Writers tend to be readers. So, here is a good book to put on your nightstand.
Reinventing the Enemy’s Language: Contemporary Native Women’s Writing of North America edited by Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird (Norton, 1997).
I have read many collections of women’s writing throughout my years as a women’s literary historian. I have, however, not ever found one that integrates writing about motherhood into general women’s writing as well as this one does.
I was surprised. There is not merely one token story about motherhood; there are many, throughout the text, and not put into a separate category that somehow indicates an experience that is separate from the multiplicity of women’s lives. There are no stories that show how motherhood and marriage destroyed an artist’s or writer’s chances; there are stories that show women being both mothers and artists, writers, and powerful, creative people. There are no long debates about mothers either working or staying at home; there are stories that show how native women have always worked, and that in their traditional cultures, their mothering work tended to be valued as much as the warrior work done by men. When all work is valued, and it is assumed that women and men will do both domestic and nondomestic work as part of their vital contributions to their families and communities, the mommy wars are irrelevant.
I enjoyed reading this book, not only for the window into a culture different from the white, mainstream culture in which I was raised, but also for its celebration of women and their many productive and creative roles. Mothers–you will love seeing another how native culture offers mainstream white Americans a different way of valuing motherhood!