It is one of the many charms of this book that Lavender is not only aware of the conventions of such autobiographies but that she consciously rejects them. Her powerful, elegant memoir should be read by everyone…. as an example of what truly well-written and unflinching self-examination can be like.
… An unflinching, beautifully written memoir of a childhood lost to illness…
Highly readable, fast-flowing account of a life of fighting off death – literally…. an extraordinary tale.
Lavender… holds nothing back as she recounts her life spent in and out of hospitals and her subsequent dissociation from her own body and emotions… witnessing her strength and sheer determination to live makes this striking book completely engrossing.
You know how sometimes you read a book that’s so powerful, you find you keep flipping to the back to look at the author’s photo? Lessons in Taxidermy has that effect. The memoir is so openhearted and deft and laden with trauma that you’ll want to keep checking that the writer really made it through alive. You’ll also want to get a good long glimpse at the individual behind this steely, graceful voice…. Lavender has the gift of articulating tragedies… with simple, unfettered language that doesn’t ask for sympathy. “My fingers found the lump and, sitting there waiting for my name to be called, I knew that I was touching cancer,” she writers of one afternoon when she was 12. Feel sympathy you will. But mostly you’ll be stirred by the excitement of having met such an introspective narrator.
…There’s a deep, almost painful beauty in her seemingly dispassionate language, and as Lavender interweaves the story of her most recent illness with those of her childhood and young adulthood, she also gives context to the physical contours and social history of the working-class Pacific Northwest landscape that was her home. In sifting through her unwanted memories, poking at the still-raw scars and bruises, Lavender shows how it is possible to transcend the body and its demands, to construct a whole and rewarding life out of a fractured past.
The writing is beautiful… Lavender is living proof of how much strength and determination one human being can possess… Reading Lessons in Taxidermy will pull your head out of pathetic self-pity. You will think again and realize that you are not all alone in this world. You will discover your own strength.
You know the moment when you see someone injure themselves and it’s painful and awkward to watch, but rather than reacting like a normal human being, you laugh a little? Even if the infliction was terrible and deep- perhaps the laughter is out of shock? … Lessons in Taxidermy will probably make you shock-laugh. The book is short, dark, but inspiring…
There’s little sense of comfort in Taxidermy; it’s a brutal story, told with no sense of victimhood or blame. The result is a terrifying tale of a woman trying to live a complete life with a body that fails her in the most horrific ways imaginable. It’s the type of book that breaks a reader’s heart in the first five pages and repeats the process on each page for the remaining 155. The lone relief comes from knowing Lavender, now relatively healthy, survived it all to write such a stirring memoir.
Bee Lavender, activist, writer, publisher of HipMama.com: resilient, tougher than a barnyard of bikers, strong as hell, yet never hard, documents her battle against an encyclopaedia of physical ailments which would have felled lesser mortals. Bee Lavender… continues to do what she does best, inspiring other women to live creative lives and channel their experiences constructively. When the urge to whine hits, pick up this courageous document of female strength.
Lavender’s memoir is exquisite, precise and deeply affecting from beginning to end.
Bee Lavender’s story is a testament to guts, endurance and an indomitable will to not succumb to the maladies that are laying siege to her body. You think nobody knows the trouble you’ve seen? Read this, and stop whining.
She never once hints at self pity. Instead, she peels back the muscles and tendons like a medical student learning the mysteries of the human body – except for her, the subject is something more than the physical. She cuts into her wounds – body and soul – and extracts truth… Bee Lavender is the kind of person who makes you want to buck up and be brave – in writing as much as life. And Lessons in Taxidermy is the kind of book everyone should read.
Lessons in Taxidermy is unflinching and engrossing, devoid of self-pity, heart-wrenching and inspiring.
Bee’s scrupulous, non-histrionic style is thrilling; it allows for some devastating emotional moments because the author comes by them honestly.
A narrative that is breathtaking in its horrible, beautiful honesty.
Bee Lavender is a fantastic writer. Her work is deep and personal and I don’t think there are any places she’s scared to go. Reading her stories makes me feel brave, like I’m living a hard and infinitely redeeming life right along with her.
