A CNQ Editors' Book of the Year
A Dropped Threads-style anthology, assembling original and inspiring works by some of Canada's best younger female writers — such as Heather Birrell, Saleema Nawaz, Susan Olding, Diana Fitzgerald Bryden, Carrie Snyder, and Alison Pick — The M Word asks everyday women and writers, some of whom are on the unconventional side of motherhood, to share their emotions and tales of maternity.
Whether they are stepmothers or mothers who have experienced abortion, infertility, adoption, or struggles with having more or less children, all these writers are women who have faced down motherhood on the other side of the white picket fence. It is time that motherhood opened its gates to include everyone, not just the picture postcard stories.
The M Word is a fabulous collection by a talented author and blogger, which is bound to attract readers from all walks of motherhood. The anthology that presents women's lives as they are really lived, probing the intractable connections between motherhood and womanhood with all necessary complexity and contradiction laid out in a glorious tangle.
It is a book whose contents themselves are in disagreement, essays rubbing up against one another in uncomfortable ways. There is no synthesis — is motherhood an expansive enterprise, or is motherhood a trap? — except perhaps a general sense that being a mother and not being a mother are each as terrible and wonderful as being alive is. What these essays do show, however, is that in this age of supposed reproductive choice, so many women still don't have the luxury of choosing their mothering story or how it will play out. And those who do exercise choice often still end up contending with judgement or backlash.
The essays also make clear that women are not as divided between the mothers and the childless as we might be led to believe. Women's lives are so much more complicated than that. There is mutual ground between the woman who decided to have no more children and the woman who decided to have none at all. A woman with no children also endures a similar kind of scrutiny as the woman who's had many, both of them operating outside of societal norms. A woman who has miscarried longs to be acknowledged for her own beyond-visible mothering experiences, for the baby she held inside her. And while infertility is its own kind of journey, that journey is also just one of so many whose origins lie with the desire for a child.
"This is a powerful collection of stories by Canadian women of various ages, and every woman will benefit from reading it." — Quill & Quire
"The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood, a powerful, female-driven anthology of short personal essays, poems, and illustrations, tells the many stories women so rarely share. ... The M Word is a meditation on the fickle emotional uncertainty awarded to mothers. It breaks down the walls of maternal isolation and offers companionship to anyone who has not had the fairy-tale journey to motherhood. These stories show us that the extraordinary gift of motherhood cannot be accepted without relinquishing something spectacular." — National Post
"That's what makes The M Word so surprising, and also moving, gripping, funny, and, occasionally, really uncomfortable to read: the writers put it all on the table, all the confusion, ambivalence, difficulty, suffering, hope, despair, and insight that swirl around people's different experiences with motherhood, whether they are or aren't mothers, however motherhood is defined, and whether their situation arose from choice or accident, gift or tragedy. As many of the writers observe, there's a popular public story about motherhood that is all bliss, smiles, and cuddles. For many of them, there is plenty of bliss, but that's rarely the whole story and often not the story at all. The M Word doesn't try to tell one story: it allows, even insists, on the coexistence of many different ones." — Open Letters Monthly
"There is a strong Canadian tradition of public discourse on motherhood, from the late journalist June Callwood's interviews with unwed teenaged mothers to Marni Jackson's memoirs, and anthologies like Double Lives and Between Interruptions. The M Word adds 25 thoughtful voices to the mix ... You won't keep this book; you'll pass it on to friends whose current vocation is changing diapers, or to friends who want a child, and those who don't." — Herizons
"A book about motherhood that includes those who never gave birth? Those who've been pregnant but never held a child? Halleluiah! Finally: a conversation with no 'us versus them.' Here is only 'us,' those who desire to 'be connected by this understanding of what it is to love and celebrate your children.' The M Word offers what mothers (new and old) need most: to know we're not alone." — Winnipeg Review
"Anyone grappling with the role of mother is certain to find themselves somewhere within these true stories of pregnancy, IVF, adoption, stepchildren, infertility, miscarriage, SIDS, multiples, dead children, teenagers, abortion and, above all, stories of the searing joy found within the wholeness of a mother's devotion." — National Post
"Whether you're a mother by choice or by circumstance, a woman without childlren by choice, circumstance or tragedy, or simply someone who has yet to decide which path to take, you'll find yourself in one of these stories. And not always the ones you'd suspect." — Atlantic Books Today
"As I finished reading it, a close friend found out that she was pregnant for the first time. As we celebrated her pregnancy, I hesitated to pass the collection along to her. Superstitious and hoping to pretect her, I worried about giving her essays on loss and trauma and regret. But women deserve to hear a conversation about motherhood that is as beautiful and scary and messy and complex as motherhood itself. When her experiences of motherhood strays from the accepted stereotype, if it hasn't already, she'll know that she is not alone." — Library Mama
