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Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence [Format Kindle]

Rebecca Walker

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Descriptions du produit

From Publishers Weekly

The author of Black, White and Jewish gives voice to the uncertainty of her generation in a powerful new memoir. In journal format, beginning with the day her pregnancy is confirmed and ending as she and her partner bring their son home, Walker tells of her physical and emotional journey toward motherhood, poignantly reflecting on the ambivalence that has delayed her dream of having a child for years. Like many 20- and 30-somethings, she was raised to view partnership and parenthood as the least empowering choices in an infinite array of options. This tension comes to the fore as Walker's mother, Alice Walker, opposes her decision to have a baby and challenges her account of their relationship in Black, White and Jewish. Alice ends their relationship and removes Rebecca from her will, and Rebecca endures a tumultuous pregnancy, estranged from her mother as she prepares to become one herself. Elusive health complications arise, and she hops from doctor to doctor, ever wary of Western medicine. Through a lengthy litany of decisions (midwife versus M.D., stroller versus "travel system"), she Googles her way to information overload. At the end of this nine-month mental tug-of-war, she emerges changed: a meat eater, a committed partner with a renewed faith in intimacy, a new woman plus-one. Walker's story is accessible and richly textured, told with humor, wit and warmth. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com

Reviewed by Sara Sklaroff

Rebecca Walker comes to her ambivalence by birth. The biracial daughter of divorced parents, she spent her childhood moving between two households on opposite coasts -- and between two radically different ways of life. She is also a product of 1970s feminism, a member of "the first generation of women to grow up thinking of children as optional." Her mother, the novelist Alice Walker, has written of her own mixed feelings about having a child; now it is Rebecca's turn. Her new memoir is a thoughtful and amusing play-by-play of pregnancy and birth, investigating the difference between the theory surrounding motherhood and the scary, messy, snuggly practice of it.

She barely got beyond the theory phase. During her eight-year relationship with the musician Meshell Ndegeocello, the two women had asked a male friend to serve as birth father -- "the natural way, no turkey basters." They considered moving as a group to Europe, "where I could write and be cared for by the thriving holistic midwifery and healing network. I could learn French, and the baby could be bilingual, and we could live in one of those charming villages in Switzerland." The arrangement fell apart after a first failed try at conception.

But that's just backstory. The 30-something Walker who learns she is pregnant on page 1 of Baby Love is somewhat more grounded, no small thanks to her new partner, Glen, the baby's father, seemingly a model of well-adjusted, nurturing manhood. He rejects her "polytheistic fiesta" childbirth fantasy, in which "everyone I know and love will climb into the hot tub-cum-birthing pool with me," massaging her scalp with lavender oil and feeding her organic chocolate cake. But mostly she worries about the usual stuff: What kind of hospital? Amnio or no? And can they even afford a kid? Consulting an array of health professionals (homeopath, Tibetan doctor, birth doula, et al.), she decries the medicalization of pregnancy and society's lack of support for pregnant women but delights in buying haute maternity wear. Ultimately, the actual birth brings her further down to Earth: "I retract my judgment of every woman who has had or will have a scheduled C-section," she declares. Yes, the pain is that bad.

Baby Love never mentions Alice Walker by name, and some readers may not infer the connection. Regardless, Rebecca's mother does not come off well. For years, she kept a sign over her desk comparing her young daughter to the obstacles faced by great women writers -- Virginia Woolf's madness, Zora Neale Hurston's poverty and ill health. "You have Rebecca," the sign reminded her, "who is much more delightful and less distracting than any of the calamities above." Walker had the right to say that (she concludes one important essay by quoting that sign in full), but for her daughter, there were consequences to being considered a "calamity," no matter how prettily it's put.

When Rebecca told her mother she was pregnant, Alice was hardly effusive. Later in the pregnancy, she suddenly threatened to denounce Rebecca in a letter to the online magazine Salon, which had recently quoted a passage from her memoir (Black White and Jewish) that criticized her parents. "She called me a liar, a thief . . . and a few other completely discrediting unmentionables," reports Rebecca. Alice backed down, but there were more confrontations via e-mail: "She writes that she has been my mother for thirty years and is no longer interested in the job."

By the time Rebecca's son was born, they were no longer in communication. Perhaps because of the book's journal format, which puts big and small events on an equal footing, these developments don't get the attention they deserve. Nor do we know for sure what Alice's side of the story is -- though to be fair, this isn't her book.

Rebecca has lived most of her life similarly to her mother, valuing personal independence over all else. Getting pregnant changed that. "Until you become a mother, you're a daughter," Rebecca writes. In her case, that also means a chance to be the parent she wishes she'd had. But lest she hold herself to too high a standard, it's worth considering that motherhood is, by nature, a bifurcating force: Childbirth threatens to split you literally in two, but good parenting does it emotionally, again and again. Ambivalence goes with the territory.

Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 277 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 244 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 1594482888
  • Editeur : Riverhead Books (4 mars 2008)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B001O2NEEC
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°433.259 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 étoiles sur 5  60 commentaires
22 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Ambivalent Review 5 août 2007
Par J. Aragon - Publié sur Amazon.com
I read this book in two sittings and have meant to write the review for several days now. I can't decide if it mostly narcissistice drivel or just occasionally dripping with narcissism. I enjoyed some parts of the book, but my copy is filled with comments penciled in the margins. I'm still processing the book.

I will say that some parts of this book would have made more sense if the reader read her previous book, _Black, White and Jewish_ where she tears into her mother and offers a memoir that will make you vacillate between feeling sorry for her and then wondering how in the hell she could be so damn egocentric.

That said, this book is like the book end to the previous book with the diatribe(s) against her famous mother. She is obviously working through her issues regarding too much freedom that she was given by her parents. What has troubled me between those two particular books (and I have read her other books/anthologies and many of her essays) is the way that she places full blame or most of the blame for her ambivalence and sense of not being loved on her mother.

Is it easier for her to attack her mother or does she just make it easier? I'm not sure what the answer is, but I think that she is overly harsh or perhaps not harsh enough on her dad.

Granted, her mother has said some unbelievably cruel things to her. Her mother was trying to raise her w/ choice, independence, and in the process didn't give her enough attention. And, it appears that RW blames her ambivalence and failed relationships wholeheartedly on her mother. I could have done with less of the Alice Walker blaming and more of her musings.

What really troubled me w/ this book was the poor editing. The editor should have dealt with the tired cliches and woefully eyerolling colloquialisms that were nothing short of over the top. Many of her observations made me think: btdt as mother of two children, but also in terms of the myriad of other (better) written memoirs of motherhood or pregnancy.

I'll suggest this book to others, but w/ a caveat. What I'm really looking forward to is discussing the book with other feminist mothers. I'm RW's age and didn't have the ambivalence that she shares, well, and not the privileges of an Ivy League education and the vast world travelling! It's worth reading, but there are countless other books that are ten times better: anything by Ariel Gore, for instance.
12 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 To Have or Not to Have a Baby 22 avril 2008
Par Story Circle Book Reviews - Publié sur Amazon.com
Rebecca Walker writes honestly and eloquently of the many feelings and beliefs she has carried over the years about becoming a mother. The subtitle of her book, choosing motherhood after a lifetime of ambivalence, together with her main title, telegraphs the denouement of her story; namely, that her ambivalence takes a decidedly positive turn at some point in her story. Her change of heart is not a simple matter, and she shares the complex and often subtle experiences that ultimately change her.

The book is written as a diary in a style that is informal and pleasantly conversational. The topics are many, such as working versus motherhood, fears of having a baby, indecision (once deciding to have it) as to where to have it (at home or in a hospital), the complexities of relationship, and so many more. None of theses are new issues, to be sure, but each is pondered thoughtfully from differing aspects and the reader is invited to ponder them as well.

I was impressed by Walker's willingness to share her vulnerabilities, to reveal the lessons she has learned over time such as her tendency to "mother" others--to shower others with the emotional support that she craved but had not received as a child. She credits Glen, the man with whom she eventually would have her child, for much of her increased self-understanding, for his help with her moodiness, her depression, her sometimes disabling insecurities. He is consistently present and supportive, though never agreeing simply to please her. His intelligent rebuttals to some of her ideas bring an additional depth and dimension to the story.

Walker makes no secret of her antagonistic relationship with her own mother (author Alice Walker). Not an easy thing to display one's deep and continuing hurt by a famous mother for all the world to read. In the very first chapter of her book, the author reveals her mother's astonishing indifference to her announcement that she is pregnant--an indifference and often outright nastiness that is sprinkled generously throughout the pages of this book. There can be little doubt that this hurtful relationship is a significant factor in Rebecca Walker's deep-seated ambivalence toward bringing her own child into the world.

But Baby Love is not without humor. After a visit to the maternity department of a shop with "... haggard-looking mothers being dragged around by whiny, unruly kids," she calls Glen and laments, "Am I going to be trapped behind a stroller for the rest of my life, at the beck and call of some badly behaved toddler screaming for his sippy cup?" Perhaps this scene amuses me only because it brings back similar feelings of my own from so many years ago.

I never fully understand Walker's change of heart when I suddenly come upon her pleasure over being pregnant and later her euphoria over her son, who has become everything to her, or her euphoria over motherhood--which she now feels she can embrace wholeheartedly while still accomplishing great things, a concept that I, being of her mother's generation, continue to question.

