The MotherTalk Mama, PhD Blog Tour Wrap-Up

September 24th, 2008

The MotherTalk bloggers have wrapped up their reviews of Mama, PhD, and I want to thank all of them for reading the book and spreading the word! Here are excerpts from the reviews; follow the links to read the complete post.
Mama, PhD is not just a shoulder to cry on for readers grappling with what they may have thought were unique troubles in juggling academia and motherhood, it is also a call to arms for women and men in academia to make change happen, to make academia a place consistent with the lives of both men and women. Evans and Grant, the editors of the book, understand that there is a power in speaking out, that when women hear many other women are struggling in exactly the same fashion we suddenly see our experiences not as personal incompetence but as a larger injustice.”
blue milk

“I hope that Mama, PhD will spread the word through the bastions of higher education: policies that marginalize women also marginalize our children, our future, and our present. The glass ceiling is cracking in the business world; the marble ceiling has shattered, but gender equity hasn’t cracked the ivory tower yet.”
Compost Happens

“I loved that a wide range of disciplines, ages, geography, and experiences are represented by the essays. The women representing the sciences, psychology, economics, and history add a depth to the conversation, one that I’m not sure could be achieved in a book of MFA’s and English PhD’s. Consequently, I would make this book a must-read and a must-gift for any woman contemplating or living with a graduate degree. Because so many of the women report being blindsided by parenthood and its impact on their careers, I think this is an especially important read for those considering a graduate degree.”
Life Is a Banquet

And from Peter’s Cross Station:

“… it’s not all about the choice between dropping out or suffering, Mama PhD also tells more than one tale of a mother at the end of her rope who was thrown a fresh one by an enlightened advisor, mentor or department chair. There are a few corners of academe that have put all the feminist theory of the past thirty years into some kind of practice and support actual women (and their children). There are small institutions that place a community value on families and children and the well-rounded well being of professors.”

Review Planet says, “…I’m in love with the new book Mama, Ph.D. It’s a collection of stories from academic mamas who lay bare their souls about the hard times, the good parts, the special challenges (pumping in a maintenance closet — and then the dean walks in!), and why it’s all worthwhile. I think it’s also a good casebook of the situation today in many departments, and I hope that it will be used by someone or somegroup to start making changes. I hope.

Go check it out. Read about the theater director who takes her son to see the plays she’s directing, from backstage, with crayons. Meet the mom who adopted a child after years of infertility and a brain tumor, who found her balance at a nearby women’s college. Learn from the mathematician finding balance with three kids and a promising career. Gaze at the woman women with burgeoning bellies who still find strength to teach five classes and hold office hours.

I admire these women, for the lives they lead, and the sacrifices that they make to be fulfilled, to support their families, and to bring education and truth to the children that we raise up too. I only wish that the world would make it a little easier to both follow a passion and raise children passionately.”

Viva La Feminista writes, “Mama PhD is heart wrenching and heartwarming at the same time. It shows how far we have to go as a society to truly value families and the contributions of working moms. I think this book could be replicated for almost any industry as well as with subfields of academia.”

Writing in the Mountains says, “I loved reading these essays. They offered a personal view into these women’s lives and a voice that tells everyone this situation needs to change.”

Everyday Stranger writes, “It was well-written and engaging, and more than once I wanted to raise my fist in the air and shout “I know where you are!” (I wanted to say “Amen, sister”, but am aware of the idiocy in further contributing to stereotypes. Still, first thoughts and all that.)

The Black Belt Mama Review gave the book a black belt! She writes:

“At times, these essays enraged me… women who are mothers, the world’s best multi-taskers, are made to feel like failures because they choose to procreate. At times these essays inspired me…hearing the tales of those who have done it, who have laughed in the face of these archaic institutions and said, “screw you!” At times, it just made me sad that there even has to be this discussion.

This was a great collection of essays. Heartfelt and poignant personal tales of women, mothers and scholars. Some have chosen one role over the other and some manage both despite the opposition. All of these women inspire me for their candor. Over the past year I have often thought about going back to get that PhD. Mama PhD has proved that I can do this…and I’m thinking I just might.”

Tales from the Diaper Pail says, “The stories often draw from humor, sometimes dark, to highlight themes of loss and triumph through various stages of the academic path. Several themes resurface – the mind-body schism that seems even more poignant in an academic career as well as the feeling of ‘never enoughness’. The stories are well-written and at times, heartbreaking. … Although these pieces are particularly relevant to mothers pursuing or in academic professions, I found themes through the book that were pertinent to women in all professions, where the pull to “perform childlessness” is quite real.”

Crunchy Granola read the book after a meeting in which a new faculty member was told, “There’s a university child care center, and efforts to expand it and create more flexible hours are underway. Child care has been at the top of the list of the faculty women’s association for years now.” Years?! Comments like this make me –and I think also Crunchy Granola–shake my head in frustration; just get it done, people. She comments, “the collection is a smart, funny-sad-crazy making-amazing-wonderful set of pieces that had me nodding as I read. The authors come from a variety of fields, and a range of institutions. This collection is well-worth reading for anyone considering an academic career, and also for any administrator mentoring faculty.

