Reflections on Motherhood by Jane Lazarre

Mother’s Day was yesterday in the United States. Jane Lazarre originally wrote The Mother Knot, now a feminist classic, in 1976 and we republished it in 1997. The book has recently been translated into Spanish and is enjoying a resurgence in Spain. It remains highly relevant today and we hope you enjoy this excerpt from the preface.

978-0-8223-2039-5_prWhen I began to write seriously – that is in a disciplined way – when I was born, in other words, into being a writer, I also had just had a child. It was 1969. I thought I had nothing to write about because motherhood represented only something personal, not potentially transformative or transcendent, certainly not literary. It was a revelation to read writers such as Tillie Olsen who was using her experience of motherhood as metaphoric, enabling her to write of many layers of human experience. I have written many different stories since that revelation, but being a mother continued to be a central passion of my life, and so it was one of the experiences I most wanted to write about, for the same reasons any writer wants to write about her passions – to name them more accurately, to understand them, to convey meaning to others, to use one’s own life to think about life itself.

When I reread The Mother Knot today, I hear that voice, the young woman trying to learn how to be a mother while she is longing for a mother herself. She can be righteous, full of conviction, but she shouts for recognition of desire and the need for love.

I am a grandmother now. I have written about being a mother in fiction and memoir, about the ways motherhood and being a writer contradict each other in one life and the ways in which they enrich. I have written about sons being born, leaving home, becoming men, about being the white mother of Black sons – an education and transformation as profound as any I have experienced. I am a grandmother now, and still, the mother knot tightens and loosens for me. Protecting and constraining, it remains a source of my own reawakening.

Lazarre, Jane author photoJane Lazarre is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction including The Communist and the Communist’s Daughter, Beyond the Whiteness of Whiteness: Memoir of a White Mother of Black Sons, and Wet Earth and Dreams: A Narrative of Grief and Recovery, all also published by Duke University Press, as well as the novels Inheritance and Some Place Quite Unknown. She has won awards for her fiction from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Lazarre founded and directed the undergraduate writing program at Eugene Lang College at the New School for ten years and taught creative writing and literature there for twenty years. She has also taught at the City College of New York and Yale University. Lazarre lives in New York City.

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