Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Book Review: Double Lives edited by Shannon Cowan et al.

Double Lives is an anthology of essays on writing and motherhood published this year by McGill-Queen's University Press. It is not Chicken Soup for the Writer-Mother's Soul, nor is it solely a lament on the mental thicket that is motherhood. Double Lives lies somewhere in between. The contributing authors are all highly successful and include wed, unwed, and divorced mothers, lesbian mothers, adoptive mothers, and mothers of children with special needs. All, save one, were writers before motherhood. I suppose I was, too, if you count what I wrote in high school--but I don't.

It was interesting for me to read about the universal impact children have on a creative life that requires so much unencumbered internal reflection. Before I had children, I didn't write. Or rather, I wrote like this:
Dear Dr. Bones,
Thank you for referring Mr. Lumbago to our clinic for assessment of his chronic low back pain.
On subjective exam, Mr. Lumbago reported....
You get the idea.

It never occurred to me to write for pleasure. As I said, I wrote in high school--required writing, and not a word more. My English teachers did their utmost to encourage me, but I was hell bent on becoming a doctor which, as far as I could tell, required little literary prowess. On that point alone, I was correct.

It was motherhood and my own turbulent beginnings in the role that led me back to the page and as such, I've never known what it is to write and not mother. The two have only ever co-existed and, truth be told, without motherhood I might still be writing to Dr. Bones. If anything, Double Lives bolstered my hope that one day it will get easier, that one day the mental freedom I once had (and wasted on advance physics) will return--but by then I'll be missing my girls.

1 comment:

  1. How true. I too am a mother and have found myself needing desperately to express myself. Writing has become my way to process life and motherhood--this tremendous joy and responsibility.