Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty (Paperback)
A daring and provocative book-length essay on why we both romanticize and vilify mothers
A simple argument guides this book: motherhood is the place in our culture where we lodge, or rather bury, the reality of our own conflicts. By making mothers the objects of both licensed idealization and cruelty, we blind ourselves to the world’s iniquities and shut down the portals of the heart.
Mothers are the ultimate scapegoat for our personal and political failings, for everything that is wrong with the world, which becomes their task (unrealizable, of course) to repair. Moving commandingly between pop cultural references such as Roald Dahl’s Matilda to insights on motherhood in the ancient world and the contemporary stigmatization of single mothers, Jacqueline Rose delivers a groundbreaking report into something so prevalent we hardly notice.
Mothers is an incisive, rousing call to action from one of our most important contemporary thinkers.
"Jacqueline Rose’s Mothers has already joined the canon of nonfiction books I hold most dear. This is in part because of the importance and luminous clarity of Rose’s argument, and in part because of the supremely intelligent and graceful prose in which she delivers it. Her writing here feels somehow both laser-focused in its analyses, and loose, roving, free. Her book distills a lifetime of psychoanalytic, literary, and political engagement into a fierce, generous study of human complexity—one which pushes us to reckon with the urgent question of how we might stop 'tearing mothers and the world to pieces.'" —Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts
"A sort of Rosetta Stone for the moment that examines the particular mix of fascination and dread that mothers engender . . . Rose is a calm and stylish writer whose rangy essays . . . have become indispensable reading during the current reckoning around power and sexuality." —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
"Rose is, as ever, devastating in her elegance and striking in her ingenuity . . . Running throughout the book is the conviction that, in matters of both self and state, the boundaries between inside and outside are violent and blurred—a riddle for which mothers are the impossible key.” —Tobi Haslett, Bookforum
"Mothers is a passionate polemic . . . Rose's intellectual range is dazzling." —The Economist
"Dismantling the ideal is Jacqueline Rose’s purpose in Mothers . . . Searching always calmly and intelligently for reasons behind extreme feelings, Rose draws on a wide range of literary and philosophical sources." —Ruth Scurr, The Times Literary Supplement (London)
"As a literary scholar and psychoanalytic thinker, Rose has long insisted that we pay close attention to the subterranean fears, fantasies, and narratives that structure our most pressing sociopolitical problems . . . I was grateful to Rose for giving voice to [the] conflicted realities [of motherhood], for inviting her reader to acknowledge them without fear or shame . . . She had positioned herself as a mother to mothers, ready to soothe all of us who felt like we were constantly failing." —Merve Emre, The Nation
"Compelling . . . [Rose] has a dazzling imaginative range and is fluent in many disciplines . . . Rose is one of our most passionate and intuitive delvers, and she has brought back from the molten core of the deep dark places a fine book, another urgent feminist appeal for cultural change, before it is too late." —Susan McKay, The Irish Times
"Wide-ranging and incisive." —Hannah Beckerman, The Guardian
"Nuanced . . . Mothers is giving me another lens through which to think about individual and collective responsibility." Kika Sroka-Miller, The Bookseller
"Rose is a fearless and erudite thinker . . . Thoroughly literary and bracing in its intensity, Rose's Mothers cannot be ignored." —Booklist
"[Rose] seeks to understand exactly what is being asked of mothers on a daily basis and to distill those demands into succinct causalities . . . For those readers interested not just in feminist theory, but also gender theory as it relates to parenting, this will be a rewarding reading experience. Clever, insightful essays on motherhood as 'the ultimate scapegoat for our personal and political failings.'" —Kirkus
"Intellectually rigorous . . . Readers of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts will be drawn to Rose’s rumination." —Publishers Weekly
"Jacqueline Rose’s book tore me apart, reminding me of things I would rather forget . . . Rose [is] one of our very best cultural critics . . . The book excels in brilliant psychoanalytical readings on the ways that the interiority of motherhood is silenced . . . This is a book of pain, joy and brutality, a howl of anger." —Suzanne Moore, The New Statesman (UK)