Book Review: What My Mother And I Don’t Talk About – Fifteen Writers Break The Silence Edited By Michele Filgate

This is the type of book I wish I had read years ago. Years before my mother passed away and maybe, I would have written her an essay like the ones in this collection or even a letter but it was never meant to be as this book was just published early this year and I would read it now. My mother was a beautiful soul and I am the 5th out of 6 children. I always felt insignificant in the grand scheme of things that involved my mother and since I wasn’t one who liked to struggled for anything, I resigned early that I wouldn’t get her attention because I wouldn’t fight for it. In hindsight, I have realized that a lot of times we never see things holistically but from our own foggy lenses and when we see the clearer view it may be too late to talk about it. As a young child, I didn’t feel that my mother cared for me as she did for most of my other siblings but I later grew up to realize that not long after I was born, she was diagnosed with high blood pressure and was critically ill for a long time so had to leave me in the care of others. Unfortunately, this period was when I registered this false belief in my head that I carried on with for so long until much later in my life. This collection mirrors such narratives where there is a disconnect in how two people who love each other so much have totally different experiences in the same relationship. How as a mother, you believe you have done the best for your child but on the contrary, you child feels otherwise. I have written two poems to her in the last year and I think I still have so much to say.

‘What My Mother And I Don’t Talk About’ is a collection of essays by fifteen authors who write about their different relationships with their mothers. Each story (if I may call them that) are unique in their own way highlighting the complicated but yet simple relationships we all have with our mothers. The themes of these essays range from loving relationships to abusive ones, some over indulging and some toxic, some of love and laughter while others are of pain and regret.

My favorite essay was ‘Xanadu’ by Alexander Chee where he writes about how he was abused as a child and he could never tell his mother. This was particularly touching and is something that is very common among children who are abused. I have always wondered why they find it hard to tell their mothers that they are being abused. In this case Alexander Chee was shielding his mother from the hurt the knowledge of this would bring. As a mother of three children, I wish to be told everything that happens to my children no matter how hard it is and if not told, to at least sense that something may be wrong and search for the truth. I am terrified with the fact that something horrible will happen to my child and he/she will suffer with it to adulthood without my knowledge. I will always remember this story.

I also really enjoyed reading ‘My Mother’s Gate Keeper’ by Cathy Hanauer. It was funny and in some ways reminded me of my parents as my father is more opinionated and sometimes thought he should speak for my mother who was quiet and soft spoken. Other great reads were ‘Her Body, My Body’ by Nayomi Munaweera, ‘Brother, Can you spare some change’ by Sari Botton and ‘Nothing Left Unsaid’ by Julianna Baggot which may be a reflection of my relationship with my second daughter who I spill almost everything to (no adult stuff though).

These reflective and intimate stories are indeed a good way to shatter the silence, the forbidden and the unspoken things between mothers and their children. The writing is exquisite, fluid and raw. A quick read and the audio book is even better in my opinion. I applaud Michele Filgate for putting this great collection together with all these beautifully written stories which will remain in my memory for a long long time.

This collection will break your heart and make you laugh at the same time. I highly recommend it to everyone.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Published: 30th April, 2019 by Simon Schuster

Pages: 288

Genre: Non-Fiction (Essays)

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Contributors: Michele Filgate, Cathi Hanauer, Melissa Febos, Alexander Chee, Dylan Landis, Bernice L. McFadden, Julianna Baggott, Lynn Steger Strong, Kiese Laymon, Carmen Maria Machado, André Aciman, Sari Botton, Nayomi Munaweera, Brandon Taylor, and Leslie Jamison.


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