Thousands of titles have addressed the volatile relationship that dominates the personal lives of women throughout the world: the mother-daughter relationship. The defining source of every daughter’s identity, a mother becomes the embodiment of that which the daughter has to overcome in order to find her own subjectivity. The unique characteristics of Drowning Squirrels lie in the fact that Marina is a daughter who has two mothers to triumph over and two lives to reconcile, before she can attempt to discover her individuality and distinctiveness as a mother to her own children.
Out of the 611,797 books that have been published on mothers alone, titles that expose the mother-daughter enigma have presently found a permanent and marketable niche in sales, as indicated from an analysis listed by Amazon.com. A general search for motherhood reveals that 69, 277 titles dominate the category, of which 20,596 are mother-daughter autobiographies. A second search displays that 236,451 published titles are listed under adoption, of which 10,971 are adoption autobiographies. Since Drowning Squirrels falls into both categories, it targets a broad audience, marking its potential success.
Below is a list of four of the top ten mother-daughter autobiography bestsellers among the Amazon.com readers and a detailed description of each title. Their sales rank lies between 136 – 77,301 and they have each received five stars from the online book reviewers. Each autobiography explores a daughter’s struggle to overcome the abuse of a biological or adoptive mother. Each journey into the past, into the mother, results in the daughter’s/author’s self-discovery and empowerment.
1) The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. [Scribner, 2006]. Beginning with the scene of seeing her mother sifting through garbage, Walls chronicles a childhood of neglect, poverty, and homelessness. Uniquely, she recounts her experiences as adventures.
2) Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah. [Broadway, 1999]. Referred to as an Asian Mommie Dearest, Falling Leaves chronicles the coming of age of a young girl who is abused by her cruel and manipulative stepmother. In search of love, understanding and approval, the author struggles with the knowledge that she is an unwanted child.
3) Sickened: The True Story of a Lost Childhood by Julie Gregory. [Bantam, 2004]. Gregory endures abuse from a mother suffering from Munchhausen Syndrome. Her story displays the depth of a child’s love for her unstable mother and the strength it took to ultimately break away and save herself.
4) Storkbites: A Memoir by Marie Etienne. [Alluvium Books, 2003]. Etienne recounts a childhood plagued with physical and verbal abuse, alcoholism and drugs, sexual excess, and insanity. Horrified to find herself mimicking her mother’s physical abuse toward her own two sons, the author sheds her own addictions and discovers ways to forge a healthy future with her children.
Out of thousands of mother-daughter memoirs, these four are closest in theme to Drowning Squirrels. Empowering and full of self-discovery and determination, these authors expose childhoods and adult lives that have been profoundly affected by their maternal caregivers.
The following points distinguish Drowning Squirrels from these and many other mother-daughter narratives:
1) The narrator dares to expose her own deficiencies as a mother. In an academic essay on autobiographies titled “Towards Recognition: Writing and the Daughter-Mother Relationship,” Suzanne Juhasz observes that although female autobiographers depict their relationships with their mothers, they shy away from revealing the way that they parent their own children. In contrast, the focal point of this mother-daughter narrative is on the author’s struggle to distinguish between the way she mothers her children and the way her mothers mothered her. Marina examines the maternal shortcomings shared by her two mothers and articulates with candor the conflicts and guilt associated with her experiences as a mother in order to find the reprieve necessary for self-forgiveness.
2) The narrator does not have one neglectful mother to understand and overcome, but two: one biological, the other adoptive. Out of the many mother-daughter narratives in the market, few posit the relationship within the space of adoption, and none portray the daughter as falling victim to the shifting malice of two emotionally bankrupt mothers, one biological and deranged, and the other adoptive and withholding. One defective and insane mother is enough to overcome, but being offered safety and family by someone who decides to withhold love of spite creates a double bind for the narrator.
3) Remarkably, this narrative uniquely illustrates acts of violence and domestic abuse that are forged by a woman, mother, and wife. You never hear of a woman physically abusing her husband, but this story portrays this matchless facet of female rage. In every domestic abuse case publicized the abuser is the man, the husband, the father. The distinctiveness of this family portrait lies in the fact that the wife beats her husband with a ferocity that is unparalleled and has never before been discussed or exposed. This in itself is a marketable issue that will open academic and socio-cultural doors for discussion.
Copyright© 2010 by Marina Delvecchio. All Rights Reserved.