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Motherloss /
Lynn Davidman.
Berkeley, Calif. : University of California Press, c2000.
xiv, 293 p.
0520223195 (hardcover : alk. paper)
More Details
Berkeley, Calif. : University of California Press, c2000.
0520223195 (hardcover : alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Lynn Davidman is Associate Professor of American Civilization, Judaic Studies, and Women's Studies at Brown University.
Flap Copy
"Lynn Davidman has written a courageous and important book about the impact of losing one's mother at an early age. Courageous because this is painful material--no one who reads it can help but recall their own mother's passing, even if not at an early age--and important because it seems there are few, if any, other books like it."--Virginia Olesen, University of California, San Francisco "This is an interesting, important, well-written book on a profoundly moving subject."--Barbara Katz Rothman, author ofGenetic Maps and Human Imaginations "This is an important contribution to our understanding of the social construction of personal loss. It's an absorbing read and a vivid, often poignant, description of the response to mother loss. Motherloss is a real find for anyone interested in the importance of mothering."-- Arlene Kaplan Daniels, Northwestern University "Sociology should focus on the most important human experiences, and Lynn Davidman gives us a sensitive account of the experience of losing one's mother. She shows that a sociology focused on meaning and identity best enables us to understand the personally unique experience of this loss for any individual without losing the shared cultural and social context in which such loss is also given form."--Nancy Chodorow, author ofThe Power of Feelings
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2000-04-15:
This book is based on Davidman's qualitative research of 60 people whose mothers died when they were adolescents. A major portion of this work focuses on her retelling and interpretation of ten interviewees' stories. Rather than breaking up the narratives to form a traditional sociological framework, Davidman (women's studies, Brown Univ.; Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism) keeps them intact to retain their intensity and groups them in chapters of similar themes. Having lost her own mother when she was 13, Davidman enhances the analysis with her experiences but carefully avoids coloring her research expectations. She occasionally steps too far outside of her role as researcher and interprets events without offering facts, remarking, for example, that some events "seemed to" cause another. The final chapters summarize the collective data into overall elements of biographical disruption and repair. This is a valuable contribution to a field in which little research has been done. Recommended for academic as well as public libraries.--Annette Haines, Central Michigan Univ. Libs., Mount Pleasant (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2000-03-27:
In an admitted attempt to reconcile her own experience of losing her mother to cancer when she was 13, Davidman fuses scholarly study with personal narrative in order to prove that the loss of one's mother is an incomparable "biographical disruption." A sociology professor at Brown, she spent five years interviewing 60 adults whose mothers had died when they were between the ages of 10 and 15. Casting her subjects as damaged by their family's "deviance" from the "normative" household, Davidman bases her argument on a cultural ideal of motherhood and the nuclear family that many readers may find outdated. While she identifies three valid issues that must be resolved by those contending with "motherloss"--including silence on the subjects of death and of their mothers, loss of caring and the preservation of a symbolic maternal presence--Davidman fails to offer any evidence that these issues are unique to motherless children. Not quite a compelling collection of memoirs nor a practical self-help manual, Davidman's study reads more like a cathartic exercise than a useful survey. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Appeared in Choice on 2000-09-01:
The nuclear family has been reified in the 20th-century US, with women ascribed the role of tending to the family's emotional needs. This, coupled with the culture's denial of death and grief, creates a situation where the death of a mother can shatter the family. Survivors are silenced by their fear of stigmatization for not fitting the ideological norm. This book describes the continual impact of a mother's premature death on the children she leaves behind. Davidman (Brown Univ.), a gifted ethnographer, interviewed 60 men and women from various socioeconomic backgrounds. Most interviewees reported their childhoods were cut short as they faced a deep sense of isolation when their mothers' friends failed to keep their promises to help them; that their fathers made various unsuccessful attempts to replace their lost caring and to maintain household functions; and that the loss still reverberates as they experience problems with intimacy. The last two chapters focus on strategies interviewees used to break the silences, replace lost caring, and maintain their mothers' symbolic presence in their lives. Highly recommended for all collections. R. B. Stewart Jr.; Oakland University
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, March 2000
Library Journal, April 2000
Choice, September 2000
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Long Description
Lynn Davidman's pathbreaking study analyzes the immediate and continuing impact of a mother's premature death on the children she leaves behind. Drawing on interviews with sixty adults from a variety of class backgrounds, Davidman argues that the experience of motherloss is shaped by our social conceptions of women's roles in the family and in society. Speaking candidly, often with great emotion and insight, Davidman's interviewees were glad for the opportunity to break cultural taboos and silences about death and to create stories that reveal the power of this early loss to influence their lifelong conceptions of self, family, community, God, and love. With a profound sense of purpose and keen insight, Davidman highlights the narratives of ten respondents, weaving them together into a powerful book that reveals the numerous common themes--as well as the individual variations--in people's stories. This first study of the lifelong impact of motherloss on women's and men's lives will become the definitive work on perhaps the deepest and most complex disruption to occur in the course of a life. Davidman, who was thirteen when her mother died of cancer, enriches the narrative with her own insights of growing up as the only female in an Orthodox Jewish home with her father and two brothers. The book is enlivened by her movement back and forth between herself and others, individuals and society, thereby challenging the assumption that the personal has no place in our quest for knowledge and understanding. She successfully uses others' experiences to better illuminate her own, and at the same time develops an empathic understanding of their stories by reaching deep into her own memories and feelings about her mother's death and its impact on her life. Despite the silences, isolation, and confusion that accompany a mother's death, and the cultural messages to "move on," Davidman's respondents find ways--in thoughts, prayers, memories, symbolic objects, and practices--to retain their mother's presence in their daily lives.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
The Researcher and the Researchedp. 3
Narrating Motherloss as Biographical Disruptionp. 25
Narrating Motherloss
An Archetypal Narrative: Sheryl Smithp. 59
The Myth of the Perfect Mother: Ben Adler, Sid Jacoby, and Ellie Collinsp. 79
A Different Script: Carl Diamondp. 125
Becoming the Mother: Tina Martinelli and Darlene Jacksonp. 142
Reverberating Losses: Bob McPherson, Sarah Mulligan, and Neil Robertsp. 166
Reading the Narratives
Elements of Biographical Disruptionp. 209
Elements of Biographical Repairp. 234
Coming to Terms with Motherlossp. 256
Interview Guidep. 265
Notesp. 271
Referencesp. 277
Indexp. 283
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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