Tag Archives: Megan Stielstra

Book Review: Listen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now, edited by Ann Imig

Listen to Your MotherListen to Your Mother: What She Said Then, What We’re Saying Now
edited by Ann Imig 
G.P. Putnam’s Sons 
2015
246 pages 

Are you tired of me talking about Listen to Your Mother yet? Well … there may only be eight days left until our LTYM Pittsburgh show (you’ve gotten your tickets, right?but this will consume me for awhile. Being part of this show means so much to me. So very much. It’s an incredible honor and one of the bravest things I’ve done in my entire life. It’s a really big freaking deal to be included alongside so many talented voices.

In addition to being a live reading performance happening in 41 cities, Listen to Your Mother is also a book. In this anthology, Listen to Your Mother founder and national director Ann Imig has gathered some of the best stories since the show’s inception six years ago.  While there are some names you may recognize (authors Jennifer Weiner and Jenny Lawson are two notable ones), most contributors are everyday people who have a story to share about some aspect of motherhood. Just like the show itself.

And just like the show, this collection delivers every emotion — from heartbreaking to hilarious and everything in between. (The book jacket accurately describes the stories within as being “devastatingly funny, refreshingly edgy, and deeply thought-provoking.”)

I really enjoyed reading these essays, most of which are only a few pages long. I would have liked this even if I wasn’t in the show because, ironically, motherhood has been kicking my ass bigtime. These stories made me feel a little less alone and reassured that others understand the many challenges with this whole parenting craziness.

Included in this anthology is:
“Matryoshka Dolls” by Mary Jo Pehl
“What Matters Most” by Zach Wahls
“The Meat Grinder” by Jen Rubin
“It’s Always Bad News” by Marinka
“Felt Like Something” by Megan Stielstra (my review of Megan’s essay collection Once I Was Cool is here)
“A Year at the Lake” by Jenny Fiore
“The Broken Bowl” by Jennifer Ball
“No Betta Mama” by Tasneem Grace Tewogbola
“The Reach of a Small Moment” by Alexandra Rosas
“Becoming Invisible” by Lea Grover
“Motherhood Off the Beaten Path” by Margaret Smith
“The Job of Motherhood” by Wendi Aarons
“Not a Princess” by Vikki Reich
“Threads” by Stacey Conner
“She Knew It” by Natalie Cheung Hall
“Peanut Butter and Jelly” by Taya Dunn Johnson
“The Good-Bye App” by Kate St. Vincent Vogl
“More Than an Aunt, Less Than a Mom” by Jerry Mahoney
“The Confession Jar” by Jenny Forrester
“Unspeakable Sacrifice” by Angie Miller
“Shy” by Haddayr Copley-Woods
“Mothering You, My Son: In Six Chapters” by Ann Breidenbach
“What If” by Lisa Page Rosenberg
“Swimsuit Edition” by Jennifer Sutton
“The Cookie Jar” by Patty Chang Anker
“My Mother The Protector” by Eddy Jordan
“Cocktail Playdate Dropout” by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
“The Mother of All Fathers” by Robert Shaffron
“A Much Needed Slap in the Face” by Yoon Park
“Idiopathic” by Amy Wilson
“Nick’s Story” by Nadine C. Warner
“Prepare to Be Judged. And Possibly Stabbed.” by Jenny Lawson
“Monkey, Speak” by Robyn Rasberry
“The Wondering” by Greta Funk
“Be Happy, Have a Good Life, Remember Me” by Ann Stewart Zachwieja
“My Mom Fought the Nazis and Won” by Brian Lavendel
“I Want to Be a Nothing” by Jenifer Joy Madden
“Mother: A Multiplication Lesson” by Dana Maya
“All You Need is Lovey” by Katie Wise
“The Upside to Down” by Mery Smith
“Artichokes” by Kathy Curto
“Does Your Mom Play Drums?” by Michelle Cruz Gonzales
“Steam Power” by Helen Reese
“In Praise of the Other Mother” by Nancy David Kho
“Three Little Letters” by Lisa Allen
“The Tiny Bridge-Maker” by Jennifer Newcomb Marine
“Bottle Caps, Apple Trees, and Hope” by Sheila Quirke
“Pregnant Again” by Edward McCann
“Becoming Da Mommy” by M. Penny Mason
“Mothering Through the Storm” by Rebecca Anderson-Brown
“Waiting for My Kids to Wish Me a Happy Mother’s Day” by Meggan Sommerville
“The Children Ate My Gratitude” by Ann Imig
“Raised by Lesbians: On My Makeup-Free Mom, My Fashion-Challenged Moments, and Raising a Disney Daughter in a Feminist World” by Jennifer Weiner
“Orbit” by Ruth Pennebaker
“Leaps and Bounds” by Barbara Patrick
“Hummingbird: A Love Letter to the Mothers at Church” by Liz Joynt Sandberg

