Sunday, May 12, 2013

What My Mother Gave Me by Elizabeth Benedict (TSS)

The Sunday

What My Mother Gave Me is a collection of essays edited by Elizabeth Benedict. In each essay, a woman writes about a gift given to them by their mother. These gifts are more than material -their value generally lies in the meaning and lesson beneath the object if one is given. In many of the stories, the relationship between mother and daughter is fraught but with distance there are still lessons to be learned. The collection is a tribute to motherhood and the varied ways in which women bring their own history to bear on the act of mothering.

 Each of the thirty-one essays in the collection is authored by an accomplished writer - contributors include Roxana Robinson, Lisa See and Joyce Carol Oates. In each essay, the author speaks of a gift given to them by their mother. In some cases, mother and daughter share a close relationship and the gift is lovingly appreciated both in reflection and when it was given. But in many more cases, the mother and daughter relationship was difficult and the gifts could only be appreciated upon reflection. There were a number of stories where a generational divide could be seen with a mother who placed traditional expectations on their daughter who was fighting to be anything but traditional. Often the daughter was surprised to realize her traditional mother actually respected the daughter's less than conventional decisions and enjoyed watching her daughter live a life not afforded to the mother.

Me and Mom - circa 1975
 This is not a sentimental collection (although a few stories did bring tears to my eyes) - emotions between a mother and daughter are strong and these essays do not sugarcoat that. They do, however, highlight the different ways in which women mother. Some women use a strong hand while others indulge their children; some face terrible odds with little support while others need tremendous support due to illness or affliction. In all cases, however, mothers impart tremendous lessons to their children and especially to their daughters. Those lessons are best learned in reflection and the authors of the essays in What My Mother Gave Me beautifully reflect on them. Their tributes make a wonderful gift for any mother.

Read about Elizabeth Benedict's inspiration for the collection and her own gift from her mother

 Happy Mother's Day!


  1. What a lovely book to review on Mother's Day. And I love your photo. What style! Quite the suit.

    1. Thanks Barbara! yes - definitely a lot of plaid!

  2. I love your photo too! And this sounds like a perfect gift to give my mom.

  3. What a lovely book to discuss on Mother's Day! Thanks for sharing it.

  4. It sounds like a lovely collection. The pic of you and your mom made me smile. I had a plaid pantsuit back in the late 70s :-)

  5. Sounds brilliant.
    I love the picture you included.

  6. What a perfect review for Mother's Day! And a great picture, too :-)

  7. Thanks so much for this incredibly thoughtful and generous review of my anthology. I'm touched you chose it and were so moved by it. Please consider posting a photo and story about a gift your mother gave you on the book's tumblr site, Or visit my website to learn more about it. Happy to send a signed bookplate if you wish. Much gratitude, Liz

  8. Colleen, thanks for stopping by and adding this to this month's "library". Cheers