2022 Reading Challenge

2022 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 260 books.
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Amazing Mothers Indeed or A Slightly More Traditional Homage to Mother’s Day

So I still have Mother’s Day in my head. In part this is because the logistics of any holiday requires much thought/planning – especially now that I am engaged and have two families (the best possible problem to have, don’t get me wrong, but it requires a teensy bit more advanced planning than I’m accustomed to). In part it is because I am woefully behind in the whole gift-selecting-and-purchasing area. And in part it is because I am not entirely comfortable with my previous “homage” to Mother’s Day being alone out there in the world – I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood and have the world thinking I’m over-focused on bad mothers…

Like I said, I have an extra mother now in the form of an in-law-to-be, and I’m an itsy bitsy bit concerned that one or both of the mothers may be less than pleased that I have only talked about villainous mothers so far. And I certainly would not want anyone in the world to think I was casting aspersions on motherhood OR those two mothers OR any of my friends who happen to be mothers. So I have decided to talk a little bit about some of the amazing mothers in literature. And, just because I’m that kind of girl, I’m also going to touch on a couple of amazing mothers in the real world in the form of a free eBook provided by the generous folks at The Amazing People Club.

First, the fiction. Mothers do not get the best representation in fiction. As I have said before, literature loves to hate mothers. Actually, literature loves drama and conflict and excitement – and those things are best delivered via villains. And who is more villainous than a bad, evil, wicked mother? The whole concept of a horrid mother is deliciously wrong – the nastiness is just a little more nasty, the villainy just a little more villainous, the spite just a little more spiteful when it comes from a mother and is aimed at a child. All of our protective instincts are triggered, our empathy for the child and his/her struggle is automatically enlarged, and our thirst for revenge and payback is heightened. In short, the drama is ramped up and the reader is engaged at an entirely new level. Sounds like the perfect recipe for fiction, eh?

And that’s when there even IS a mother in fiction/literature. The canon is full of stories with missing, absent (I’m talking physically – let’s not even get into the emotionally/psychologically absent ones!), or dead mothers – the concept of the motherless child was certainly no Disney phenomenon, even if people like to think that it was! Take only the books I have listed in my own posts on the classics and high school reading as an illustrative example. Of those twenty books, only nine include mothers in any direct way – and eight of those are disinterested, disengaged (I mean really, what mother in her right mind would let her child go off on a treasure hunt with Long John Silver?!) or downright unpleasant to their children. In the rest, we have five dead mothers and five that never mention mothers in any real way at all (even if a story is not directly related to family, is it not odd to have not a single reference, in a character’s development, to his/her mother?)… Hardly a paean to motherhood, eh?

By contrast, a good, kind, loving mother almost seems de rigeur or blasé. We expect mothers to be those things. And when they are, there is no drama. And that is not so much good for fiction… But there are some fantastic mothers/mother figures in literature nonetheless, proving once again that there is in fact no recipe for fiction. Take Marmee in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women for example. What reader has not wanted to sit on the floor, pressed against Marmee’s skirts, listening to her read the latest letter from Father or having her comfort you when your sister does something terrible to your prized possession? What about Marilla Cuthbert (the reason for the “mother figure” reference) in the Anne of Green Gables Series – tough but fair, an elderly woman (half of a brother-sister team) who adopts a rambunctious orphan girl against her own best judgment and then manages to turn her into a gracious, well-educated, phenomenal mother of her own by the end of the series? How impressive is that? And she managed to do it all while escorting Anne through a series of misunderstandings, misrepresentations, and misdeeds the likes of which provincial Canada had never seen. And while there may be some argument over whether a Harry Potter reference is appropriate here (I did talk about literature, after all), I can’t imagine anyone familiar with the series who would argue that Molly Weasley is a phenomenal mother. I mean, she has about a thousand children, all of whom are in trouble on a regular basis, and still manages to keep them all fed, (relatively) healthy, happy, and well-adjusted – and this in a world caught in the ultimate battle of good versus evil.

All in all, mothers get quite a bad rap in the literary world. Non-fiction has its share of bad-mother scenarios too – particularly in the memoir category, but also in history and biography. I cannot for the life of me believe that every famous person really had a horrid childhood in which he/she was plagued by an evil mother though, but you certainly wouldn’t know it to read, now would you? Positive, life-affirming tales of motherhood are all too rare amongst the famous crowd, it seems, and I think that is a shame. Fortunately, there are plenty of real-life stories of phenomenal and amazing mothers out there, and someone is finally taking steps to see that those stories are told in a literary context.

How’s that for a set-up to the free stuff?

Amazing Mothers is the latest installment from The Amazing People Club, an organization founded in 2006 by psychologist and management leader Dr. Charles Margerison to create a new way of learning about people who have changed our world and inspired others with their achievements. In honor of Mother’s Day, The Amazing People Club has produced an eBook that highlights two amazing mothers and their real-life adventures, and has agreed to provide a free eBook copy through Jill-Elizabeth.com. Hooray, she said! The eBook is titled Amazing Mothers and features the life stories of Lillian Gilbreth (USA) and Susannah Holmes (Australia), two founding mothers in their own right, who were Amazing Mothers and led inspirational lives.

Amazing Mothers eBook

Amazing Mothers

I hope you enjoy the free eBook, and encourage any of you writing your own works of fiction/non-fiction to think about the role of mothers (or lack thereof) in your own work. I’m not saying you have to change anything, of course – I don’t know that I will either, as the story tends to tell itself in my writing experience and if it needs a bad mother to do so then there often seems very little I can do to change that fact. But I am asking you to think about if/how mothers are portrayed nonetheless. I was surprised when I sat down and started calculating how often mothers either don’t appear or only appear in a negative light, and am curious to hear if you are too!

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