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Book Review: Once I Was Cool, Personal Essays by Megan Stielstra

Once I Was CoolOnce I Was Cool: Personal Essays, by Megan Stielstra 
Curbside Splendor Press
2014
212 pages 

Make no mistake about it: Megan Stielstra is very, very cool.

She may not think so (and she may say so in her essays) but trust me … she is.

She’s that kind of down-to-earth cool, the kind that’s so very absolutely real with no-holds-barred emotions in full view out there for everyone to see. The kind of person who has been through some shit and has learned some shit, too,  and is damn good at writing about her shit.

“It’s the single syllables that’ll kill you:

Your dentist says Oops.

Your pregnancy test says plus.

Your psychic says Oh.”

– from “Felt Like Something,” pg. 117

Megan Stielstra is funny and honest and self-deprecating. She’s a child of the ’90s and the mom of a toddler who drops more than a few literal fucks on the page while writing about her sexcapades of years gone by.

She knows that sometimes – a lot of times – working means having to say no to playing with your kid at the instant he wants you to play, and she knows the heartwrenching guilt that this can produce.

She knows what it is like to owe thousands to the IRS (right there with ya, girlfriend) and to see The American Dream turn into your personal nightmare.

And she tells you about it in a way that somehow feels different than other writers who might be classified in this or similar genres. Megan Stielstra comes across as a friend, yes, as do many others, but there’s a subtle difference. She doesn’t seem to take any of her life for granted. She gets how crappy and tough this life can be. Hell, the woman works three jobs and still manages to have a sense of humor.

I first heard of Megan Stielstra when I read her essay, “Wake the Goddamn World,” which is the piece that piqued my interest in this book. It is among the best in this collection. Really, it’s hard to go wrong with any of these, but “Channel B,” “The Right Kind of Water,” “Feels Like Something,” and “82 Degrees,” are especially spectacular.

In fact, the essays are so good and the writing so sharp, that I just have to ask … was there some sort of snafu with the editing or printing of this book? I mean, some kind of oh-my-God-I-can’t-believe-that-just-fucking-happened type of scenario between the time that Megan Stielstra wrote these essays and the time that the ink hit the page? I’m being serious, not snarky. There’s more than one spelling error, and my copy doesn’t appear to be an ARC. Maybe I just happened to read a copy from the reject pile. Maybe the editor screwed up. I don’t know. Anything is possible.

But you know what? If there’s any message to be had from Once I Was Cool, it is that SHIT HAPPENS. As in, just when you think you’ve made it – say, you know, maybe when you’ve written a kick-ass essay collection that’s been getting some notable attention – four fucking typos appear on page 15. Four! Because, why not, right? And then some typo-obsessed book blogger in Pittsburgh harps on THAT and only that in her review instead of how awesome the essays themselves are.

I don’t want to be that person. Because you know why? Because we all make mistakes. Typos happen in this life.There are bigger problems in this world and besides, I’d rather focus on how good the writing is in this collection.

Because the writing is really, really good. So good that Once I Was Cool has earned a spot on my Best Books I’ve Read in 2014 list.

And Megan Stielstra has absolutely earned a spot as one of my newest favorite writers.

4 stars out of 5.

 

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