Niles-Maine District Library


Book Review: What My Mother Gave Me


In What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most, novelist Elizabeth Benedict decided to ask other contemporary women authors to write about gifts from their own mothers. She was pleased to note that almost without exception the gifts were not of high monetary value. Ann Hood wrote of her own mother giving her the confidence to trust her own personal taste even if it wasn’t the same as her mom’s. Mary Gordon wrote of how her working-class mother took a day off work to take Mary on a boat ride around the New York Harbor, showing Mary that she could dream of other places and other opportunities in the world.

The esteemed author Joyce Carol Oates wrote of her mother making beautiful quilts for her and now that her mother has died she takes comfort from the warmth and coziness of those quilts. Because Oates is such a fine writer, this essay was a particular pleasure to read.

When Abigail Pogrebin decided at age 40 that she wanted to have a Bat Mitzvah, her mother, the famous feminist writer Letty Cottin Pogrebin, offered to pay for flowers for the party. Abigal was touched by her mother’s loving support for this important occasion.

Mary Morris writes of trips to Italy with her mother and how this gave the gift of a lifelong love of travel, an interest that has served her well in her writing and editing career. In Caroline Leavitt’s very personal essay, she writes of wanting to see photos of her mother from when she was young. Her mother demurs for years and when Caroline finally does have an opportunity to see a photo she realized that her mom was never treated with much love or respect by her family. Seeing the photo helps Caroline to finally understand her mother’s early life. And Luannce Rice writes meaningfully of her own mother’s unfulfilled desire to become a writer, a wish that Luanne herself was able to achieve.

This is a wonderful collection and a good way to sample the talents of these authors.

The book and ebook are available for checkout at the Niles Public Library.

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