The book: I’m about 25% in Madre by Liza Bakewell now. I actually meant to read this about two-three weeks ago, because the author was doing a discussion/signing here and I wanted to go! But then I, er, forgot. Almost completely forgot, in fact; I only remembered about the event two hours after it had already happened. Whoops.
Nevertheless, I’m enjoying Madre now that I’m actually making an effort to read it. I got a little bit of modern Mexican culture in Stephanie Elizondo Griest’s book Mexican Enough, but that one was more about an American in Mexico both trying to find her heritage and understand how the whole of Mexican culture worked (and how that culture fit into her own worldview). Madre is also about an American in Mexico, but it’s more about trying to understand a specific aspect of Mexican culture rather than the whole thing all at once. Also, Bakewell isn’t worried about being “Mexican enough” or even about whether or not she fits into the local scene. Instead, she’s worried about understanding the concept of madre in the context of Mexican culture, which is a lot harder than it might seem at first.
It’s interesting to compare the two books because while they’re both memoirs I think SEG was more personally invested into her time in Mexico, and she focused more on how Mexican culture affected her and how she fit (or didn’t fit) into it. That’s probably because she was both doing some soul-searching and also because she’s a journalist, so she felt sort of…compelled? to try and understand everything.
Bakewell is an anthropologist rather than a journalist, so I think maybe it was easier for her to think about Mexican culture as pieces of a whole– and to dissect those pieces without worrying overmuch about how she, personally, fit into the whole picture. Rather than using her personal history to connect to Mexico/Mexican culture, she’d finding a way in via looking closely at a a specific aspect and then working out how that aspect fits into the whole. It’s a good way to do it, I think, as Mexican culture is pretty confusing to anyone who didn’t grow up in it.
The tea: No tea today, unfortunately. I’ve run out of Earl Grey and I can’t STAND drinking something else at the moment. I’ve got a cup of coffee, though!
Do they go together? I do think they go together, yes. Not only because I think I read about someone drinking coffee in Madre, but also because Madre feels like a very energetic book to me, and coffee always perks me up.