In this book-length essay, cultural critic Rose looks at literature, politics, and popular cultural to investigate the way Western society simultaneously romanticizes and vilifies mothers, making them into scapegoats for human failings.
As she makes clear in this book-length essay, Rose is a fearless and erudite thinker on the topic of womanhood in general and motherhood in particular ... Rose asks what it is about motherhood that is threatening to so many and why expectations for its success must be raised to such unassailable heights. Thoroughly literary and bracing in its intensity, Rose’s Mothers cannot be ignored.
Rose is a calm and stylish writer ... Mothers is a useful synthesis of and loving engagement with many of the writers who have shaped our thinking on motherhood—[Toni] Morrison, Simone de Beauvoir and Adrienne Rich, whose unsurpassed Of Woman Born (1976) is a template for Rose. Mothers follows the same arc, arguing for the radical potentialities in motherhood, how women’s initiation into the relentless, often invisible labor of caretaking produces not the solipsistic, bourgeois creature of myth but something close to the ideal citizen—more responsive to the community and naturally inclusive.
Since the imaginary order of motherhood is essentially an elaborate fiction, Rose routes her argument about the perversions of maternal love through representations of abject or homicidal mothers in fiction. The archive she draws from is rich and varied ... For Rose, the failures of mothers become legible as the failures of society at large, placing motherhood at the heart of contemporary debates over immigration policy and ethno-nationalism, racism and police brutality, and the future of the welfare state in the United States and United Kingdom ... Yet ... Rose at times seems so absorbed by her psychoanalytic approach that she ignores many of the structures of power that regulate how individual mothers move through the world ... Rose’s solution to the overtly political problems faced by mothers begins and ends with self-perception ... It is perhaps unfair to expect Mothers to provide a blueprint for the future, but then again, what else is a mother but a kind of soothsayer—someone whose sense of time is always forward-facing?