During my time at the Columbia Publishing Course, we received an assignment to read a manuscript and write a reader report on said manuscript. The part that was interesting to me, though, is the fact the manuscript we received was a book to really be published—only a different title and author. Without disclosing the title and author the manuscript we received in June, the story is (essentially) now a published book: The Mothers by Brit Bennett. Lit Hub recently published an article on the book that contains an interview with Bennett.
The book deals with various stereotypes, assumptions, and difficult decisions that must be made. In the interview, Bennett says, “I think the book is occupied with ideas of social expectations, and these often are gendered expectations… I wanted to break down some of these stereotypes. I wanted to show that people are more complex than the roles prescribed to us by our genders.” This reminds me of a post I wrote earlier on in this blog; the post I’m referring to dealt with cultural appropriation. If we take a step back and broaden the scope to encompass not only cultural appropriation, but appropriation in general, we enter this public sphere in which writers and readers must ask themselves what is appropriate to exist as “art” in this world. Bennett brings up an interesting and important point: writers can write about experiences they themselves may not have had, but in the process, it is important for them to break down these experiences—to reflect on them, to respect them, to understand them as best as possible. In this novel, then, Bennett uncovers the complexity that is humanity. We are not as simple as these assumed roles, nor are we as simple as prescribed identities. Instead, we are humans made up of various experiences, upbringings, lives lived, and interactions.
Bennett also notes, “There’s a way in which all of the characters in the book are haunted by a form of loss; in a way, those losses structures the book.” In this way, the characters are not united by their stereotypes, nor are they differentiated by them. Instead, they are bound together by their experiences, and this—this—is the thread that connects them to the reality that is being a human. It’s not about who or what you’re supposed to be, do, say, or act like; it’s about the emotions, the experiences, the intricate ties that allow you to connect with others.
What are your thoughts?