Hello lovelies! How are you? I hope you’ve had a lovely Easter! I spent mine with my whole family at our mountain cabin, mostly skiing and reading, which was a lovely little break from social media. But I’m really excited to get back into blogging and catch up with everyone! I’m also really excited about today’s post, cause it’s part of something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I’ve been calling it the female gaze project in my head and basically, the plan is to engage with and highlight stories about women, created by women in a series of blog posts.
If you’re not familiar with the term the male gaze, this is what Wikipedia has to say:
“In feminist theory, the male gaze is the act of depicting women and the world, in the visual arts and in literature, from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer”
So in these post I’m going to be talking about stories (books, shows, movies etc.) that do the opposite of that. Stories written or created by women. Stories that explore a variety of themes from a female perspective. The first theme is mothers and daughters, because that seemed like very natural place to start.
Far from the Tree by Robin Benway
Far From the Tree is the story of three biological siblings, Gracie, Maya and Juaquin, who were all given up for adoption by their birth mother and only reconnect as teens.
Gracie’s story is the most relevant to this theme, since she has just become a mother herself and chosen to give her daughter up for adoption.The emotional aftermath of that decision is shown with a lot of honesty and feeling.
But the theme of motherhood is also explored through the three siblings’ complicated relationships with their respective adopted/foster moms, and their shifting feelings towards the biological mother who gave them up.
I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This by Nadja Spiegelman
When I’m pushing this book on people I like to call it an “edgy, real life Gilmore Girls set in Paris” and I’m not wrong.
Nadja Spiegelman is the daughter of Maus-author Art Spiegelman and The New Yorker editor Françoise Mouly. Her debut book is a memoir about mothers and daughters, which is extra interesting considering her father most famous work Maus is centered around his relationship with his father. The opening lines give you a great glimpse at Nadja’s relationship with her mother:
When I was a child, I knew that my mother was a fairy. Not the kind of fairy with gauzy wings and a magic wand, but one with a thrift-store fur coat and ink-stained fingers. There was nothing she couldn’t do.
Spiegelman also explores her mother and grandmother’s fraught relationship and chronicles her own attempts at navigating their conflicting stories with so much honesty and empathy. I’m not a big reader of memoirs, but I found this one enthralling. I was completely immersed in the lives of these formidable women.
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Ingrid and Astrid are one of the most fascinating mother-daughter duo’s in fiction. Ingrid, the mother, is a poet who’s incarcerated for killing her lover, and Astrid, the daughter, is coming of age while being sent from foster home to foster home. Their relationship is very manipulative. It’s built on lies and myths, passed down from Ingrid to Astrid, but also conjured in Astrid’s mind where her mother becomes at times an unstoppable, untamable force – a viking goddess of death and beauty. There’s nothing healthy about their dynamic, but that’s what makes it so compelling to read about.
I’ve rarely, if ever, read a book with such a wide range of female characters. There’s Ingrid and Astrid of course, but there’s also all the different maternal figures Astrid meet in her different foster homes. Some more nurturing than others. It’s a breath of fresh air to read a book that centers the female experience and women’s relationships with each other so completely.
Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga
At first glance you might think this is a book about fathers and daughters and you wouldn’t be wrong. It does follows the protagonist, Taliah, as she goes on a trip with the rockstar father she’s never known, to meet her paternal grandfather before he passes away. But while Taliah’s spending her time reconnecting with her father, the reader gets to spend an equal amount of time connecting with her mother. The story’s split into two separate narratives and timelines, one follows Taliah on her roadtrip, the other follows her mother on an even bigger journey, as she emigrates from Jordan to the US to study and meets Talliah’s father for the first time. I absolutely loved the way this story was told, it was so interesting to see Taliah’s parents meet and fall in love, knowing how their story turned out and seeing the parallels between mother and daughter at similar moments in their lives was lovely.
The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis
This beautiful and heartbreaking family saga from Uruguay is the real definition of a hidden gem.
It follows three generations of wonderful women from one fascinating family during pivotal moments in their lives. We see them grow up, find their voices, fall in love and make the choices that will shape their destinies and change their lives. Each woman has her own section, which all have their uniquely distinct flavors: there’s the almost mythical tale of the mysterious Pajarita; her daughter Eva’s passionate pursuit of love and poetry and the thrilling tale of her granddaughter Salomé’s political involvement amid the violent turmoil of the late 1960s. I have a hard time getting invested in family sagas, cause I get too attached to characters and struggle with the shifts between generations. But in this book? I love all three women equally and found their stories equally engaging.
TV & MOVIES
Name a more iconic mother-daughter duo. I’ll wait… Gilmore Girls means a lot to me, for a lot of reasons. I grew up watching (and rewatching) it with my mom and our love for the show has become a natural part of our relationship. We quote the show (Oy, with the poodles already), text each other gifs, discuss our favorite boyfriends and rewatch our favorite episodes all the time. Since my mom’s always been my best friend and we do pretty much everything together – I find Lorelai and Rory’s super strong bond very relatable.
Miles from the idyllic symbiosis of the Gilmore Girls, Ladybird is a nuanced and realistic exploration of a conflicted mother-daughter relationship. Ladybird and her mother mean well, most of the time, and seem to genuinely love and care about each other. Their inability to express their love in a tangible way, which is captures in the movies most poignant moments, creates a barrier they can’t seem to break through.
Freaky Friday offers another conflicted mother-daughter relationship, but in a much more light hearted and fun filled packaging. Tess and Anna are arguing during a family dinner at a Chinese restaurant, then they eat a magical fortune cookie and switch bodies for a day, as one does. Having to juggle each others busy lives leads to lots of awkward moments and of course, new found understanding and insight. It’s cheesy and silly, but so fun. Plus, it’s peak Lindsay Lohan. So much nostalgia!
What’s your favorite stories about mothers and daughters?
If any of you guys want to participate, whether it’s by reading books or watching movies created by women, sharing your recommendations in the comments or writing your own post – you’re more than welcome to. It would be lovely if this little celebration of female voices to be bigger than just me and I’d love to hear your thoughts and perspectives!