Elif Shafak: Black Milk

This is my ninth book by Elif Shafak, and I admit that I sometimes have qualms with her metaphors. Here, she personifies each of her personalities into tiny little women that argue among themselves and with whom she convenes, and it is comical at times. But this may have been necessary to lighten the mood, otherwise it would have been too weighty to read, especially for a woman. Besides, Shafak must always have her whimsy despite the gravity of her topics.

The best parts for me are the contemplations on the lives of other literary women and their differing views on motherhood; from Virginia Woolf, Simone de Beauvoir, Doris Lessing, Jane Austen, Anais Nin, Countess Sophia Andreevna Tolstoy, Louisa May Alcott, to Sylvia Plath of whom Elif Shafak writes so beautifully — “She was the mother to not only two children but to a thousand poems.”

All these women who either struggled or dealt with, longed for, or resisted motherhood. 

“After all, as even the smallest glimpse into the lives of women writers — East and West, past and present — keenly shows, every case is different. There is no single formula for motherhood and writing that suits us all. Instead, there are many paths on the literary journey, all leading to the same destination, each equally valuable. Just as every writer learns to develop his or her own unique style and is yet inspired by the works of others, as women, as human beings, we all elaborate our personal answers to universal questions and needs, heartened by one another’s courage.”

This book was closed with a lump in my throat. At times it felt like it was attacking me, and sometimes it felt like it comforted me. But it is a gift that came to me at the right time in my life.

Disclaimer: I am not with child. Haha! But being of a certain age, my many selves are warring against each other about the things discussed in this book. Summed up, it is mainly a witness to a journey of being at peace with all of who you are, including the conflicting voices in your head.

On the other hand, we see that maintaining a healthy sense of democracy among our many selves cannot be achieved without putting in the necessary work. 

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