What role does a mother play in raising thoughtful, generous children? In her literary debut, internationally award-winning writer Courtney Zoffness considers what we inherit from generations past--biologically, culturally, spiritually--and what we pass on to our children. Where is the line between privacy and secrecy? How do the stories we tell inform who we become?
... beyond simple conclusions about mother/child relationships, Zoffness’s work allows us a window into the experience of how we both inherit and pass on different parts of ourselves. She explores one son’s need for power and the potential traps of interpretation she falls into when trying to see his role-playing through adult eyes. Through explication of the history she shares with her mother, she examines the guarded nature of artists, and how sharing her mom’s creative traits means that she never really gets let into her mother’s world. Zoffness asks important questions about her body in particular — what it holds, how it is able to bring life into the world, and how she can create art with it ... Essays like Holy Body demonstrate Zoffness’s ease with language and the way she honors her reader by trusting her to draw her own conclusions. Zoffness braids several narrative lines together within the same essay. Her work lends itself to inspiring questions rather than providing answers.
... a powerful exploration of a range of experiences that many women face viewed through a Jewish lens ... Zoffness’s honest, contemplative essays regarding white privilege and racism and the way society encourages a desire for power and control in young boys make this book extremely relevant and highly engaging ... full of acute observations that any woman and mother will find relatable.
Fears, loves, doubts, and desires garner fuller significance through highly self-aware, highly intricate modes of retrospection and introspection. With heart and skill, Zoffness is also able to extend the topic of conversation well beyond the domestic, framing her own daily struggles with global concerns. Even amidst worldwide instability, each essay steadfastly relies upon a kind of paradoxical bedrock of uncertainty, honesty, and vulnerability ... Her discoveries jolt both writer and reader into deeper consideration of these ongoing worldwide crises ... Throughout the collection, Zoffness appeals to similar types of transparency: the role of the writer with reference to the reader and vice versa. Zoffness forgoes the formalities and allows the reader to glimpse her process, a style that fosters empathy, connection, rapport. Perhaps the greatest strength of Spilt Milk is the way Zoffness approaches the very form itself—the essay as art-in-progress, as an open line of communication between writer and reader ... Zoffness, with compassionate clarity, exposes herself—her worst fears, her best hopes—to expose her art.