"Stop everything. Withhold judgement for a minute. I promise you The M Word is not like any book you've read about motherhood." — The Fernie Fix
"Rather than attempting to resolve issues once and for all, or to glorify and idealize a madonna-like figure, The M Word presents in alphabetical order a wide variety of the experiences of women who have embraced, eschewed or endured the experiences of motherhood in its many, different realities ... This book was a pleasure to read." — Kitchener-Waterloo Record
"The M Word felt like a kind of emotional labour for the three days I was reading. This is a motherlode of deeply personal truths, generous and courageous souls, bearing witness to lives shaped, if not defined, by, well, 'life with a uterus,' as the foreword suggests." — Telegraph-Journal
"Would I recommend this book? I think so, but with a caveat. I turned to this to find communion, and a road map. To find other mothers facing things my partner and I are facing. In facing so many possible stresses, dangers, and unknowns, what the world needs is more complicated and probably 'uncomfortable' representations of motherhood ... So yes, I would recommend the book. I would say, it's a start." — Lemon Hound
"I'm not normally drawn to mothering books but I like Kerry Clare's work, so it was impossible not to be drawn to her anthology, The M Word: Conversations about Motherhood, I knew I'd be in the hands of good taste and good writing, even if, as a Childless Woman, I couldn't actually relate. Well, what happened was this: I found myself not only enjoying the read, but relating. In a major way. Because, as it turns out, the essays are both about mothering and not mothering, about the exultant and the reluctant, the non-mothers by choice, the stepmothers by circumstance, women who will do anything to become a mother and those who will do anything to not. and in every scenario, the difficulties, joys, fears, the way life is changed for the better and sometimes for the not entirely better. There are celebrations, regrets, and such honesty that it's really quite impossible not to relate." — Matilda Magtree
"The M Word is a book I would have benefited from reading when I was a young mother more than 30 years ago." — Coastal Spectator
"These open-hearted essays are all fascinating and absorbing, and sometimes heartbreaking. Ultimately these writers are speaking, as they take care to point out, for no one but themselves, and they do it tremendously well." — Slightly Bookist
"I've just spent a couple of days with a collection of essays about motherhood. About life with a uterus, as Kerry Clare puts it. It was like slipping into this wonderful story circle, 25 articulate women speaking honestly of being — or not being — a mother." — Borrowing Bones
Kerry Clare reads and writes in Toronto, where she lives with her husband and daughter. Her essays, short stories, and book reviews have appeared in The New Quarterly, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Notes & Queries, Prairie Fire, Quill & Quire, Today's Parent, and other fine places. She writes about books and reading at her blog Pickle Me This and is editor at 49thShelf.com.
Heather Birrell is the author of two story collections, Mad Hope and I know you are but what am I?. Her work has been honoured with the Journey Prize for short fiction and the Edna Staebler Award for creative non-fiction, and has been shortlisted for both National and Western Magazine Awards. Birrell's stories have appeared in many North American journals and anthologies, including The New Quarterly and Toronto Noir.
Julie Booker is a Toronto writer whose short-story collection, Up Up Up, came out in 2011. Her twins are finally allowing her to work on a novel.
Diana Fitzgerald Bryden's first novel, No Place Strange, was shortlisted for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and longlisted for the IMPAC/Dublin Award. She is at work on a second novel, Tunapuna, and is the author of two books of poetry: Learning Russian, shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award, and Clinic Day.
Myrl Coulter's adoption memoir, The House With the Broken Two, won the 2010 First Book Competition sponsored by the Writers Studio at Simon Fraser University and the 2011 Canadian Author Association's Exporting Alberta Award. Her work has been published in several anthologies and Geist magazine. Myrl lives in Edmonton, Alberta.
Christa Couture has established herself as a singer-songwriter with sharp-shooting wit, effortless grace, and heart-on-sleeve intensity. Since her critically acclaimed debut album, Fell Out of Oz and her sophomore record, The Wedding Singer and the Undertaker, she has explored intimate spaces with a frank confidence that avoids cliché and melodrama. She released her third album The Living Record in September 2012, produced by Steve Dawson.
Nancy Jo Cullen is a Journey Prize-nominated fiction writer and the author of three critically acclaimed collections of poetry with Calgary's Frontenac House Press. Her most recent book, the short story collection Canary, is the winner of the 2012 Metcalf-Rooke Award. Nancy Jo is the 2010 winner of the Writers' Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for an Emerging LGBT Writer. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph Humber.
Marita Dachsel is the author of Glossolalia, Eliza Roxcy Snow, and All Things Said & Done. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry and the ReLit Prize and has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, including Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2011. Her play Initiation Trilogy was nominated for the Jessie Richardson Award for Outstanding New Script.
Nicole Dixon's first book, the collection of stories High-Water Mark, was shortlisted for an Atlantic Book Award. In 2005, she won the Writers' Trust of Canada RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for short fiction. Electronic resources librarian at Cape Breton University, Nicole lives in New Waterford on Cape Breton Island. Please visit nicoledixon.ca.
Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer. Her second collection of poetry, Stowaways, will be published in spring 2014 by Palmipsest Press. Most recently, her chapbook How to Make a Collage won Kalamalka Press' inaugural John Lent Poetry-Prose Award. When not being bookish, Ariel likes tromping through the woods and taking macro photographs of mushrooms.
Amy Lavender Harris is the author of Imagining Toronto, which was shortlisted for the Gabrielle Roy Prize in Canadian literary criticism and won the 2011 Heritage Toronto Award of Merit. She is a contributing editor with Spacing Magazine, for which she writes a regular column on urban literature. Amy's next book, Acts of Salvage, explores what the contemporary city compels us to cling to or discard. She lives in Toronto with her husband and daughter.
Fiona Tinwei Lam is the author of two poetry books, Intimate Distances (a finalist for the City of Vancouver Book Award), Enter the Chrysanthemum, and most recently the illustrated children's book The Rainbow Rocket. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction appear in over twenty anthologies. Her poems have been twice selected for BC's Poetry in Transit program.
Michele Landsberg is a Toronto-born journalist, author, and feminist activist.
Deanna McFadden's professional writing career has involved abridging classics for kids, publishing a few poems, writing some very odd short stories in university, hacking it up for the internet, and completing one unpublished novel. During work hours, she develops content and manages an ebook program for a very large publishing house. At home, she's happily embedded in a family unit that consists of one amazing boy and an equally amazing husband.
Maria Meindl is the author of Outside the Box: The Life and Legacy of Writer Mona Gould, the Grandmother I Thought I Knew, winner of the Alison Prentice Award for Women's History. "The Last Judgment" was published in 2011 by Found Press and "Rules" an essay in an anthology on death published by Creative Non Fiction. Her essays have appeared in The Literary Review of Canada, Descant, and Musicworks.
Saleema Nawaz is the author of the short story collection Mother Superior, which was shortlisted for the Quebec Writers' Federation Best First Book Prize. Her story "My Three Girls" won the Journey Prize in 2008, and her first novel, Bone and Bread, was published in 2013. Born and raised in Ottawa, Ontario, she currently lives and writes in Montreal, Quebec.Susan Olding's Pathologies: A Life in Essays won the Creative Nonfiction Collective's Readers' Choice Award for 2010. Her poetry and prose have appeared widely in magazines such as CV2, Event, the L.A. Review of Books, the New Quarterly, and the Utne Reader. She lives with her family in Kingston.
Alison Pick's most recent novel is Far to Go, winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award for fiction and nominated for the Man Booker Prize. Rights have been sold internationally and the book has been optioned for film. Pick was the 2002 Bronwen Wallace Award winner for most promising unpublished writer under 35 in Canada. She has published one other novel, The Sweet Edge, and two poetry collections, The Dream World and Question & Answer.
Heidi Reimer's short stories and essays have appeared in Literary Mama, Little Fiction, Stealing Time: A Literary Journal for Parents, Hip Mama, and Outcrops: Northeastern Ontario Short Stories. She is the co-creator with her husband Richard Willis of the solo show Strolling Player. She lives in Toronto with said husband and their two daughters.
Kerry Ryan is the author of two collections of poems, The Sleeping Life and Vs., which was shortlisted for the Acorn Plantos Award. She has had poems published in anthologies as well as a number of journals, including The New Quarterly, Prairie Fire, The Antigonish Review, and others. And now, suddenly, she is someone's mother.
Carrie Snyder is the author of two collections of short fiction, including The Juliet Stories, which was a finalist for Canada's 2012 Governor General's Award for Fiction. Her debut novel, Girl Runner, will be published in Canada by House of Anansi this fall. Carrie lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with her family. She blogs as Obscure CanLit Mama.
Patricia Storms is an award-winning cartoonist and author/illustrator of children's books and humour books. Her cartoons have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers, including Reader's Digest, The Town Crier, The National Post, The London Times, The London Evening Standard, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Canadian Notes and Queries. Her newest picture book, Never Let You Go, has been described as "profound" with "exuberant illustration
Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang is the author of the poetry books Status Update and Gerald Lampert Award-winning Sweet Devilry. She is also the author of several children's books, including A Flock of Shoes and Warriors and Wailers. Sarah's work has been published and translated internationally, as well as named to the OLA Best Bets for Children 2010, Best Books for Kids & Teens 2011 & 2012, and the Toronto Public Library's First and Best Book List (2012)
Priscilla Uppal is a Toronto poet, fiction writer, memoirist, essayist, playwright, and a Professor of English at York University. Among her publications are nine collections of poetry, most recently, Ontological, Traumatology, Successful Tragedies: Poems 1998-2010, Winter Sport: Poems and Summer Sport: Poems; the critically acclaimed novels The Divine Economy of Salvation and To Whom It May Concern; and the study We Are What We Mourn.
Julia Zarankin's stories and essays have appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Antioch Review, The Dalhousie Review, and The Globe and Mail. She was longlisted for a CBC Literary Award and was recently awarded a residency at the MacDowell Colony. In her former life (which ended in 2008), Julia worked as a Russian literature professor at the University of Missouri.