry and mordantly funny passages, but my overall reaction was sadness (and attendant white person's guilt) over the largely unrelenting mess that Africa has become since colonialism.

In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner

Hey, don't look at me like that. It's a perfect beach book. So there.