Fifteen brilliant writers explore what we don’t talk to our mothers about, and how it affects us, for better or for worse.
As an undergraduate, Michele Filgate started writing an essay about being abused by her stepfather. It took her more than a decade to realize what she was actually trying to write: how this affected her relationship with her mother. When it was finally published, the essay went viral, shared on social media by Anne Lamott, Rebecca Solnit, and many others. The outpouring of responses gave Filgate an idea, and the resulting anthology offers a candid look at our relationships with our mothers.
While some of the writers in this book are estranged from their mothers, others are extremely close. Leslie Jamison writes about trying to discover who her seemingly perfect mother was before ever becoming a mom. In Cathi Hanauer’s hilarious piece, she finally gets a chance to have a conversation with her mother that isn’t interrupted by her domineering (but lovable) father. André Aciman writes about what it was like to have a deaf mother. Melissa Febos uses mythology as a lens to look at her close-knit relationship with her psychotherapist mother. And Julianna Baggott talks about having a mom who tells her everything.
As Filgate writes, “Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we’re always trying to return to them.” There’s relief in breaking the silence. Acknowledging what we couldn’t say for so long is one way to heal our relationships with others and, perhaps most important, with ourselves. Contributors include Cathi Hanauer, Melissa Febos, Alexander Chee, Dylan Landis, Bernice L. McFadden, Julianna Baggott, Lynn Steger Strong, Kiese Laymon, Carmen Maria Machado, André Aciman, Sari Botton, Nayomi Munaweera, Brandon Taylor, and Leslie Jamison.
Michele Filgate’s work has appeared in Longreads; The Washington Post; the Los Angeles Times; The Boston Globe; The Paris Review Daily; Tin House; Gulf Coast; O, The Oprah Magazine; BuzzFeed;Refinery29; and many other publications. Currently, she is an MFA student at NYU, where she is the recipient of the Stein Fellowship. She’s a contributing editor at Literary Hub and teaches at the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop and Catapult. What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About is her first book.
Leslie Jamison was born in Washington DC, grew up in Los Angeles, and lives in Brooklyn. She teaches at the Columbia University MFA program, where she directs the nonfiction concentration and lead the Marian House Project. She is author of The Recovering, The Gin Closet, and The Empathy Exams. Her work has appeared in places including The New York Times Magazine, Harper's, Oxford American, A Public Space, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Believer. For several years she was also a columnist for the New York Times Book Review.
Dani Shapiro’s books include the memoirs, Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Her work spans diverse subjects from her tumultuous upbringing in an Orthodox Jewish community and the tragic death of her father to her explorations of spirituality and the nature of our deepest relationships. Dani’s New York Times best selling memoir, Inheritance, was recently published by Knopf.
Melissa Febos is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, Whip Smart (St. Martin’s Press 2010) and the essay collection, Abandon Me (Bloomsbury 2017), which The New Yorker called “mesmerizing,” and was a LAMBDA Literary Award finalist, a Triangle Publishing Award finalist, an Indie Next Pick, and named a Best Book of 2017 by Esquire, Book Riot, The Cut, Electric Literature, The Brooklyn Rail, Bustle, Refinery29, Salon, The Rumpus, and others. Her second essay collection will be published by Bloomsbury in 2020. Her work has been widely anthologized and appears in publications including The Believer, Tin House, Sewanee Review, Granta, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Glamour, Guernica, Post Road, Salon, The New York Times, Elle, The Guardian, Vogue, Dissent, The New York Time Book Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education Review, Bitch Magazine, Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, and Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York.