... tremendous ... Phillips moves deftly through key moments in the lives of her subjects and asks of them (and us): How do you make time for, much less nurture, creativity in the face of parenting? ... Phillips is an expert distiller. Instead of developing complete portraits of the artists and writers, she works to connect themes and ideas. She knows when to tread lightly and keep the expository writing tight; she pulls examples that illustrate her points, leaving the reader hungry to dig further into novels and catalogs on their own ... Phillips’ book is not just a cultural history; it is a testament to endurance and devotion. The entwined work of mothering and creativity is a volatile but illuminating gift. Would that everyone could see it that way.
Phillips explores and explodes the interpenetrations among motherhood and authorship—as a profession and a passion—through analyses of women novelists ... Phillips’s book is engaging and accessible, especially when carefully discussing the private life of Lorde (a Black lesbian mother) and its influence on her writing; black-and-white portraits of the novelists are a highlight ... These constructions are far from new, yet Phillips’s powerfully researched, thoughtful, sensitive examinations will be of interest to literary scholars as well as to general readers grappling with their own oscillating creative and pragmatic selves.
Phillips’s insights—like the disconnect between a creative’s expectation of unbroken focus and the reality of mothering as a state of constant interruption—are essential, but stacks of quotes from famous writers, philosophers, psychoanalysts, and others turn into litanies. This book offers no formula for success, but identifies in its subjects a shared willingness to break with convention and expectation.