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Susan Ito trying to do it all: reading writing mothering spousing daughtering working living

Thursday, November 10, 2005

It's A Boy! Book Tour

I'm pleased to be hosting a new book, It's A Boy! on its national blog book tour. I actually have a piece in the book, which may come as a surprise to those of you who know I have two daughters. The essay I wrote is about Samuel, the son we lost to pre-eclampsia in my sixth month of pregnancy. I often think about what life would have been like if he had survived. We would have had a completely different family. (oddly, I could not somehow bring myself to write or submit anything for the "It's A Girl!" book -- the material was too close to be able to say anything coherent about it) When the book arrived in the mail last week, I was so excited, but when I re-read the piece, which looked so beautiful all laid out, I was also newly devastated. I'd been eager to participate in readings for this anthology, but now I don't know if I could really manage to read this piece out loud.

Anyway, I hope those of you with boys, or without boys, or those who used to be boys, will read this book. I'm really looking forward to diving into it.

Here is the book's introduction, and
here is an interview with the editor, Andi Buchanan http://www.andibuchanan.com/qanda.html

The list of writers contributing to the book:
Stephany Aulenback, Karen Bender, Kathryn Black, Robin Bradford, Gayle Brandeis, Faulkner Fox, Katie Allison Granju, Ona Gritz, Gwendolen Gross, Melanie Lynn Hauser, Marrit Ingman, Susan Ito, Suzanne Kamata, Katie Kaput, Jennifer Lauck, Caroline Leavitt, Jody Mace, Jennifer Margulis, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Catherine Newman, Sue O'Doherty, Marjorie Osterhout, Jamie Pearson, Lisa Peet, Jodi Picoult, Maura Rhodes, Rochelle Shapiro, Kate Staples, and Marion Winik.

Some questions and answers:

From Rebecca Steinitz, contributor to the "It's a Girl" book:
Q: As you read through piles of manuscripts from mothers of boys, did you find any consistent threads? Anything surprising?
A: I was surprised by the sheer volume of pieces I got on wanting to have a daughter instead of a son. Of course, I had felt that way myself when I was pregnant and had been so attached to the idea of having two girls, but I hadn't encountered too many people in my real life who felt the same. So I surprised to get so many essays on being the reluctant mother of a son.

From Sandra of the blog Dance As If Nobody's Watching (http://www.coloransas.com/sbh.html):
Q: What seems to be the biggest thematic difference between boy-centric concerns and girl-centric concerns?
A: For both the Boy book and the Girl book, I received many essay submissions from writers who were conflicted about the sex of their baby, something I came to call "prenatal gender apprehension." But the concerns of writers in It's a Boy were about the otherness of the male gender: What the heck do you do with a boy? Some of the writers in It's a Girl ask a similar question about raising their daughters, but what prompts that question is not the fear of an unknown gender, but of knowing it all too well. Also, in Boy, writers talked about the act of separation -- letting go of teenagers and a mother's changing role as her child becomes an adult. This separation, though, was mainly about adolescents. But in It's a Girl, writers wrestled with letting go of daughters who were five, eight, nine, teenagers, grown women. Clearly – in these collections, at least -- identification and separation between mothers and daughters is a different terrain from that of mothers and sons.

From Shannon at Peter's Cross Station (http://lilysea.blogs.com/peterscrossstation/):
Q: When I first heard about the project, it sounded like yet another opportunity to make stereotyped claims about gender in children. How have you been able to avoid falling into that old rut? How did you manage to do something new in this book (these books)?
A: Well, as I said in my original call for submissions, my whole idea with this book was to refute the gender stereotypes about boys and girls, and to explore whether or not those stereotypes really exist in actual boys and girls through essays by thoughtful writers. For the BOY book, I was specifically looking for pieces that questioned the cultural assumptions we have about boys -- whether the essayists ultimately embraced the stereotypes or rejected them was not as important to me as whether or not the writers wrestled with them in the first place. So the BOY book has pieces about a mother being surprised by a son's love, since what she experienced with her son ran counter to her expectations of what a boy would be like; about a transsexual mother grappling with how to raise her son in the face of everyone's attitude that her mere presence tips the scale in the direction of him being gay; about a woman nurturing her son's desire for soft, pretty things, even though a part of her wants to protect him from the harsh, messy world that will surely not be so kind; about boys who defy stereotypes, boys who fit them, and the way mothers adjust their expectations to fit the reality of who their sons are.

From Marjorie at MomBrain (http://www.mombrain.com):
A: You have a son and a daughter. How have these projects changed your feelings about mothering a son and mothering a daughter?
Q: I think the experience of having a boy and girl has probably changed my feelings more than working on these projects has. Pre-kid I was a big nurture versus nature proponent, but now having two kids and seeing how different they are, I am more prepared to believe that children pretty much come as they are – both of mine were born with their temperaments, and I feel like my work with them is to help them either cope with that temperament or embrace it. (And that's how I think of the differences between them, by the way, as differences due to temperament, not necessarily gender.) But working on the books did give me a wonderful chance to read so many people's stories about their lives as mothers of boys or mothers of girls, and I found these tales of varied experience quite absorbing. I did come away from these projects with the distinct impression that mothering a girl can be somewhat more . . . intense or personal than mothering a boy. There's something about raising a girl that makes a mother have to confront her own girlness, and brings up her relationship with her own mother. That kind of intergenerational fraughtness just doesn't seem to be there with mothers of boys – at least in the stories in my book.


Blogger Masha said...

Very much want to read this book, Susan.

Friday, November 11, 2005 6:56:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to reading the book too. There's an article on HealthScout that talks about a new test to predict preclamsia: http://www.healthscout.com/news/1/8010993/main.html and interviews a mom who lost a baby to it as well. I can only think that would be so incredibly devastating. A sadness that never fully leaves you.

Friday, November 11, 2005 8:12:00 PM

Blogger Susan said...

Dear anonymous, you have no idea what strange comfort you just gave me. I went to that link on HealthScout and read the article you mentioned. And these words really hit me:

I remember that my blood pressure was 200 over 100," she says. At 26 weeks, she gave birth to Myles. He lived just 20 days.

Our Samuel was at 24 weeks gestation, but only 22 weeks in size because of my condition. My blood pressure was way over 200, and my kidneys were failing. We would have had to wait a minimum of 3-4 weeks for him to be even remotely viable. I've held onto this notion that "if only" I could have hung until until 26 weeks, it would have all been OK. But this little quote is a reminder that a much more heartbreaking scenario could have happened, even if we could have waited that long. Oddly enough, this has helped remind me that our situation was so dire and that there was truly nothing "better" we could have done. Whomever you are, thank you.

Friday, November 11, 2005 11:34:00 PM

Blogger Patry Francis said...

Great interview, Susan. Raising sons is an amazing experience--especially for someone like me who never had brothers. I'm so grateful that there is now a book like this.

Sunday, November 13, 2005 8:04:00 PM

Blogger expatmama said...

Beautiful, heartbreaking essay, Susan.

Thursday, November 17, 2005 1:49:00 PM

Blogger Susan said...

Thank you, Patry and Kate. Your words mean a lot.

Saturday, November 19, 2005 10:38:00 PM

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