Author Guest PostPlease enjoy the guest post and author interview by Phil Jourdan, author of the touching memoir, Praise of Motherhood. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $500 in Amazon gift cards and 5 autographed copies of the book.
The Story Behind This Real-Life Story
By Phil Jourdan
I wanted to write a book that expressed the impossibility of letting go. We're often told, when someone close to us dies, that we have to move on, that things will get better. I couldn't accept this back then: I didn't think it was possible to let go of my mother, who had been so patient and kind during my weird teenage years.
The first two versions were entirely different from each other in form and tone, but they did have a certain delight in chaos in common. I was mourning the only way I knew how: by adopting a hundred different voices, each trying to say something about my mother that the others couldn't say. One chapter was pure dialogue; another was a series of letters; for a while I wrote in breathless page-long paragraphs because it was the only way I could feel "honest" about what I felt. I'd swing from rage to self-pity to sadness to bliss to sheer bafflement.
It was only when I decided to turn this book into something that others could actually read without going insane that I figured out how to structure a book like this. I cut a great number chapters because they were "honest" but unhelpful. I tried to make myself a sort of antagonist, so my mother's qualities as a human being could be emphasized. I left things relatively ambiguous instead of offering anything like words of wisdom to my readers. I tried to leave the book as open as the wound that stayed after my mother died.
This has irritated some people. They ask why I don't provide a real sense of what my mother was like on a day-to-day basis, or why I focused so much on how she affected my life instead of just writing about her, as a person in her own right. Fair questions — but I never set out to just "write about my mom". I wanted to write about the struggle of losing her, and what made losing her so painful. That's why I ask questions in the book that I never really answer: because I was never able to answer them myself. They are questions that will remain.
Praise of Motherhood isn't a book praising all mothers across all ages. It's not meant to praise the idea of "motherhood" itself as some glorious ideal. I wrote this book because I wanted to transmit something of my mother to those who didn't know her; those who, perhaps, need to hear that it's okay to say you love your mommy and you wish she could still be here when you feel like crying.
Who was your mother?
Hey, perhaps the obvious thing is that she was the single greatest person in my life--a woman who set everything aside to help me when I went through a few rocky years, a lover of animals and nature, a professor of mathematics and computer science who worked because she needed something to do… She was that lady who'd bring clothes out to the homeless people in the streets when it was cold. She spoke Portuguese, French, English, and Russian fluently. She took people into her life and made them stronger, happier. She drove very carefully. She was one person among many to die from something as trivial and terrible as an aneurysm; just one out of all the people who died on November 11th, 2009, for no reason, and without saying goodbye to any of us. And, now, she's the subject of my book.
Who are you?
I'm a bearded, forever-anxious guy in his mid-twenties living in the UK. I'm working on a PhD in Literature and Religion. I have a band, I run a press, I write articles for various publications, and I pace around a lot when I talk about things that interest me.
Why did you write Praise of Motherhood?
Because I couldn't bear the idea that my mother's death might be just another sad event in the lives of a few people. I wanted my mother to be remembered somehow — not just by those who knew her, but by those who could end up wishing they had known her. It's not easy losing a parent, and I wanted to write my way out of some dark places. To focus on the good things. To remember with gratitude the way she did everything she could to make her children feel okay.
Were you a mama's boy?
Of course, I was. She was worth the teasing from my young classmates. I loved her even when I was furiously angry with her.
When were you furiously angry?
From the age of 14 to 16, I was so psychologically unstable that I had to leave school for a while to stay in a private clinic and "recover" — which means they pumped me full of medication and made me sleep for a few weeks. This happened twice. My mother's support was crucial back then, because I was a mess. I hallucinated, I was paranoid, and I wanted to die. Of course, like any screwed up kid, I took it out on my mom. I'd get so angry that I couldn't breathe. Everything seemed to hurt me--physically and emotionally. Because I trusted my mother so much, I took her for granted, too. I knew she wouldn't abandon me if I broke down or lashed out. She was a saint about my outbursts.
Is that what Praise of Motherhood is about?