Mama PhD won’t surprise anyone who’s a reader of academic blogs. After all, there are lots of outlets these days for reading good personal writing on motherhood and academia, and I wondered whether I’d find the essays redundant or compelling. They were definitely compelling, though. I read quickly, learning about the different ways institutions create barriers for mothers advancing in their careers, or make it easier for those with children to advance. These are eloquent accounts of what choices women have made to accommodate their kids and careers.”

21st Century Mom read from the perspective of someone who’d been a grad student in the 70s, and is now mother to two grown daughters, both of whom are considering motherhood and graduate work. She writes:

“We want it all – family, work, friends and time to train and figuring out how to do that is one of life’s greatest tricks. The essays in Mama, PhD. are specific to being a mother in academia and address issues of sexism, negative perception and the tyranny of history but the solutions for how to “have it all” can be universally applied.

As a mother I want my daughters to “have it all” whatever that means to them. I want them to be able to define “it all” and to live a life that supports them in their efforts. I want their partners and their children, my future grandchildren, to “have it all” – a stable family, love, education, intellectual and cultural stimulation and financial stability. This book has, for me, been an antidote to the constant media messages telling us that trying to “have it all” is wrong, and selfish and impossible. Many of these women faced down the stereotypes, the negative attitudes, the professional denial and powered on, confident in their choices and their abilities.

I’ll be sending this book to my oldest daughter soon with instructions to send it to her little sister when she’s done. I hope they draw the same message from the book as did I. The world really can be your oyster as long as you can manage your time and your detractors and focus on your goals.”

Third Culture Mamma writes: “This book has been described as one that should be given to all mothers in or thinking about entering academia. I would also like to add for those who are thinking about leaving academia. One of the strengths of this compilation, and there are many, is that it presents all sides: those who have or are about to jump into the depths of academia, those who are a making their way though it come hell of high water and those who have decided to leave it.

While some of the experiences recounted in this collection do tell of departments and colleagues that are supportive, it also drives home the point that academia is just the same as almost all other industries – mothers are not welcome with open arms. However, besides the negative aspects, reading this book made me feel at home. The passion I have for academia and the possibilities of merging it with motherhood, not ignoring the numerous challenges that it brings and that are transmitted in the book, is what I wanted to read, to help me see a possible future back in academia, and becoming a Mama, PhD.”
Christa writes: “This book is a must-have for any woman who intends to pursue motherhood and academics. In truth, it should be required reading IN the universities for everyone–male and female–in education.”

And Susan says, “The writing in this book is alive, often very humorous, often fraught. The quality of these narratives is uniformly excellent. It’s creative nonfiction at its best: true stories that often read like fiction, with compelling narratives, and characters for whom much is at stake.”

From They Grow In Your Heart: “This book gave me a great deal of encouragement because so many other women have decided to forgo teaching full time – like I have. And there was a continuing theme that it’s okay if motherhood takes over the academic side of your life. OR if you decide to pursue your career. But, at the same time, it’s sad. It’s sad for our students and for our schools that so many women feel forced to choose between having a family and being an educator.

Mama PhD is a great read for anyone in academia considering motherhood, any moms in academia looking for a better way, and for all administration in schools everywhere. Actually, maybe it should be required reading for administrators!”
Life in the Hundred Acre Wood writes, “Though the anthology paints an honest yet bleak picture of academia, it is not all gloom and doom. Some women do find ways to make it work (though a few had partners able to share equally in the child care). Others, such as the single mothers, are down right heroic in their abilities to balance their work hours with raising a family. But the essays that tugged at me most, were the ones where the unrelenting demands of academia had permanently derailed these brilliant and talented mothers from attaining the holy grail — a tenured position at a major research university. These pieces were an unpleasant reminder of the number of brain cells lost to society when we don’t accommodate parents.”

PCOS Baby says, “It was a very open, sometimes brutally frank, look at the academy and essentially how it fails women who want to also have a family. And yes, some of the contributors talk about how it also fails men who want to have a family—but they also make the point that men are not responsible for the physical demands of both pregnancy, birth, and nursing a baby.

“. . .I think this book should be required reading for any woman going into any sort of graduate education program. And their partners.”

And just so you know that I’m not only quoting the raves, Here We Go Again had some nice things to say about the book–and does think it is a great book for our target audience–but mostly it really wasn’t her cup of tea:

“In general, I didn’t hate this book. I didn’t like it much either. I wouldn’t have bought it for myself. In my opinion, it wasn’t really a book for pleasure reading, which is all I do now. However, if you want to write a scholarly paper on women in academia, cite away. This would be a great research tool or a great read if you were considering either becoming a professor or a graduate student and wanted to know how it worked with motherhood. But for casual reading, try Anne of Green Gables. (I am re-reading the eight book series this week. I am on book six, Anne of Ingleside, right now.)”

Of course, we also think that the book’s right for anyone considering graduate work or a career in higher education, and interested in how that might work with family life, and we do like Anne of Green Gables, too, so we’ll just agree to agree on that!

And finally, Mama(e) in Translation liked reading about our three biologists who have found fulfilling work from home: “I felt mightily comforted to read about the experiences of the three authors, Susan Bassow, Dana Campbell, and Liz Stockwell, and I can’t wait to participate in the website and resource for NTA (nontraditional academic) parents that they are planning to set up!”

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