IN HER INTRODUCTION to The Mother Zone: Love, Sex & Laundry in the Modem Family (Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 277 pages, $26.95 cloth), Mamie Jackson's delightful new book about motherhood, she notes that
Ten years ago, when Adrienne Rich
published Of Woman Born, she
remarked on how there were endless
amounts of secondary material on the
concept and institution of mother-
hood, but very few primary sources:
books on motherhood written by
Jackson's book is an important contribution to filling that gap. As she says, "Motherhood is like Albania -- you can't trust the brochures, you have to go there." The truth is that you can't even trust other mothers to tell you what it's really like because they are all subject to the mysterious phenomenon of "mother amnesia." It's true! When my friend Carla (mother of Kieran, 10 months) asks me (mother of Alexander, seven years) about sleep patterns, toilet training, starting solid foods, and other events that seemed unforgettable and all-important at the time, I can't remember. I have to go to the baby book and look it up.
Through sheer exertion of writerly will, Jackson, who gave birth at the age of 3 7 to a son, Casey, does remember. And what she remembers is funny, touching, reassuring, a revelation. The Mother Zone is a marvellous combination of personal experience tempered by intellectual observation, and vice versa. Jackson does not presume to speak for all mothers, but flashes of recognition occur on every page. Only occasionally does she fall prey to the very danger she warns against in the introduction: "
The first lesson the body teaches us is to abandon generalization." The Mother Zone is a must read for all modem mothers -- and fathers, too.