An earthquake called motherhood
Mexican writer Jazmina Barrera publishes an essay on pregnancy and earthquakes.
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Why are they so many books that talk about death, and so few that write about the beginning of life, which is just as enigmatic, tremendous and amazing?
Perhaps it's because the topic is too feminine, and men are not enough interested.
In Línea nigra, Mexican author Jazmina Barrera presents a novel-like essay on the transformations of the maternal body and the fragmentation of time and art in which she dialogues with women from the art world who once dealt with motherhood and the first years of raising a baby.
It's a story of births and earthquakes, illness, life and death, and also a compilation of images, quotes and references from women who have worked on pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding for art and literature.
Originally published in Spanish by Almadía, the book has been translated into English by Christina MacSweeney and released this year in the U.S. market under the same title, Linea Nigra: An Essay on Pregnancy and Earthquakes (Two Lines Press, 2022).
The book is based on the author's own experience of pregnancy, with all its joys and fears, during the earthquake that shook Puebla in 2017. As Barrera confronts the physical and emotional challenges of pregnancy, she gathers thoughts from artists and writers, creating a book that blends autobiography with a book of literary and artistic connections based on establishing a dialogue with other women in the art world who address pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding in their work.
"For a long time these topics were considered inconsequential, even the same women who wrote did so perhaps in secret, knowing that there was no reception for these texts. Nowadays, fortunately, women readers have realized that these themes challenge us and also, of course, the publishing market is opening its doors to this subject matter," explained Barrera in an interview with El País.
The author pointed out that she found in literature and art the company she needed to face motherhood.
"There is a discourse that we have bought that comes from academia, from a very masculine point of view, but which has also been appropriated by a certain liberal feminism. According to it, child-rearing tasks, care work and housework are incompatible with creativity and intellectual work," she told El País.
Barrera, on the contrary, found that her intellectual and creative life was awakened in an impressive way since she had a child.
"Raising a child implies a brutal intelligence and creativity, because you have to invent all the time, from stories to ways of putting on their shoes," she said.
Barrera, who studied MFA in Creative Writing in Spanish at NYU and got a fellowship of the Foundation for Mexican Letters, is the author of three other books, Cuerpo extraño / Foreign Body, winner of the 2013 Latin American Voices Award and the novels Cuaderno de faros and Punto de Cruz. The latter tells the autobiographical story of a new mother who learns that one of her best childhood friends has died.