A friend of mine recently advised me that I should refrain from doing TV shows like 20/20 because “they don’t serve me” and they won’t sell my memoir. But I don’t do them to serve myself, nor do I do them to sell my book. If someone bought my book expecting it to be an inside look into the life of a noncustodial mother, they would be reselling it on ebay in short order.
Hiroshima in the Morning is about motherhood, yes. How I didn’t want to be a mother, how I had to reconfigure motherhood in order to remain in the lives of the children I loved, about losing my own mother to Alzheimer’s. But it’s also the story of finding oneself in a new place, about Japan, war, history, storytelling and memory.
As for serving myself, my motherhood is one aspect of me, and as my boys grow up and start looking at college and find summer jobs halfway across the world, my role in their lives is changing. In two short years, public response to my family is radically different; it has moved from outrage to gratitude. There are many women out there who are tired of equating female and sacrifice. As one friend pointed out, we readily agree that we should put on the oxygen mask first so we can help others in the case of an airplane emergency. Why is it so hard to accept that a woman might be more than a mother, and that that ‘more’ might enrich her family as well?
I speak out because no one else is asking: What if nurture wasn’t considered feminine? How much better would our society be? How many women, families and men would be allowed to bloom and create their lives as best serves them?
Nurture and love should be the priorities for our society. And as our social contracts break down and we decide we are too poor and threatened to fund education, or make sure our citizens have a place to live and food to eat, or to stop poisoning our environment because that costs more; as the gap between rich and poor becomes dangerously large; it is too easy to point to women and put the burden for nurture on their backs in the name of the “mothering instinct.” That is very clearly not serving us.
We need a new paradigm. And watching the old one kick and fuss on its way to extinction is a very good sign.
Should a mother love her children more than herself? Shouldn’t mothers sacrifice for their children? Put care for her children ahead of care for herself? What is society telling us a mother should be, and what does that say about how we value women? Moms Moving Out, 20/20 ABC-TV asks Talyaa Leira and me these questions and more. Watch here:
2013 Fall/Winter Master Class Retreats
Claiming Your Truth, with Rahna Reiko Rizzuto
Dates: November 2 – 9, 2013
“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” ― Muriel Rukeyser
Storytelling is a radical act. By sharing our own truths, we can heal, reveal, inspire, and challenge: literally recreating the world. In memoir, honesty is everything, but re-living our experiences and turning life into art can be one of the most challenging things we do. This workshop will help you find your central question and use it to find the shape of your manuscript. You will learn to be kind to your characters (including yourself) and also ruthless. You will balance an immersion into your past with the safety of the present. We will talk about placing your personal story in a broader social context.
Join me in one of the world’s most idyllic writing settings, Hedgebrook, the retreat that supports extraordinary work by visionary women. More information here, and on hedgebrook.org.
Once upon a time, when I was in a moment of artistic crisis, a dear, talented, compassionate and necessary writer told me this: “We write to clear a path in the forest that others may follow and then step off of to create their own paths.”
Today, on her blog, she writes, “What troubles me about rejections is that perhaps the audience I imagine for this work is not right, or doesn’t exist. Maybe I’m the only one interested in the things I write about. And if I am my only reader, then I don’t really need to write it, do I?”
Last night, I was reminded of the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, and how it takes only one small voice saying “Look at that man’s dinky!” to show us all, immediately, that we are being lied to. We ARE being lied to. The artist is the person who knows.
You are not your only reader, Elena. You are not the only one interested in identity and fitting in and cruelty and family and isolation and food and inheritance and war and trauma and equality and racism and freedom and love and all the other things you write about. We live in a society in which we all agree that Monday morning is the time we get up and go to work, and that work and what we get paid for it is the measure of our self worth. That is only an agreement – and a silly one at that – and we can change it anytime we decide to agree on something else. But without artists, we will never see the nakedness of our arbitrary collective decisions and make a change.
Posted: June 7th, 2013
, Random Thoughts
, The Writing Life
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