This is my third go-around on Andi Buchanan's blog book tour: first for It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons, then for Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined, and now, for It's a Girl: Women Writers on Raising Daughters. I'm thrilled, because I believe Andi's books are a central part of the growing conversation (in print and online) about the realities of middle-class, American motherhood.
I was fortunate to attend a Mother Talk here in Portland in which four of the contributors to It's a Girl engaged in lively conversation with a fascinating group of 30 or so women. The evening felt much like reading this book did — like I was among friends, even though I knew few of the people there.
It's a Girl takes on the topics of gender identity, the archetypal pull of those ubiquitous Disney Princesses, the blessing and curse of beauty, the complicated mother-daughter bond, and so much more. Each essay is exquisite in its own way, a glimpse at the mobius strip of daughters mothering daughters.
At first I had to chuckle, because, as expected, a few authors were bewildered by their daughters' strong affinities for the pink, sparkly accessories of traditional girl-dom. And yet, in It's a Boy, presumably similar moms had similar worries about their sons — except that they were too "boyish." It seems that the nature/nurture gender puzzle inherent in parenting trips quite a few of us up, myself included. I recall being initially offended when people said my son was "all boy." Now, he runs around playing superhero with imaginary super-power laser blasters, while my toddler daughter admires my earrings and pats me gently on the hand when I'm frustrated about something. While I'll never pigeonhole them as "all boy" or "all girl," like it or not, my kids were born with certain classic gender leanings. I enjoyed reading about how other mothers wrestled with similar observations.
I can say, honestly, that all the essays in the book are incredible, and I could fawn about each one. But the ones which grabbed me were about beauty and body image. I've never seen such honest treatment about the treacherous waters we must face as we usher our little girls into a body-obsessed world. In "On Being Barbie," Jenny Block talks about the paradox of raising her daughter to appreciate her inner beauty while Jenny herself has had three cosmetic surgeries. In "Baby Fat," Catherine Newman (is there anything that woman can't write??) gorgeously describes her daughter's chubby-liciousness while noting her own ambivalence about her less-than-sightly postpartum "curves."
There's so much more I could say, but I'll just leave it to you to pick up a copy for yourself or (and!) a friend. Well worth it, I promise.