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Shopping for Your Imperfect Mother


A step-by-step guide to solving your mother's (day) woesMy current favorite fictional mom is Mary-Louise Parker's Nancy Botwin from Weeds. A drug dealer endlessly sipping iced coffee and intentionally neglecting her two sons, Nancy feels but gleefully ignores pangs of maternal guilt. She needs to keep money in the bank, damnit, and if that means leaving her boys alone in the house to have sex with inappropriate women while she descends into a tunnel to be seduced by a handsome, corrupt Mexican mayor, so be it. (My favorite current fictional dad, by the way, is David Duchovny's sex-addicted father in Californication. What is it with Showtime and gloriously depraved divorced parents?)Given my tastes, it will not surprise you that I am no fan of the oft-beloved mothers found in many literature lovers' "best moms" list: the too-perfect Mrs. March from Little Women, the adoring Mrs. Darling from Peter Pan, the bland, loving mothers in many of Jane Austen's novels. I prefer nasty, troubled moms like Anna Karenina, Gertrude from Hamlet, Hester Pyrnne from The Scarlet Letter, Addie Bundren from As I Lay Dying and Snow White's mama.Which brings me to the topic of the day: what to get for Mom? ("Oh crap! Mother's Day is Sunday. I completely forgot."). A book, of course! Something recent, preferably-you do not want Mom to have read it already. Plus, good child that you are, you want to support contemporary authors and quality writing. And finally, why not throw in some support for mothers worldwide who double as authors? Buy Mom a book written by a mom!Sounds tough, I know. Plus, you may be kind of peeved at her after that last phone call. So I have broken down your task into three easy to follow steps:STEP ONE: Choose a Great Contemporary Book Written by a Mother:Cost by Roxana Robinson. Inside the mind of a middle-class mother whose son becomes a drug addict.The Wife by Meg Wolitzer. On a plane ride, a 64-year old woman decides to divorce her famous novelist husband.Nightwork by Christine Schutt. In which a mother teaches a son to kiss, amongst other useful skills.There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey To Rescue Her Country's Children by Melissa Fay Greene. My all-time favorite contemporary non-fiction writer, Greene's latest is about a woman aiding those devastated by AIDS.This Land Is Their Land: Reports from A Divided Nation by Barbara Ehrenreich. The latest by the intrepid raconteur of class divisions in America.The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women by Susan Douglas. The title says it all.STEP TWO: Go to an Independent Bookstore to PurchaseWalk, drive, or take the bus to your local indie bookstore.Click thru to one of these great online (a reigning independent) (used books for the thrify child) (used books that also fund literacy projects world-wide)STEP THREE: This Time, It's PersonalDon't forget the card! (Or to type a message in the box.) But what to say? After all, you have some, um, issues. Be not worried! I have taken care of that too. Feel free to copy/paste:"Dear Mom:You are nothing like those syrupy characters in literature who sacrifice happiness, well-being, and dessert for their offspring. But that's okay! I know I am not a perfect child, either. I treasure your occasional selfishness, your embarrassing-to-me sex drive, and your ambivalence about dad and me. I celebrate your imperfection! That is why I chose this book for you. And you know what? The author is a mother, just like you. Enjoy!Thanks for putting me up with me all these years. And, well, I guess I forgive you.Love,Child" Illustration by Will Etling

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