Tuesday, November 29, 2016

On the Bookshelf: Learning about Jewish Mothers

What does one think of upon hearing the words, “Jewish mother”? Personally, an image of
Golde, from Fiddler on the Roof, enters my mind. Various negative words associate themselves with this picture—overbearing, coddling, and helicopter parent—and I would love to see a more positive image cast on Jewish mothers. So, when I noticed Marjorie Ingall’s book, Mamaleh Knows Best, I knew that I simply needed to read it. In this book, Ingall seeks to demolish the stereotypical “Jewish mother” image, and provides principles for parenting that people of any faith background can easily imitate. Ingall begins each chapter with a quotation from a Jewish person or written source, and intertwines stories from her own life, modern culture, and the history of the Jewish people. Some of the parenting principles were expected (“Tell Stories”), and some took me by surprise (“Encourage Geekiness”). At the end of each chapter, the “Mamaleh Methodology” section summarizes the basic ideas and how they can be implemented.

As I read this book, I greatly enjoyed learning about another culture and religion, and I loved reading Ingall’s stories of the triumphs and failures that come with parenting. I appreciated how accessible Ingall was making the ideas she presented, so that any mother can implement them. In fact, by the time I finished reading, my book was filled with little slips of paper that mark my “favorite passages,” so that I can go back and re-read them in the future.

While I had a great time reading this book, there were some aspects which I did not like. I personally did not like the extravagant use of parentheses to give side comments. While these types of interruptions would be humorous and enjoyable a few times, I found it to be done quite excessively, and it broke up my flow of reading. Also, as someone who does not like reading cuss words, I did not appreciate some of the language that Ingall used. Also, there is a very helpful glossary of Yiddish terms in the back, but no pronunciations are given anywhere, and I think this would have been a fabulous addition. Finally, while I respect Ingall’s opinions, I personally did not like how—in an attempt to be inclusive—she seemed to occasionally present morally relativistic ideas at times, and would also jump from discussions on parenthood to rant about LGBT rights and the evolving role of women in Jewish synagogues and services.  

Overall, Ingall’s stories, advice, and discussion of Jewish history and culture provided some fascinating insights on parenthood. While I don’t agree with everything she presented (but then, who agrees 100% with what he or she reads in a parenting book?), I liked learning about these cultural and religious beliefs, and how they influence motherhood. While not my favorite book on parenting, Mamaleh Knows Best was an engaging read, and I enjoyed it!

~I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review~

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