Not understanding what you have until you lose it is a bitter feeling. But losing something you’ve always recognized as important leaves a unique wound. The Mason House is a wonderfully vivid memoir painting the likeness of a young woman and her family dealing with that wound and doing their very best from allowing it to fester. And similarly to the many others who have and still must do the same, Marie and her family members struggle to adapt.
Loss is the key emotion of The Mason House and the author, T. Marie Bertineau, makes us clearly understand her loss of her “Gramma,” the owner of The Mason House, by showing us who Gramma was through her own eyes. Bertineau is great at presenting instantly recognizable people. And the picture she paints of Gramma is one of a genuine, if not often harsh, person with woods lady wisdom. A cool, sometimes enigmatic woman who is worth inheriting some personality from.
On her dedication page, Cherene Sherrard indicates her poetry collection, Grimoire, is “[f]or the mothers.” I am left with the following question: what makes a mother a “mother?” Is it the nine months of carrying a child in the womb, giving birth, and then raising said child? Or is it simply the act of loving a child, despite not ever meeting them due to gestation or birth complications?
I ask this question because many of the speakers in Grimoire are childless, either due to miscarriages, complications, or stillbirths. Are they included in Sherrard’s dedication to “mothers”? Can they even be considered mothers without living children? These mothers in Grimoire, who have lost their babies, are Black mothers in America, and for many, they have lost their babies due to factors out of their control such as miscarriages and institutionalized racism.
“There are two things that happen when someone is trying to decide [...] where they are going to put your otherness,” Marra B. Gad writes in her new book The Color of Love. “For some, there is a blankness in the eyes that takes over, as if they are lost in thought,” but for others, “there is an immediate narrowing, a sharpness that engages. And it is because they don’t need to think.” For Marra, these two reactions encompassed much of her world. In the prologue, Marra describes her background as a mixed Jewish woman, half white and half black, who was adopted by a Jewish family in 1970. To Marra, the labels she identifies with don’t matter, shouldn’t matter, yet, “For many, identity is literally a black-and-white matter.” Something that is, or isn’t.
A Deep Dive Into Familial Relationships
Review: The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish
Two Dollar Radio, pp. 353
Cost: $16.99 (paperback)
In Katya Apekina’s novel The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, relationships are used to emphasize characterization and create drama within the story. In particular, the novel examines father-daughter relationships, mother-daughter relationships, husband-wife relationships, and artist-muse relationships. Told through numerous first person accounts in the form of narratives, letters, phone conversations, and interviews, Apekina provides the reader with an in depth, up-close look at the intimate intricacies of these relationships and their meanings. The unique structure of this novel allows the reader to see each character’s internal and external struggles and conflicts. These accounts in various forms help create strong characterization and drama within the story.
Humanity has long searched for meaning and truth by looking toward the stars. Poets Steven and Benjamin Ostrowski believe we only need to look within ourselves. This father and son team present what they’ve learned and what they seek to know in their new book Penultimate Human Constellation: A Father and Son Converse in Poems (2018, Tolsun Books). Less an epistolary narrative and more like a private conversation over a long sleepless night, the Ostrowskis embark on their unique quest. We become privy to their efforts.