She writes of the maturity that comes to her with the experience of pregnancy and motherhood, of her willingness "...to walk through fire" for her son. She talks of what it feels like to become a mother without having had a proper mother, "...what becoming a mother without a mother feels like." She names her son Tenzin, after Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a name that I suspect will not easily be accepted by his peers, not to mention an impossibly high standard to lay on any child. But then again, I think, Why Not? Who knows what this child will accomplish?

Walker and her partner, Glen, are serious thinkers. She writes, "...how few people break away from the expectations of their parents to live their own, authentic lives. Guilt and fear keep so many of us ensnared. Who can stand the emotional blowback that comes from choosing a different path?" However, as she points out, "If we aren't diligent in our efforts to mature, at some point cutting the cord of familial expectation, we become infantilized by it." I can think of few psychological insights more important (and harder to actually apply) than this statement.

This author's desire to be true to herself informs every page of her writing. I hope she is writing the continuing chapter of her life from the point where Baby Love ends. She is a skilled writer, a human being eager to live her own truth, and she has hooked my interest in the continuing flow of her life. I have my wallet out to buy her next book.

by Duffie Bart
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
64 internautes sur 81 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Birdcage Lining 26 mars 2007
Par Mother - Publié sur Amazon.com
The narcissim, banality and lack of intelligent thought in this book is simply stunning. I am a new mother, and I cannot fathom how this book would have been useful to me during pregnancy; certainly not in retrospect. Because I also share a lot of Walker's racial/sexual/class/political experience I bought this immediately. I was deeply offended by a lot of her claims about feminism and what she insinuates about lesbian vs. heterosexual parenting, but truly jaw-dropping is her assertion about biological vs. non-biological parenting. She is so unable to get past herself, and so unable to recognize that her first stab at "parenting" was more playing house with an immature rocker and less the stuff of intentional motherhood. Perhaps that is part of what undermines the bond with her son that she then goes on to universalize. The revelations about the breach with her mother are frankly embarassing, and again, feel self-serving--like a desperate stab to hook a readership that she can't otherwise win and hold.
26 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 there's no "there" there 13 mai 2007
Par L. Helw - Publié sur Amazon.com
I think the author seemed confused rather than ambivalent... the book offers no clear thinking through her own motives for this constant theme through her work: one-sided blaming. The writing is one dimensional and ascribes a lot of dark motives to many, except Rebecca.

Something cutting about her piecemeal narratives, esp her cold claim about the only kind of 'real' experience of being a mother is to give birth. She's a couple years shy of 40 years old and sees her body aging...well. What can be said about that. So much of the material here sounds like a 12 year old rather than a mature woman equal to her years.

For new mothers, I would recommend Ann Lamott's work, all of it. She is a very real mother who writes with deep love about various kinds of ambivilance and certitude regarding her precious son; she a single mother. Lamott has the gift of simple narrative that is literature without grunting with the effort to write litter-a-toor as Rebecca seems to try to do.

The thing is, there's a dearth of writings for new mothers, and mothers to be and adoptive mothers... fanning peacock writing like 'baby love' wont cut it for most.

If 'baby love' were a book by a person named Rebecca Smith, I think few people would look at it. Considering her tiresome writing m.o. of dissing her mother, (which also has this odd gloss to it; it just doesnt ring true... her examples of how badly she's been treated sound like a spoiled child complaining they only got everything except two things they wanted and they are really mad. Truly abused children carry an entirely different timbre) I wonder why she didnt keep her father's name instead.
28 internautes sur 35 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 If I could give this negative stars.... I would. 11 août 2007
Par S. Robinson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Baby Love is filled with annoying musing by Walker that disappointments, discourages, and enrages me. As a feminist who supports motherhood, I expected a writing of personal reflection that would be both individual and collective, that would inspire as well as deepen the conversation on motherhood, women, feminism, parenting, family dynamics, and other topics. Instead, Walker's writing focuses on her financial fears, her elusive search for resolution and peace with her mother (that carries such an adolescent bent that it is difficult to read without hurling the book across the room), and her very inward, selfish focus on motherhood. I can not condone such a privileged woman complaining of financial fears, nor can I condone her attempts to reinforce male privilege (evident within her interactions with her male partner). Even with her references to a ex-lover who is female, she lacks a consciousness of the multiplicity of the definition of family and of the privileges she inhabits within her heterosexual relationship. I wonder how her experience would be different if she was not only shopping, watching Sex and the City reruns, writing in her diary, eating, and being pregnant, but actually working without the luxury of a secure bank account or without the comfort of having several homes to habitat. She appears very adamant about being the victim in her life-- with her relationships, her own mind/depression, her mother, her father, her ex-lovers, her medical care (from a variety of health care providers), her difficulties. I long for a more mature perspective that incorporates part of the core of feminism which is to have an eye that sees the injustices within and beyond ourselves. I expected better writing, a less selfish and whiny perspective, and a more rewarding experience.
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