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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

June 02, 1996|ERIKA TAYLOR

MOTHERS: Twenty Stories of Contemporary Motherhood, edited and with an introduction by Katrina Kenison and Kathleen Hirsch (North Point: $22; 343 pp.). In trying to capture the concept of "contemporary motherhood" for an anthology, many editors would go out of their way to find stories that represent a wide variety of racial, socioeconomic and stylistic viewpoints. Or, if they are Katrina Kenison and Kathleen Hirsch, they will compile a collection that is overwhelmingly white, middle- or upper-middle class--and predictable. This is contemporary motherhood? Contemporary to where? Certainly not America.

The pieces have been arranged in chronological order so that the collection opens with stories about pregnancy, moves through childhood and ends with mothers relating to their adult children. Looked at individually, the work ranges from mediocre to brilliant. Kate Braverman's portrait of a homeless teenage mother stands out, partly because it is the only story to embrace a certain type of darkness and partly because of the sheer muscle of her writing. Jane Shapiro's "Poltergeists" is just as memorable, except now the narrator is the mother of teenagers and her concerns, while extremely important, are treated with humor. Additionally, the contributions of Mary Gordon, Alice Elliott Dark and Sue Miller are also quite wonderful. There is nothing terribly wrong with what is in "Mothers." It what is left out that presents a problem.

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