Love, Mom: Poignant, Goofy, Brilliant Messages from Home
Emails from moms that make you laugh, cry, or sometimes just scratch your head.
More than ever, publishing today is a risky business.Â Bringing a book into the world is a gamble, and the best way to gamble, of course, is to reduce the number of unknowns in the game.Â
Theyâ€™re young writers from New Yorkâ€™s blogosphere, and their first book may be the best of a new publishing trend: turning successful blogs into books.Â Shafrir and Grose get arguably closer than any other bloggers to making the genre-jump work.
They started PostcardsFromYoMomma.com roughly a year ago, after Grose sent Shafrir an e-mail from her mother.Â Shafrir suggested they collect them, and a blog â€śphenomenon,â€ť as they call it, was born.Â The site averages 500,000 page views a month and attracts international attention.
The book based on their blog, which came out last month, is an attractive physical package: Larger than the tiny novelty products sold next to cash registers to last-minute binge buyers, â€śLove, Momâ€ť is a real book, durable but cute.Â And its price â€“ $17.99 for a hardback! â€“ is persuasively quaint.
Ultimately, though, â€śLove, Momâ€ť functions as a novelty book.Â While the authors add some breezy introductory material to their chapters, along with distracting trivia about and advice for moms, the meat of the book is e-mails and instant message chats between mothers and their grown kids, both of whom remain anonymous.
The messages are arranged topically into chapters that sketch a familiar and somewhat clichĂ©d portrait of mothers: technologically backward, simultaneously fashion-conscious and clueless, mediators of family rivalries and makers of unmatchable bean dips, the composite Mom of Shafrir and Groseâ€™s book is one who doles out not-so-subtle hints about weddings and grandchildren and mostly off-the-mark advice about relationships and hairstyles, even as she asks for help from her kids on using Facebook, following the latest â€śblobs,â€ť or buying things on eBay.
The authors do a charming job of sketching â€śessential mom-ness,â€ť as they call it.Â But more fun are the mom-memes that emerge quietly from the material theyâ€™ve collected.
Mothers, for whatever reason, seem to prefer the shorthand â€śputerâ€ť to â€ścomputer.â€ťÂ They are, apparently, universally concerned with how the hit HBO television series â€śSex and the Cityâ€ť has influenced their daughtersâ€™ professional and love lives.Â They seem to find wry humor in the phrase â€śparental units.â€ť
But the real gems of the book are excerpts where moms inadvertently shake off the stereotype of a role theyâ€™ll never escape (at least not as long as itâ€™s their daughters and sons who are circulating their e-mails).
The story one mom tells about a sick cat entertains not because it reveals mom-ness, but because the woman behind the e-mail is a naturally good storyteller.Â In another e-mail, the idiosyncratic limits of unconditional love are on display: â€ś[Bring] me your new book.Â I donâ€™t want to spend money unless itâ€™s a keeper.â€ť
The best example may be the mother who sweetens her tough-love advice with a gentle opening.Â She mimics the bookâ€™s composite mom saying, â€śItâ€™s hard-wired into parents, part of our DNA.Â We love our children no matter what.â€ť
But she goes on to reveal a sense of humor and a personality that is uniquely her own: â€śIâ€™m sure Paris Hiltonâ€™s parents love [her] â€“ certainly Jeffrey Dahmerâ€™s mother loved him.â€ťÂ It makes a daughter laugh out loud, but it implies a limit most moms arenâ€™t willing to discuss with their kids, or perhaps even themselves: a motherâ€™s love makes you special â€“ but only to your mother.
Itâ€™s these moments, where the book turns essential mom-ness on its head, that are most worthwhile. But they are lamentably, if unsurprisingly, few.
Like other books from blogs, â€śLove, Momâ€ť is essentially a dose of pop anthropology.Â Itâ€™s the written wordâ€™s equivalent of a coffee-table book, meant to playfully catalog its subjectâ€™s habits.
But like coffee-table books â€“ or, for that matter, blogs â€“ â€śLove, Momâ€ť should be read only a few pages at a time. Because it turns out that mom-ness is best ingested a few small, gleeful doses at a time.
Jina Moore is a freelance writer in Brooklyn.