Fiona Tinwei Lam – commentary “Mother’s Day’s Radical Roots”

excerpt      …No mother is a cliché

For many reasons, it might have been easier for me to celebrate a commemoration of women’s pacifism and civic contributions while I was growing up. When I was in my teens and 20s, I found Mother’s Day particularly difficult. The social expectations around the holiday seemed to revolve around honouring a type of Leave it to Beaver domestic goddess. I could never find a card that could even start to describe the complex feelings I had about my complex mother. We had a challenging relationship. Even though I deeply respected and admired her devotion to medicine, her hard work and many talents in making music and art, I mostly tried to stay out of her way, leery of her sudden rages and tirades. Even back then, I realized she was parenting as best as she could with no parenting role models herself. During her childhood, her own mother had disliked her for being a daughter and had little to do with her upbringing. And my maternal grandmother in turn had been sold as a young girl by my great-grandmother, her mother. My class-conscious paternal grandmother was distant and disapproving.

As a result, I grew up somewhat alienated from the inherent glorification and idealization of motherhood embodied in Mother’s Day, forced to profess sentiments I didn’t necessarily feel, while being riddled with guilt for not feeling them.

When I became a mother myself, I questioned gender stereotypes and the unequal division of domestic duties the same way my own mother did, but gained a deeper understanding of the significance, challenges and pleasures of parenthood from the years of sleepless nights to the delights of receiving another bouquet of freshly plucked dandelions. Perhaps Anna Jarvis was right that greeting cards could never suffice: no parent can be reduced to a few cliché-ridden stanzas in a store-bought card….

via The Tyee – Mother’s Day’s Radical Roots.

Fiona Tinwei Lam – commentary “My Chinese Mother Was No Tiger, and Yet…”

excerpt…    A hornet’s nest of condemnation has been stirred up by Amy Chua’s recently released parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chua, a U.S.-born, Harvard-trained law professor at Yale who is married to a Jewish colleague, chronicles her journey to cultivate her two daughters to fulfill their potential as high achievers amongst America’s elite. Chua writes about not allowing her daughters to receive grades less than an A, play anything but the piano or violin, participate in school plays, engage in social activities such as sleepovers and playdates, watch TV or play computer games, or choose their own extracurricular activities.

She describes exhausting, drawn-out power struggles where she employs threats, insults and put-downs to make her kids toe the line. She even (comically) tries out her approach on the family dogs. One time she threatens to burn her eldest daughter’s stuffed animal collection if a piece is not played perfectly. Another time, she prevents her youngest daughter from having supper, going to the bathroom or getting a drink of water until a challenging piece is mastered. Eventually, her youngest daughter rebels at age 13, cutting off her hair, and smashing a glass at a café during a family trip to Russia, shouting that she hates her life and her mother, and that she doesn’t want to be Chinese. This turning point finally results in Chua relenting — somewhat.

The Penguin version of her book contains a lengthy subtitle not contained on the British Bloomsbury hardcover: “This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I am humbled by a 13 year old.” However, an excerpt from the book, provocatively entitled “Why Chinese mothers are superior” that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 8, is critical of “western” or permissive parenting, which in Chua’s view coddles children to their long term detriment, in contrast to “Chinese” or authoritarian, academically focused parenting which benefits children by gearing them for success.

The piece quickly went viral, and received over 5,000 comments, with numerous blog responses appearing across the Internet. The book has also been discussed extensively in the media including The Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Slate, NPR, The Globe & Mail, and the CBC. Although her approach is not much different from that of some parents who are intensely focused on sports or other physical performance-based activity for their kids (e.g. hockey, ice-skating, tennis), some commentators have expressed outrage, horror or concern, and labelled her approach abusive and damaging, pointing to the high proportion of suicides amongst Asian-American teenagers….

via The Tyee – My Chinese Mother Was No ‘Tiger,’ and Yet….

writing the i in oil

the pomegranate Writes the “I” in Oil

Why “oil”?

This site and blog are based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where the economy pivots on oil. I encourage contributors to reflect on the oil economy. How does it impact your everyday life? How do you think through sustainability in an oil economy?

This category “oil” slides into issues around the environment. But to write “oil” is to think about how we live and work. Who profits? How is our economy tied to it whether we live and work in Fort McMurray’s Tar Sands  or bicycle to work in Vancouver. Oil is what we take for granted. How does oil impact our lives? How we are implicated in it?  How do our workplaces benefit from it? The oil industry contributes millions to the workplace that puts a roof over my head.

How do we write ourselves in the oil economy. What is accomplished when bring this network of connections into the light?

How might things might be different? Continue reading “writing the i in oil”

Janice Williamson writes “the turquoise sea”: a personal essay on suicide and survivors

(First  published in AlbertaViews Jan/Feb 2010, this won a Silver Medal in the 2011 National Magazine Awards and was a finalist for the Jon Whyte Memorial Essay Prize in Alberta. This is a slightly revised version of the original publication.)
 

The Turquoise Sea


What are we whole or beautiful or good for
but to be absolutely broken.
                                           Phyllis Webb


As though nostalgic for his Manitoba boyhood, my father points to his beloved hunting rifle. Transforming his fingers into a silent trigger, he touches his temple and says, “Sometimes I want to take that gun off the wall and blow my brains out.”

My father’s eyes are hooded and dark as he shows me how the skin peels off the back of his hands. “Stress,” he explains modestly, his face lined with sleepless fatigue. I feel awkward in an unfamiliar living room. On this my first visit to the suburban house where my father lives with his new love and her two children, I enter his new domestic life like a visitor to a foreign country. Lost in the limbo of in-between, my father is caught in a long look back. It has been two years since my parents’ separation after decades of intermittent misery. Confused and ambivalent, he refuses to grant my mother a divorce.

Later he’ll call to tell me he loves me, but this morning he’s enmeshed in what ails him. New American owners have bought out the Quebec manufacturer that supplies snowmobiles to his Ontario distribution company. He predicts this change will shut down his business since local distributors become redundant when ownership is transferred south of the border. My father doesn’t tell me he has become a useless middleman. But I’ve studied political economy and know he’s another statistic in branch-plant Canada. Continue reading “Janice Williamson writes “the turquoise sea”: a personal essay on suicide and survivors”