Monday, June 4, 2007

Book club, part 3: Baby Love

What I disliked about Rebecca Walker's Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence

Where to start?

1. Her meandering. I don't need to know about the trials of her hot water heater and the moths that ate half her wardrobe. That's great if she enjoyed steak and spinach and salad and mint chocolate ice cream. But why am I reading about it?

2. Her astonishing self-involvement. Walker treats her pregnancy as if it were an international event. (Predictably, this bit raised my blood pressure: upon being told a friend had a miscarriage, she declares, "Well, I'm not going to be having one of those, thank you very much!" Lucky you.) Lucky for her, she's able to take time off from her work when she needs to. She has the money to buy anti-stretch mark potion number 59. She has the luxury to interview multiple doulas.

3. Her assumptions. Yes, I know her mother is Alice Walker. But does every reader? It's not mentioned anywhere in the book. Might have been nice to go beyond describing her mother as simply a writer and mention, say, that she won a Pulitzer Prize, or something.

4. Her subtitle, "choosing motherhood after a lifetime of ambivalence." This so-called ambivalence is a central tenet of Baby Love, but I have some news for Walker: I don't think she was nearly as ambivalent about having a child as she thinks she was. She tried getting pregnant in a previous relationship, she considered having a child with a male lover. That doesn't sound like ambivalence: it sounds like a combination of luck and good, old-fashioned family planning.

5. Her obfuscation. One section talks about her several-year romance with the mother of Solomon, a boy she helped raise. Another section talks about her several-year romance with an unfaithful rock star -- a woman who's a mother, but doesn't necessarily seem to be the mother of Solomon. Only she must be, given that Walker and I are the same age, and there's no way she had two eight-year relationships since graduating college by the time she wrote this book. What's more, many of us know this mysterious mother-of-Solomon/rock star to be Me'shell Ndegeocello. Why does she bandy about her hematocrit numbers and mother drama but refuse to name her ex?

6. If the answer to the last question is because of Solomon, I have to ask, if Walker is so concerned about Solomon knowing his mother was unfaithful, how will he feel when he reads this much-discussed section?

"It's not the same. I don't care how close you are to your adopted son or beloved stepdaughter, the love you have for your nonbiological child isn't the same as the love you have for your own flesh and blood. It's different."

This feels like a giant fuck-you not only to Solomon but to millions of parents -- including many lesbian and gay parents -- around the world. Walker may feel this way, but who the hell is she to make that pronouncement for all adoptive and non-biological parents everywhere?

I read this statement to a friend who has two children; she gave birth to one, and her partner birthed the other. She responded, "I don't know what you're talking about. Both my children are my biological children." I imagine many other parents would agree.


bleu said...

I saw and interview with her about this book. I truly believe the only reason this book got any media attention at all wasn't even because of who her mother was or who her ex was, it was for that one line. It almost came across ascontrived for the sake of publicity in the interview, but I did not read the book. It seems to me she states she doesn't love Solomon as she should, then she shows it by what she write about his bio mom and about her feelings for him. She is also estranged from her mother, completely apparently.

birdy.j said...

I am so happy to read this- my thoughts EXACTLY!