In part. What you'll find in Praise of Motherhood is a series of short chapters on various ways I related to my mother. Let me be clear that it's not a book about mothers in general. It's a memoir about my relationship with my mother, before and after her death. It deals with my weird adolescence, then it moves on to questions about her private life that I'll never be able to answer, and then it turns toward fiction. I imagine a world in which mother didn't die on that day. I try to reconstruct conversations I had with her and my father. Then I end the book because I could go on forever and I think it's best to be brief.
What was it like to show the book to your family?
It was less terrible than I'd anticipated. My great fear was that someone might object to the way I'd written it. It's not "conventional" — there's a scene in which I imagine my mother breaking into pieces and my sister and I have to tape her back together before she accuses me of having killed her. That scene worried me: what if my sister hated it? I'm happy to say it all went well. My sister found that chapter moving, and my grandparents each expressed their support. My father, who hadn't been married to my mother for over a decade, was equally moved and helped me through the various drafts.
Is everything you write in Praise of Motherhood true?
If you read it, you'll see that some of it is obviously fiction. I don't think the right distinction here is between fiction and nonfiction; it's between truthfulness and untruthfulness. The book is certainly truthful: if I make things up, as in the chapter where I imagine what my mother's "secret life" as an occasional spy might have been like, it's to show what I think about when I wonder about her as a private person. I paint myself pretty much as I was back then: irritable, self-involved, afraid. I paint my mother just as she was: patient, terrified of losing her child, and often helpless but willing to do anything. The events that I depict in the more "conventional" chapters are true. The dialogue is obviously not going to represent exactly what was said, but the spirit of the past is contained within it.
Who is this book for?
It's for people who have lost someone they loved and want to know how someone else handled their pain. It's for parents who need a reminder that their children can and will end up appreciating all the sacrifices, all the patience, all the secret suffering. And it's for anyone who is interested in teenage depression, psychosis and anxiety, and wants to read a memoir about how those conditions affect family relationships.
A novel that begins with a mother's funeral… and then goes in a totally new direction. I started it just as I was wrapping up Praise of Motherhood, and I was ready to let go of those memories for a while, but the image of my mother's coffin going into the earth has stayed with me so vividly that I had to begin a work of fiction with it. But beyond that, it's an entirely different thing.
About The Author:
Phil Jourdan fronts the lit-rock band Paris and the Hiltons, runs the fiction press Perfect Edge Books, and occasionally works on a PhD.
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Praise of Motherhood by Phil Jourdan
Published By: Zero Books / John Hunt Publishing
Release Date: May 25, 2012
Format: Paperback - 136 pages / Kindle - 279 KB / Nook - 261 KB
Genre: Nonfiction / Memoir
BUY THE BOOK: Praise of Motherhood
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour media blitz event hosted by Novel Publicity.
When Phil Jourdan’s mother died suddenly in 2009, she left behind a legacy of kindness and charity — but she also left unanswered some troubling questions. Was she, as she once claimed, a spy? Had she suffered more profoundly as a woman and parent than she’d let on? Jourdan’s recollections of his struggles with psychosis, and his reconstructions of conversations with his enigmatic mother, form the core of this memoir. Psychoanalysis, poetry and confession all merge to tell the story of an ordinary woman whose death turned her into a symbol for extraordinary motherhood.
My Book Review:
The Praise of Motherhood is a poignant memoir that will pull at your heartstrings. Written in a thoughtful way, author Phil Jourdan weaves an inspiring story that is filled with raw emotion and honest reflections of his life with his mother, Sophia. The reader is immediately drawn into Phil's story, you can't help but feel the full gamut of emotions as he reveals a most candid and vivid description of his childhood and the pain of the personal loss of his mother.
The Praise of Motherhood is a touching and poignant account of a son's relationship with his mother. It is also a story that everyone can relate to and provides food for thought to pause for a moment and ponder about their own relationships. Author Phil Jourdan has written a beautiful memoir that honors his mother, she would have been so proud of him.
RATING: 4 STARS ****