Letter from the Publisher: Regretting Motherhood
Categories: Psychology & Personal Growth Society & Politics
Tags: Letter from the Publisher Orna Donath Tim McKee
I still remember the day when my colleague brought the manuscript for Regretting Motherhood to our acquisitions meeting.
There were the usual ten of us gathered in our conference room, representing all parts of our team, from acquisitions to editorial, production to sales. What we’re looking for in those meetings are books possessing an elusive quality that some of us have come to call “nabby” (a play on the acronym for North Atlantic Books). Regretting Motherhood had it in colors.
What is “nabby” exactly? Some say that we’re looking for books about the transformation of self, society, and consciousness. Others have stated that we seek books that not just any publisher would publish. Others describe it as being authentic and not derivative—how does the book relate to the lineages of thought in its area, and what is it contributing to the conversation?
Put another way, what we’re really looking for is radical material, in the truest meaning of the word: namely that, as Webster’s puts it, the book “proceeds from a root” and is simultaneously “very different from the usual.” In essence, what we’re looking for is an integration that at first glance might seem like a contradiction: books that are both backward-looking and forward-leaning; grounded and yet stretching; reverential and yet audacious; familiar and yet surprising; ancient and yet unheard of. Neither that, nor this, but both.
A tall order, no doubt, but one that we somehow fill twice a month when we sit down for acquisitions meetings. That day, I knew simply from the sound I heard from the bodies assembled around the table that Regretting Motherhood was a yes for us. It’s hard to describe the sound—if you’ve ever witnessed a birth, it’s something akin to that—but I’d describe it as a “spontaneous exhale of knowingness.” It’s the sound we make when goose bumps sprout across our skin. It’s the sound we make when someone is saying something that in our hearts we know is true and that the world needs to hear.
In this case, it was author Orna Donath telling the world that it is not shameful for women to not have children; that it is not shameful for mothers to struggle with being mothers; that in fact it is not shameful for mothers to sometimes feel deep regret in this sublime task, all the while loving their children.
I hope the world will make note of Regretting Motherhood, but we’ve learned to be patient; sometimes it takes people a while to wake up to our books, even though the murmurs of them have likely been quietly calling in dreams, signs, and songs. May Regretting Motherhood touch that root in readers while simultaneously jolting them wide awake.