Guernica Magazine

Plumbing the Silences Between Mothers and Children

Michele Filgate, Nayomi Munaweera, and Sari Botton on a new anthology, What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About. The post Plumbing the Silences Between Mothers and Children appeared first on Guernica.
Left to Right: Michele Filgate, Nayomi Munaweera, and Sari Botton

“Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we’re always trying to return to them,” writes Michele Filgate in her essay, What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About. In the piece, first published in 2017 in Longreads, she grapples with loving a mother who stayed silent as Filgate endured abuse from her stepfather as a teenager. The essay resonated widely, not just because of its powerful exploration of trauma, but because of its universality: we all have things we can’t talk about with our mothers.

Thus, Filgate was inspired to conceptualize an anthology of the same name—What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence—chronicling the rich and varied silences between mothers and children. Released in April 2019 to widespread acclaim, the book features the work of fifteen writers, including André Aciman reflecting on his relationship with his mother’s deafness; Kiese Laymon imploring his mother to love better; and Leslie Jamison, who writes: “Trying to write about my mother is like staring at the sun. It feels like language could only tarnish this thing she has given me, my whole life—this love.”

I spoke with Filgate, along with two other contributors to the anthology: Longreads editor Sari Botton and novelist Nayomi Munaweera. Botton’s piece reckons with self-worth and the role of money in her mother’s marriages, and Munaweera’s essay delicately probes mental illness in her family. Our interviews touched on the origins of their essays as well as their connections with each other, with their readers, and with their mothers. What follows is an edited amalgam of these conversations. 

–Madhushree Ghosh for Guernica

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