Wednesday, May 4, 2011

MOM : A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps - Book Review

I heard the quick and familiar knock on the door a few weeks ago. The UPS delivery man was already walking back to his truck when I opened the front door and found another package on my porch. I opened the package to discover an absolutely beautiful book. The cover was red and the simple title in white caught my eye -- MOM.

  How could I resist this book? The answer is simple. I couldn't.

MOM : A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps edited by Dave Isay is a delightful collection of interviews about mothers.

I rarely listen to NPR so I was unfamiliar with StoryCorps. According to the introduction in the book, several years ago StoryCorps set up a small recording studio in Grand Central Station and then in other public places around the country. They were hoping that people would venture inside, interview each other and share their personal stories. The project was remarkably successful.

This book is a collection of thoughts, feelings and stories about moms that were gleaned from these interviews. When I first received the book, I read a quick story here and there when I had a spare moment. Today, I planned to do the same. Read a few stories. I became so engrossed and emotionally involved that I read the entire book from cover to cover. I became choked up at several of the stories and the words of love for their children and for their mothers really touched my heart. The book is also filled with simple words of wisdom.

Pam and Dan Pisner talk to their daughter about the decision to continue with the pregnancy after learning that Pam, using fertility treatments, was carrying quintuplets. Dan says:
"And then after you babies were born we were very busy, but we weren't doing any of those other things, and in fact could not even remember what those things were. But it wasn't important to us. What was important to us now was just being with you guys. Those other things must have been time fillers--because this is the real deal!"(pg. 75)
Tia Casciato Smallwood tells her daughter about her feeling of ending her cherished career to be at home with her young children. She says:

"...I don't think I learned how to be a real human being until I was with my children and suffered with them and watched what they go through. You would give up anything for them.  You would give up your life, your career, and your home. You unconditionally love them, and I think that is what made my life complete. So I never regretted it." (pg. 84)

Roselyn Payne Epps, a pediatrician, talks with her daughter, also a pediatrician. Roselyn says:

"You all have done very well. But I take no credit and I take no blame. People say, 'Aren't you proud?' My mother always said, 'Don't be proud; just be thankful.' So when you were coming along, I said 'I won't take credit because I'm not going to take blame either!'" (pg. 42)
Sisters express their love and memories for their mother who recently passed away after a battle with cancer. A birth mother tells her son the story of his adoption. A mother talks with her two daughters - one adopted and the other biological - about how she loves them both dearly. A son expresses his relief that he and his mother were reconciled before her death. A mother talks about her son who gave his life as a soldier.

The stories tap honest and deep emotion because they are true. As the people pour out their deepest feelings to family members that they trust, one can read into their very souls.

MOM : A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps would make a perfect gift and is in every way an expression of the amazing and tender emotions that mothers have for their children and children for their mothers.

StoryCorps also reminds us to take the time to interview and record for posterity the memories, thoughts and words of wisdome of our family members. The book includes questions that can initiate conversation, such as "What was the happiest time in your life?" or "How has your life been different than you imagined it?"

My grandfather was a storyteller. As a child, I loved to sit at his knee as he spun the yarns of his exciting life (some were probably slightly exaggerated). When I was in college, I bought dozens of blank tapes with the intent of recording his stories. But he was too sick by then to talk for long periods. The coughing would wear him out. He gave me a notebook that he had filled with his handwritten tales that I treasure but it is not the same thing as hearing his voice. And then he passed away.

In the words of Dave Isay, the editor, "Don't wait."

I received a free copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. No additional compensation was received.


Anonymous said...

Don't you just LOVE it when a book pulls you in like this one did?! I'm not familiar with StoryCorps either but I think the project is fascinating. I'm so glad the book was such a great read!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.

Unknown said...

Ok, Ms. Thang -- was this a commissioned book review? And, if so, how the heck did you get to do it?

Sounds like a great book! Yeah!