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.
When 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.