Book: Fruitful

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Fruitful: A Real Mother in the Modern World

Author: Anne Richardson Roiphe
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company

In Fruitful, Roiphe tells the intimate, turbulent, compelling story of raising her own children in the gap between motherhood and feminism—and makes an eloquent plea for a new agenda. Roiphe’s life is a perfect microcosm of change in the American family over the past thirty years. Married and a mother in her early twenties, she soon became a divorced single parent, raising her young daughter on her own. Remarriage and new motherhood brought great joy but also the complications of combining families and raising stepchildren. With heartbreaking candor, she details the difficult adaptations and painful rebellions that haunt a parent’s conscience. Through it all, Roiphe keenly felt feminism’s discomfort with the question of motherhood. Allowing the conservative right to co-opt the issue of family, feminism has sometimes overlooked the very real emotional and economic needs of mother just trying to make it through the day. Here, Roiphe crafts a unique pro-feminist/pro-family position that calls for fruitful dialogue on quality childcare, on including men as full partners in parenting, on defining family in ways that allow everyone to thrive.


The passion Anne Roiphe feels for being a mother far outweighs any literary accolades she could achieve for her writing. She believes that if men could only learn the art of mothering, the battle between the sexes, especially in the workplace, might abate. In this humorous, yet critical analysis on what it means to be a mother, Roiphe advocates co-mothering and condemns the women’s movement for its male-bashing focus. Fathers who mother, she maintains, are less threatened by their wives’ successes outside the home, because the traditional gender roles are shared. Though she is adamant about protecting a woman’s right to choose to be a mother, she writes that once a woman has taken that step, she must regard it as sacred and never abandon her responsibility.

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