Snapshots: 20th Century Mother-Daughter Fiction

Snapshots: 20th Century Mother-Daughter Fiction

Snapshots: 20th Century Mother-Daughter Fiction

Snapshots: 20th Century Mother-Daughter Fiction


A collection of 17 stories from the pens of some of today's most important female authors, including Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Walker, Mary Gordon, Jamaica Kincaid, & Isabel Allende.


A woman is her mother. That's the main thing. -- Anne Sexton


Most days I think, no. Certainly a woman isn't her mother. Or, if resembling her mother, she isn't totally her mother; she is her father as well, and any number of ancestors known and unknown. A woman is the sum of all her influences -- genetic, environmental, personal, and impersonal. I know this; I believe this. Yet, so strangely, Anne Sexton's flat, dogmatic lines sometimes resound in my imagination -- whether as curse or blessing, as explanation or mystery, I can't say. (The lines are from a terse, rather terrifying poem, Housewife, from the much acclaimed collection of 1962, All My Pretty Ones. The book established Anne Sexton as a new and disturbingly talented poet, an innovator in what would be called "confessional" poetry, a poetry in which women poets would excel.)

This gathering of mother-daughter, or daughter-mother, stories speaks to the daughter in all of us, for, if women, we have all been daughters. And while we may not all be mothers, we have surely played "mother" roles and have imagined ourselves, for better or worse, as mothers. Reading such powerful stories as Edna O'Brien A Rose in the Heart of New York, Ursula K. Le Guin Solitude, and Margaret Atwood Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother jolts us into realizing the extraordinary range and depth of what the term mother can mean. Perhaps no word in our language has accrued so many stereotypical associations as mother (though it may be outdone by the term God), and yet -- how mysterious mothers are! In our collection, it seems to be mothers who, for obvious reasons, exert the most influence, whether benign or malevolent. A subtly disquieting story like Lorrie Moore How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes) . . .

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