Anthology editor Michele Filgate reads from and discusses What My Mother and I Don't Talk About, in conversation with Laura van den Berg.
As an undergraduate, Michele Filgate started writing an essay about being abused by her stepfather. It took her more than a decade to realize what she was actually trying to write: how this affected her relationship with her mother. When it was finally published, the essay went viral, shared on social media by Anne Lamott, Rebecca Solnit, and many others. The outpouring of responses gave Filgate an idea, and the resulting anthology offers a candid look at our relationships with our mothers.
While some of the writers in this book are estranged from their mothers, others are extremely close. Leslie Jamison writes about trying to discover who her seemingly perfect mother was before ever becoming a mom. In Cathi Hanauer’s hilarious piece, she finally gets a chance to have a conversation with her mother that isn’t interrupted by her domineering (but lovable) father. André Aciman writes about what it was like to have a deaf mother. Melissa Febos uses mythology as a lens to look at her close-knit relationship with her psychotherapist mother. And Julianna Baggott talks about having a mom who tells her everything.
As Filgate writes, “Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we’re always trying to return to them.” There’s relief in breaking the silence. Acknowledging what we couldn’t say for so long is one way to heal our relationships with others and, perhaps most important, with ourselves.
Contributors include Cathi Hanauer, Melissa Febos, Alexander Chee, Dylan Landis, Bernice L. McFadden, Julianna Baggott, Lynn Steger Strong, Kiese Laymon, Carmen Maria Machado, André Aciman, Sari Botton, Nayomi Munaweera, Brandon Taylor, and Leslie Jamison.
Michele Filgate’s work has appeared in Longreads; The Washington Post; the Los Angeles Times; The Boston Globe; The Paris Review Daily; Tin House; Gulf Coast; O, The Oprah Magazine; BuzzFeed; Refinery29; and many other publications. Currently, she is an MFA student at NYU, where she is the recipient of the Stein Fellowship. She’s a contributing editor at Literary Hub and teaches at the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop and Catapult. What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About is her first book.
Laura van den Berg’s most recent novel, The Third Hotel, was an ABA IndieNext Pick, named a best book of 2018 by over a dozen outlets, and is currently a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award. She is also the author of one previous novel, Find Me, and two story collections. Laura currently lives in Cambridge, MA, with her husband and dog, and is a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard. Her next story collection, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, is forthcoming from FSG in 2020.