Mama: Love, Motherhood and Revolution Paperback – 7 Jul 2015
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In the context of our postmodern society, Mama: Love, Motherhood and Revolution is undeniably the most important book of the 21st century.--KJS Anand, Professor of Neurobiology
About the Author
Antonella Gambotto-Burke is a regular contributor to various international newspapers and magazines, including Vogue and The Guardian. She is also the author of six books, notably The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide and Mama: Love, Motherhood and Revolution, which features a foreword by Michel Odent and which Professor KJS Anand described as "undeniably the most important book of the 21st century".
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I stumbled across it after reading an interview with the author, Antonella Gambotto-Burke, over on Motherland. I'll admit that when I saw the tagline of the article which describes the books as a "scathing - and brutally honest - attack on modern attitudes towards motherhood", I thought it was going to be yet another one of those books about how women should be more assertive in the working world / wear higher heels / talk more 'masculine' language.
How wrong - and refreshed - I was. Instead Gambotto- Burke launches a delicate but staunch attack on how modern Western society has come to devalue motherhood, as if it's a consolation prize for those who can not hack it in an office, or indeed a waste of time and talent of the educated. and not passable as one's sole job and passion. As such, she writes of women being bullied back in to the workplace after something so epic as giving birth to a child at what is an extremely vulnerable and precious time of their life and their babies' life. And as a result, she connects maternal infant separation with physiological. emotional and mental defects on the child (she cites only 20-25% of the brain is complete at birth). You won't be surprised to know that attachment parenting pops up at various times through the book.
Culture, she writes, has come to be redefined by adrenaline (coffee, technology, media) and intimacy, the key to the maternal-infant relationship is discarded and often derided. She blames certain celebrities, politicians, hospitals, and even the most "brutal" of civilizations for not giving mothers the respect and elevation she believes they deserve.
She cites how many women die in childbirth every year (293,000) and compares this figure to the amount of people who died in the Syrian conflict (four times as many women died giving birth that year). And yet there are no headlines about women that die in childbirth.
Perhaps my favorite part of the book ( so far) is Gambotto- Burke's focus on the idea that effective mothering - so not just mothering - requires not only intense energy by the mother, but an equal investment of energy into the mother by her partner, family and community. She calls for a change of priorities, a rallying around of mothers with respect, time and space and an understanding that these women are paving the way for our future.
I won't give any more of it away which I'm finding hard to do as it was as if Burke has taken all my thoughts and put them down on paper.
Go grab a copy. Please. And let's start the Revolution.
It's full of the kind of thing you'd read in the Femail section. Television is bad! Women's and men's brains are different! Something something something 140 characters! You can read this kind of thing anywhere and for free.
The interviews are also steered along the path the author clearly wants them to take. I think the point where the author makes fun of Sheila Kitzinger's lisp, which is one of the first interviews in the book, was the point where I started to realise this wasn't the kind of well-referenced evidence-based tome I was expecting from this publisher.
The worst section is the one about how fathers are affected by divorce. It comes close to suggesting that men who kill their spouses and children after a break-up are blameless, that it's the fault of culture. No recognition that these men were being divorced because they were abusive and this just played out to its final, tragic conclusion when their partners tried to escape.
I gave it two stars because amidst the dross there are one or two good points. I actually found the writer's candour about her own divorce (at the very end of the book) refreshing. I wonder if now she'd go back and rewrite the chapter about how terrible divorce is for fathers and how couples should try harder to stay together?
But there are FAR better books that cover similar subjects. I found this deeply disappointing.
On the one hand, I really like the authors passion and belief in the power and value of motherhood, and her love for her child is obvious to see in how she writes.
On the other hand, there is a sense of judgement of those who experience motherhood differently.
I think, for me, this book made me think about how society views motherhood, and gave me a new perspective on my own personal experience of motherhood, which I think has positively impacted upon my relationship with my children and my self image, although I can't say I found myself in absolute agreement with the author.
The book is a collection of essays and interviews etc, which makes it quite nice and easy to pick up and read one essay, which is always a good thing.
Overall, I hoped to be more impressed with this book, but instead it hovers around "yeah. Its ok"