Friday, May 19, 2006

It's a Girl!

The blog book tour for It's a Girl!, prolific mama-writer/editor Andi Buchanan's latest anthology, stops here today.

I've enjoyed all of Andi's books, and this one is no exception. Reading it I was reminded of my own pregnancies and the early years with both kids, the times before they're fully gendered (or so it always seemed to me), but when others seem the most invested, therefore, in gendering them. When I was pregnant with Nick I knew a woman who was in about the same stage of pregnancy as me. She had an older son, a little younger than Mariah. I remember she asked me what I wanted, and when I said I didn't really care, she confided, "I hope mine's a girl. If they tell me it isn't, I'm telling them to go in there and just cut it off!"

I knew she was kidding, but I think we were all relieved when her ultrasound revealed that she was, indeed, carrying a girl. She really really wanted the frilly socks and hats that her son hadn't worn. I hope, for all their sakes, that she got them.

The reason I didn't care, I must confess, is that I already had my girl. I knew, somehow, that Mariah was a girl (we had two girl names picked out for her but hadn't been able to agree on a boy name), and for my first child, I remember feeling that a girl would be easier, that somehow I "got" girls in a way I didn't "get" boys.

Yeah, right. As the contributors to the anthology all note, one way or another (and as the "Boy" contributors did as well), one thing your kids teach you is that you don't "get" them, anyway, no matter what you think. In this anthology, the issue for many of the writers is in protecting their girls from their own anxieties and fears--about beauty, about women's roles in society, about body image and politics and patriarchy. So we read about Jenny Block's experiences with plastic surgery, which she proudly owns and still doesn't want to impose on her daughter, and Joyce Maynard's ambivalent pleasure in her daughter's beauty, and even more ambivalent anxiety about her un-beautiful days. We read about failed relationships with fathers and mothers, efforts to put those right or at least avoid replicating them. But we read, above all, about learning that our daughters are not, no matter what we think, ourselves. I love, especially, Amy Bloom's "Me and My Girls" for its recognition of how our daughters help make us: "we all are seeing our same pieces refracted and placed differently on three women, all partially dressed in each other's clothes, all held in each other's eyes, and each one created, in part, by the other two."

As always with Andi's books, there's terrific writing in here. It's a pleasure, for example, to encounter Rebecca Steinitz's confident voice echoing through her tale of her daughters in "Tough Girls," to revel in Catherine Newman's wildly apt metaphors in "Baby Fat" (I love the image of the baby as "origami marshmallow"!). While I read it straight through, this is an anthology to come back to, to dip into again and again at different stages, for different moods.

1 comment:

Lilian said...

I couldn't agree with you more! This book is amazing (now I have to read the Boy one which I haven't read yet).

Yesterday's recipe seemed utterly delicious... (I love any kind of pasta, I should say).