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This season the Loft will explore the theme Needs. When talking about basic needs like food, water, and shelter, need is synonymous with necessity. When talking about meaningful connections and relationships, need becomes a murkier word, doubly so when talking about family. There are many ways to create, engage with, and participate in a family, but what do we need from our family?
In conversation with Lisa Marie Brimmer about his latest novel, That Kind of Mother, Rumaan Alam looks at family through a female protagonist with a biological white son and an adoptive black son and asks how family can meet one’s needs. Book Sales provided by Milkweed Books. Learn more.
From the celebrated author of Rich and Pretty, a novel about the families we fight to build and those we fight to keep
Like many first-time mothers, Rebecca Stone finds herself both deeply in love with her newborn son and deeply overwhelmed. Struggling to juggle the demands of motherhood with her own aspirations and feeling utterly alone in the process, she reaches out to the only person at the hospital who offers her any real help—Priscilla Johnson—and begs her to come home with them as her son’s nanny.
Priscilla’s presence quickly does as much to shake up Rebecca’s perception of the world as it does to stabilize her life. Rebecca is white, and Priscilla is black, and through their relationship, Rebecca finds herself confronting, for the first time, the blind spots of her own privilege. She feels profoundly connected to the woman who essentially taught her what it means to be a mother. When Priscilla dies unexpectedly in childbirth, Rebecca steps forward to adopt the baby. But she is unprepared for what it means to be a white mother with a black son. As she soon learns, navigating motherhood for her is a matter of learning how to raise two children whom she loves with equal ferocity, but whom the world is determined to treat differently.
Written with the warmth and psychological acuity that defined his debut, Rumaan Alam has crafted a remarkable novel about the lives we choose, and the lives that are chosen for us.
Rumaan Alam is the author of novels Rich and Pretty and That Kind of Mother. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Elle, New York Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Wall Street Journal, The Rumpus, Buzzfeed, and elsewhere. He studied at Oberlin College, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Lisa Marie Brimmer is a queer, black, transracial adoptee artist and arts based community organizer. She is currently reviewing requests for facilitation, executive coaching, and project management as a freelance collaborative contractor in 2019. Currently, Brimmer is a co-editor of Queer Voices of Minnesota: Poetry, Prose, and Pride (MNHS PRESS 2019). This anthology of queer poetry and prose reflecting the LGBTQIA+ writer community in Minnesota is co-edited by John Medeiros and Andrea Jenkins.