For all our supposed advancement since previous generations, the societal duress implicit in our concept of the “good mother” seems to linger. In perhaps no other career choice is the tension between the self-sacrifice of motherhood and the need for self-actualization felt more strongly than in artistic and literary pursuits. This theme-along with that of the practical obstacles and unexpected inspirations of creating while tending to one child or more-is repeatedly but not repetitiously examined in this collection of essays, practical guides, poetry, and illustrations edited by writer-mamas Lavender and Rossini. The pieces are as varied as the nature of the art created by their authors, including dancers, artists, photographers, writers, singers, and ‘zine creators. Still, a sense of honesty, passion and, yes, intense motherly love is apparent throughout. Highly recommended for both family/relationship and arts and literature collections.
My next-to-favorite thing about Mamamphonic is the number of artistic careers represented. There is a flamenco dancer, rock musicians, poets, and an illustrator who turned to making decorated cakes and cookies when her son was small. I loved reading about how to make a record label, and I loved Marrit Ingman’s account of incorporating motherhood into her career as a film reviewer. This is my favorite thing about Mamahphonic: the adoration these women feel for their families, their joy (even on bad days) at the synthesis of motherhood and art.
Mamaphonic presents more than two dozen essays on what might be called the delicate balancing act of motherhood and artistic work, except that, as these contributors prove, the act is not so much delicate as it is messy, arduous, and absolutely essential.
Reading Mamaphonic is like being on a retreat with an enormously diverse and wise sisterhood of those who really understand punk rockers and dancers and researchers, cartoonists and cookie decorators, all pretty much in agreement: How do we do it? We don’t know. To do it is difficult, but not to do it would be impossible.
By sharing their experiences and their stories, these creative women offer a gift to all mothers and mothers-to-be. And with that gift comes comfort and solace for those who may walk in their shoes creatively or otherwise.
The contributors to this standout anthology from the editors of Hip Mama: The Parenting Zine are welfare moms, journalists, television writers, poets, and “social justice ninjas” women who “choose to have our kids while, not instead of, following our other dreams.” The writers approach the task of parenting with determination, wit, self-awareness, and a serious dose of heterodoxy. The result is a kaleidoscopic look at life as a mother, with essays about a road trip; the neonatal ICU; battling depression and contemplating suicide; teaching your kid to fly a plane; even being 15 years old and having to fight an adoption counselor to keep your son. Whether you’re a parent, parent-to-be, or nonparent, Breeder promises a satisfying and illuminating look at the latest reinventions of motherhood.
The voices of mothers–the real in-the-trenches voices of mothers–always threaten the status quo. Tell the truth about your ambivalence, rage, and passion–whether about miscarriage, breast pumps, or (as profiled here) your welfare-avoidance job as a stripper–and watch the general public recoil. But as every mother knows, there is nothing more comforting than finding another woman who is willing to sit in your kitchen and share the honest-to-God truth about mothering. So it takes a lot of best-girlfriend loyalty to write the gut-wrenching motherhood stories that you’ll find in Breeder. And fortunately, coeditors Bee Lavender and Ariel Gore had enough grit and pluck to get them published.
It is the quality of the writing that sets Hip Mama apart. This site ultimately provides succor to moms who cannot relate to our culture’s mawkish notions of motherhood. Yet although it is cool and sometimes sharp, Hip Mama wears its heart on its Gerbers-stained sleeve, defining “hip” not just as ” aware, informed” but also as “a place where young children sit when they’re tired of walking.”
Hipmama.com was, without a doubt, the only parenting site on the Web that marked the passing of Joey Ramone. It was probably alone, again, when it posted this headline: “Who says moms aren’t hot?” Bee Lavender– writer, activist, mother — is definitely hot. She is the very embodiment of extreme motherhood.
Fun and irreverent.
No sanctified endorsement of the usual myths about motherhood here. No neat checklists of all-too-easy parenting solutions or slick write-ups of professional experts telling how it’s supposed to be. Hip Mama speaks (and listens) to parents who want or need to raise kids their own way…. Hip Mama explores the real stuff of parenting with a proper recognition of the ambiguity of it all–and plenty of love and humanity.
Proof that being a mother doesn’t have to be boring — or apolitical.
Traditional or not, the topics are handled with serious insight.
Click here to buy the books.