Lady Banks Bookshelf

Lady Banks Pick of the Week

Mothers and StrangersMama

My good friend Samia Serageldin took me out to lunch in Chapel Hill, shortly after the death of her powerful and aristocractic Eygptian mother, along with another friend, Margaret Rich, whose own mother, a strong-willed southern matriarch, had just died at the age of one hundred in Greenville, South Carolina. "I have an idea," Samia said in her charming, lilting way. "Let's write a book about our mothers." Immediately we were in. We told other friends the idea, and they were in, too. We were all in. Because somehow we have come to that time in our lives when all the parents are gone, leaving us motherless, or fatherless, or, often now, orphans--suddenly out in the world alone, with nothing to stand between us and well, what? What? It is a time of reckoning. And who was she, that one who gave us birth, surely the most intimate of all physical relationships? Hers was the first face we say, the first voice we heard...surely this is especially important for a writer, how wer first experience language....Who was she to us, or we to her? Who are we now, without her?


--Lee Smith, in Mothers and Strangers, edited by Samia Serageldin and Lee Smith (UNC Press, 2019) 9781469651675