Mothering Through Pain and Suffering in Silence: A Collection of Stories from Survivors (The Haven Publishing), prose and poetry edited by Jasmine Tane’t Boudah, is a true find that will benefit readers regardless of gender. That in and of itself makes this impassioned, eloquently articulate anthology a profoundly rewarding breath of fresh air.
The advent of spoken word open mics at clubs and cafés, along with the proliferation of Internet self-publishing, has spawned a vitriolic free-for-all by which any female with an imagined axe to grind can hop on a soapbox to spitefully harangue men in strutting, swaggering self-congratulation for being born a woman.
Mothering Through Pain conversely, thankfully, presents, yes, a powerfully fierce voice but not out of arbitrary or gratuitous spite. Make no mistake — there quite understandably is anger on these pages. However, it first and foremost speaks to, in fact declares, self-empowerment.
The fire here, keenly focused, rages against those who, plainly put, should catch hell. Starting with a society that ever since slavery has envied sisters their unique vitality while at the same time obscuring their femininity and, in actuality, their very humanity.
As the introduction states, these are “life experiences as Black wombmen combatting what has been coined and continually normalized and reinforced as the ‘Black superwoman’…archetypes.” It adds, “This strips us of our right to choose our role in society.” And a Malcolm X quote furthers the point: “The most disrespected…unprotected person in America is the Black woman.”
Herein, the authors do a fine, page-turning job of respecting and protecting themselves. Not demonizing Black men wholesale, nonetheless holding accountable those who historically victimize Black women and girls just as badly, if not more ruthlessly, than racism ever could, betraying them from within the very same community.
After all, no one can hurt you to your soul like he to whom you turn to for love and trust. As well, there is in these pens, the power of transcending life’s bitterest lessons to emerge positive, stronger still and, paramount, salvage self-love.
Two disquieting aspects these writers courageously confront are dead center at the heart of grassroot families and, thereby, the very core of their communities. One is fatherless families with man-less women sustaining self-worth, in which children are left to find male role models in rap videos and the street corner.
As well, as Rashena D. Johnson relates in “Memoirs of an Ebony Mother,” frequently there’s no real female guidance, girls become moms before they’re ready to actually be women, themselves. “My mother and I often didn’t get along when I became a teenager. As a young mother, herself, she did not have the emotional support she needed and, sadly, she didn’t know how to give that to me.”
It was far from easy, dealing with her demons, including at one point daily drinking, but at length she garnered the strength of purpose to not only persevere but prevail. She states, “I learned to be gentle with myself and to design my life in a way that joy can always be found. I learned to pay attention to my own energy and that allowed me to tune into my children’s as well.”
Another aspect is the catastrophic effect of crack on the very quality of existence. Boudah’s “Blissfully Falling into Oblivion and Existing without Reciprocity: Motherhood Was My Saving Grace” attests, “I am the culmination of a union that was purely sexual to say the least. A product of long nights, acts of adultery, the abuse of crack cocaine and a mother’s desire to have a beautiful Black child she hoped would gain her access into the loving Black family unit and present a love of her own to ease the desires of her lonely heart.
“Unfortunately, although my mother loved me something fierce and with every inch of her tattered soul, she struggled terribly with a spiritual hold in the form of an addition to crack. Just like my father….” It concludes, “Mya is my revolution and I have to be around to see her grow and blossom and to pass on the knowledge that she is never alone. Black motherhood is revolutionary and I’m learning to do it differently with her so that the cycle does not repeat itself. I’ll bend, but I’ll never break…Ashé.”
Motherhood repeatedly proves its own salvation, time and time again inspiring valiant fortitude where static thinking would expect miserable failure. At the length, the stories told in Mothering Through Pain and Suffering in Silence must be taken in and well heeded.
For more book info, visit https://motheringthroughpain.weebly.com. For more on author Jasmine Tane’t Boudah read “Silent no more: Local author gives voice to pain of Black mothers” by Brandi Phillips.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Minneapolis, MN 55403.