Sarah Menkedick on Louise Erdrich

In The Paris Review’s Revisited column, Sarah Menkedick writes about reading Louise Erdrich’s “The Blue Jay’s Dance” while pregnant.

This paragraph put into words something I’ve been trying to articulate for two years:

I had understood motherhood up until then as either the stultifying oppression of conventionality or an exercise of triumphing-in-spite-of, staying cutting edge and ambitious and successful by proudly suppressing or minimizing the maternal. Erdrich offered me another model: motherhood as profound creative subject, as way of seeing, even as empowerment. She gave me permission to be a woman

Meaningful work

Last night I had dinner with a good friend I’ve known for more than ten years. We’ve run twenty miles at at time together, cried over breakups, met each other’s families, explored the waterfront of Barcelona, worked together…but we’ve never talked about feminism together.

Since November, it is has been hard for me not to see the world–not just the political world, but my own days, life, work–as a feminist. We talked about the ACA repeal and about jobs we’ve left, and I was surprised to realize until last night, we’d never talked about any of this in all those years and miles. How could we not have?

I’m taking a writing class with Michele Filgate through Catapult (my first experience with an online class and I am really enjoying it, particularly for the accountability that classmates and deadlines provide). This week, we read Elisa Albert’s “The Snarling Girl,” an essay I’d seen referenced quite a bit but never read.

I read After Birth about a year ago, and although Albert’s essay-writing style is nothing at all like my own, I think she’s interested in a lot of the same questions about being a writer, a woman and a mother that I am.

Taking care of myself and my loved ones feels like meaningful work to me, see? I care about care. And I don’t care if I’m socialized to feel this way, because in point of fact I do feel this way….
 
Yes, oppression is systemic, I get it, I feel it, I live it, I struggle, I do. Women are not equal, we’re not fairly represented, the pie charts are clear as day: nothing’s fair, nothing at all, it’s maddening, it’s saddening, it’s not at all gladdening. We all suffer private and public indignities (micro-aggressions, if you prefer) big and small. It’s one thing to pause and grapple with unfairness, but if we set up camp there, we can’t get anything done, can’t get to the root of the problem….
 
“Real” work is often invisible, and maybe sort of sacred as such. The hollering and clamoring and status anxiety and PR two inches from our collective eyeballs all day? Not so much. So tell the gatekeepers to shove it, don’t play by their rules, and get back to work on whatever it is you hold dear. Nothing’s ever been fair. Nothing will ever be fair. But there is ever so much work to be done. Pretty please can I go back to my silly sweet secret sacred novel now?