“Hillbilly Gothic- A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood” by Adrienne Martini
My family has a grand tradition. After a woman gives birth, she goes mad.
Warning: if you are pregnant or recently gave birth, you may not want to read this one. Or maybe you will. Martini does a stunning job of dispelling all the saccharine, Hallmark-ish moments that society projects on new motherhood. And she is pissed when her experience does not live up to all the hype. She not only carefully details her own mental breakdown but she also explores the history of madness that runs in her own family as well as the stigma still attached to it in this day and age of miracle drugs advertised on TV like they were candy. She also got me thinking, as a writer, about the importance of place not only as a setting but how it informs who we are and how it can add depth and layers to your story.
“Palm Latitudes” a novel by Kate Braverman
In this city of the Angels, you can trust nothing, not even the dense and erratic air.
Janet Fitch once said that when she had Kate Braverman as a teacher she was told that anything you have ever heard before, even one time, is a cliché. And that forced Fitch to really look at the world and describe it in new and startling ways. After reading this novel I can see that Braverman practices what she preaches. The story is rich and the lush language is layered with life’s juxtapositions: linen and concrete, blood and orchids, fire and lace. This would’ve been beautiful to hear instead of merely reading. The text was almost like an incantation, mesmerizing. It has me thinking more about the sounds in my stories instead of only the actual story.
“My Hollywood” a novel by Mona Simpson
Once, we sat with a small candle between us on the tablecloth, drinks for our hands. After the salad, he asked if I wanted children.
“My Hollywood” turns the whole mommy wars cliché on its head. Simpson delves deep into the stories of Claire, a married mom who is a musician and her Filipina nanny, Lola, Claire is split between her art and her child and her marriage. Her angst is palpable. Lola observes the families she works for with piercing clarity, insight as well as humor. Both the American women and their nannies from different parts of the world make choices and then find a way to live with the results. None are perfect. They are just choices they make in order to raise a family in these times when so many choices are available.