An Anthology of Babes ed. by Suzi Banks Baum

An Anthology of Babes: 36 Women Give Motherhood a Voice
edited by Suzi Banks Baum
Laundry Line Divine, 2013
154 pages

An Anthology of Babes is quite short, despite the 36 women right there in the title. “Giving a voice,” in the case of this little book, doesn’t always mean writing: collage, photography, and painting are included, too. When I looked for what these women had in common, it tended to be spirituality, yoga, creative desires (regardless of medium), and, of course, motherhood. The writing tends to be 1-3 pages, so this is an easy book to digest. My favorite written works tended to be anecdotal.

Alana Chernila describes protecting her daughters from body image issues, which become a problem and then die down every so often as her children grow: “…Sadie came home a few months later saying that a friend at school had told her that her mom wouldn’t let her eat butter….I am determined to raise girls who are not afraid of butter. With all the challenges that face them, I don’t want them to have to waste their energy on butter angst.” Chernila goes on to describe how to make butter at home, an interesting solution to body image issues. She works her creative magic on tackling pervasive big issues by completing a task with her kids, rather than teaching them self-denial, like Sadie’s friend’s mother.

Janet Reich Elsbach wonders what it means to be two types of mom, and her description of the more “out there” mom made me laugh out loud: “…let me lace up my army surplus boots and go grab a rabbit to slaughter in front of my home-schooled children for dinner…in order to reclaim the life skills and quality of life that have been all but lost in the wild pursuit of Bigger and Better and More.” Here, the writer creates a violent image–dare I say a masculine one, too?–in the name of helping her children grow into conscientious adults. Perhaps it takes a feminine person with a pinch of masculine “kick-assery” to protect children from greed.

In point, none of these women approached mothering in the same way, and while many lament not having enough time to be creative, the methods of parenting were surely creative enough. My favorite moment regarding this theme was a piece by Linda Jackson, who notes that though women have been creative for centuries, they are not always called artists. Jackson recalls, “Weren’t they artists of self-expression, like my own mother, expressing themselves in functional art and essential creativity so their children were not only protected from the elements but had skills and stories to take forward?” The image of functional art made of fiber felt warm and rough. Jackson essentially wove story and art together, questioning the way women have had creative solutions to life not only in moments of small crisis, but in terms of survival.

Following each story/art piece is a fairly lengthy bio, which was just as important as the creative piece itself. Understanding what these women do–and for whom–became a critical bridge from a short work in this anthology to a network outside of it. You can find blogs, events, communities, and business to link you to other mothers (and these 36 women) at any time.

While I didn’t completely relate to this anthology, being a young married woman without children, I could very much feel/sense that this anthology is meant to be a gift, not only to readers (mothers and non-mothers alike), but to each other, which is a rather beautiful reason to publish.

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