«How to Mend: Motherhood and Its Ghosts» .
“If your mother was excessively tender and caring then you might want to be like her, and you might feel guilty because you can’t. If your childhood saw your mother invest everything she had to make you turn out as she wanted, then you might repeat the same process with your child, or, having known what is like to suffer in the process of casting the weight of your mother’s ambition, you might consciously restrain yourself.”
Few books speak of motherhood but this book talked about it so differently, it’s unique among all the other books. This book is not poetry, text, or theorizing, it's a completely different kind of thing from everything I've read.
Iman Mirsal tells of her life as a mother and stories of other mothers, how the mothers presented in photographs how she was a ghost in the pictures of her children, and how mothers were an icon and tool for many stages in more than one country.
- Motherhood within the dominant narrative and the sideline
Motherhood in the dominant narrative is the motherhood in the eyes of the society, the ideal, holy, sacrificing mother and her limited role in the formation of the child. But this is not what the book talks about, it talks about motherhood on the sideline. It's the distance between the ideal image of the dominant narrative and her true image and what she goes through every day with her baby and how words like ( your son’s weight is below average for his age ) or ( your son needs more care, he feels unsafe) raise fear in the mother because she came to see herself through the image of the perfect mother in the dominant narrative and the general experience, not through her closed experience.
Mirsal’s shows how this image causes all mothers to share one emotion “Guilt” that invisible shadow of motherhood either towards herself or her children.
“If the crocodile fought the shark which would win?”
“I don’t know, what do you think?”
“ The dinosaur of course”
If there were a fight between the mother’s self and that of her child then neither would win. It’s, “Of course” the dinosaur that wins, and it’s name is guilt.
- Motherhood and Photography
She presents us with a different shape of motherhood, which is motherhood through the photography Mothers who obfuscated show their identities in front of the camera with the common goal of having their babies appear centrally and independently. The mother wears a curtain or blanket and disappears to reveal the object as a background.
In the last two chapters of the book, Mersal discusses the most intimate details of her relationship with her dead mother and her depressed son Youssef. She tells of the only picture she has of her mother, she lost her when she was only seven years old, and how, when she looks at this picture, she never sees her mother, but in the coffee beans and the canvas she knits with a bird, she sees her mother in the eyes of a bird, but when she sees her in the picture that brings them together, she sees her as a ghost.
Through suffering the loss of her mother, Eman lives in fear of losing her son Youssef, who wrote this book in order to understand him and how he sees her as a mother.
I said, "Why don't you sleep, habibi?" He said, "There's a butterfly flying in my head that keeps me from sleeping." I asked him if it was the same butterfly that he said the other day that it flew in his heart and made him afraid. He said, "It's another butterfly, or maybe it's the same butterfly, but it travels between my head, my heart and my stomach"
This 140-page, little book with lots and lots of details made me weep. It made me understand more about the suffering of most mothers who are trapped by the idea of motherhood that society has conceived in giving away without considering their own humanity, without considering their feelings, as a person with their ambitions, their dreams, their hopes, even their selfishness.
- Eman Mersal - Egyptian poet, She holds a doctorate in Arabic literature from Cairo University. She works as an assistant professor of Arabic literature at the University of Alberta in Canada.
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