Mother, sister, daughter, lover: Stories (The Crossing Press feminist series)

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[PDF / Epub] ❤ Mother, sister, daughter, lover: Stories (The Crossing Press feminist series) ✅ Jan Clausen –
  • Unknown Binding
  • 136 pages
  • Mother, sister, daughter, lover: Stories (The Crossing Press feminist series)
  • Jan Clausen
  • English
  • 21 February 2019
  • 9780895940346

10 thoughts on “Mother, sister, daughter, lover: Stories (The Crossing Press feminist series)

  1. says:

    This book made me reflect a little on anthologies, as a form. I mean, I did really like this book (at least the first half - I felt the last three stories were weaker), but I felt that the fact that it was a series of short stories in an anthology meant that I enjoyed it less than I'd have enjoyed a novel on similar themes.

    There's a couple of reasons why I think this. The first one is that every story meant introducing an entirely new set of characters, and this was something I don't think she did very effectively, at least in the last three. For each of those stories, I spent quite a few pages puzzling over how each of the characters was supposed to relate to each other, and in the case of "Yellow Jackets", I never quite did work it out fully. Over the course of a novel, it would have been the same group of characters, and I'd only have to work out the puzzle once. And then the second reason why I didn't like the anthology format as much is that there was no compulsion to keep reading. After reading the first couple of stories, I didn't bother reading any more for months. I read the rest over the course of about a week, but it's such a short book, I could have read faster if I'd been compelled to. But when you're creating a new set of characters every twenty pages, it's hard to get invested in them, and you certainly can't be driven to keep reading out of passionate curiosity to see what happens next.

    So that's what I was thinking about the limitations of this form, but then there's more to say about this book beyond that.

    As I've probably mentioned, I really liked it. It's a collection of stories that seem pretty well based on the author's own experiences, or the experiences of people in her circle. Some of the characters I can recognise to a certain extent, like the left-wing organiser who calls you up to guilt-trip you into coming to this or that event, or people who think they're really progressive because they can talk about war or capitalism and patriarchy, when actually as people they're kind of shit. There are mothers who neglect their children, lovers who feud because one has joined a left-wing organisation so distanced from reality that it seems a bit cultish... and it goes.

    Anyway, I am a left-wing activist, so I don't really just want to rubbish on left-wing activism. The point I'm really trying to make is that there's a lot I could recognise in this book from my experiences, and it was an interesting read because there's really not many books that describe the same kinds of things. One of the characters even leafleted!! It was exciting stuff.

    I guess I just came away feeling that much as I enjoyed this, I might have enjoyed a novel on the same themes even more. I mean, she does keep coming back to the same archetypes - the annoying sanctimonious left-wing activist, the depressed single mum, the well-intentioned liberal who thinks radicals are a bit weird, the ten-year-old girl who has to fend for herself, this kind of thing. What limited information I've found through Google suggests that Clausen has also written novels though, and these are maybe some things I should seek out.

    I'm not sure how easy this book can be to find - I picked it up at a clearance sale where an entire bag of books went for a dollar. If you stumble across it though, it's well worth a read. Especially if you're familiar with the kinds of milieux she's writing about!

  2. says:

    This was very *interesting*. It didn't feel all that dated, surprisingly - noone has mobile phones, but in other respects, this could be many womens-activist-artsy centred communities I've brushed up against in my time. The opening story, 'Depending', didn't strike me as much in itself, save that it was a glorious depiction of what the post-L-Word generation call 'the Lesbian Web of Death'.

    I really liked 'Children's Liberation', perhaps simply because it wasn't what I had expected from a lesbian feminist writer: the daughter of a lesbian exercises the right to self-determination which her feminist mother insists she has, and ultimately moves in with her strict Catholic grandmother. The story didn't try to suggest this would be perfect for the girl in every way, but that it was what she needed *right then*, and it didn't shy away from her mother's failures as a parent.

    Speaking of failures as a parent, one reason I read this was because I read Clausen's memoir 'Apples & Oranges' and it mentioned this book being the catalyst for a massive Feminist Call-Out and shaming. Yup. There's a story where the entitled father claiming custody of a child for himself and his new wife is Jewish. That's... that's it. He's Jewish. A bunch of other people in this collection are Jewish, too! At no point did the story suggest that his Jewish racial or religious identity was the cause of his male entitlement - his investment in solemnised marriage, perhaps, but nothing about the way it was treated suggested his Jewish marriage was more evil than anyone's Christian marriage. So. There's that. Good to know the feminist movement has been tormenting its own with over-blown call-out frenzies since the 80s, I guess? (There *was* a story called Warsaw Ghetto that was not about the warsaw ghetto, or about anti-semitism, particularly. The protag was Jewish and the child of holocaust survivors, but I cannot see why the story has the title it does.)

    Perhaps my favourite story, 'Yellow Jackets', featured two old ladies gossiping about their grandchildren. One has an attentive granddaughter and keeps her close; another has a scattered family and feels watched, demanded of, by her children and grandchildren as much in her old age as she did when the children were young. I particularly liked the latter's description of her granddaughter the professor, who was doing oral history / anthropology work with older women, hovering around her grandmother with 'that same covetous look Rosemary had when she spied the set of Bauer dishes I have in the cupboard'. Her protest, to her friend, that she won't give an oral history, first because it's private, and second because the likes of her granddaughter first look down on her generation for having babies and housekeeping, then want to collect their stories for a tenure file... well. I feel like my mum might like that story, let us say.

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