Motherhood, Ambivalence, Writing, Ambition, Infertility, History, Sexuality, Love, Abortion, Philosophy, Marriage, Infidelity
A thirty-five-year-old writer decides she wants to have children. Rounds of IVF treatments and several years later, she has two daughters and sits down to write this book. World’s Best Mother is a sublime journey—through pregnancy, the mothering of small children, marriage, an affair—which unfolds in a heady mix of anecdote, imagination, and social commentary. Clever and insightful, the narrator examines the myth, but also the scam, of motherhood, openly dialoguing with voices of the past that in one way or another have fueled her condition as a woman: from the legendary hominid Lucy—“the mother of humanity”—to Cinderella, passing through Plato, Mother Teresa, Darwin, Maupassant, and Simone de Beauvoir along the way. Humor, love, and horror converge in this lively auto-fictional battle between the intensity of child rearing and the writer trying to fight her way out.
With the support of Acción Cultural Española (AC/E)
8 April 2021
1. Labari writes, “Talented artists are daughters … Good writers write about daughterhood, or about any other subject in which their point of view forms the center of the universe.” How does Labari’s own account confirm or disprove this claim? As a mother and a writer, in what ways is she at the center of her own universe?
2. In what ways does the author attempt to keep her own identity distinct from those of her child and husband? Is writing itself a certain affirmation of independence?
3. What kind of roles do science and mythology play in Labari’s journey through conception and motherhood?
4. Labari writes, “It was difficult to hold up my feminist principles after becoming a mother, to be honest. Deep down, a part of me believed for the first time in the superiority of one of the sexes.” How does she go on to examine this claim? Is World’s Best Mother a feminist text?
5. Labari describes her own mother childrearing in an “isolated … female universe.” In what ways is motherhood a private affair? In what ways is it a public one, acted upon by outside forces?
6. How does Labari herself reconcile internal instincts with external pressure when it comes to conceiving and motherhood?
7. In what ways does Labari’s testament engage with and highlight the global hierarchy of women’s labor?
8. What other literature on motherhood have you read, and how does World’s Best Mother compare?
9. What does World’s Best Mother gain – or lose – by being a work of non-fiction? Is there a pressure to tell stories about mothers and motherhood “truthfully”?
10. Early in the book, Labari writes, “Because I don’t think you can be an artist and write as a mother.” How are these two states at odds with each other? By the end of the book, does Labari succeed in reconciling them?
Praise for World’s Best Mother
“A slyly funny and strikingly astute meditation on love in all its guises by a self-proclaimed ‘amateur mother.’”
JENNY OFFILL, bestselling author of Weather and Dept. of Speculation
“In World’s Best Mother, Nuria Labari has summoned all of the vitality and tenderness of women who have come before and those who will come after. Rage and desire and love and insolence—she’s laid it at our feet with a wry smile, unapologetic. It is fearless, profound and destabilizing, in the way the best literature is.” MEAGHAN O’CONNELL, author of And Now We Have Everything
“An honest, deep, and visceral reflection on being a mother.”
PILAR QUINTANA, author of National Book Award finalist The Bitch
“Labari’s searing, insightful voice lights up the landscape of reproductive biology, culture, and history, giving us new ways to think about creativity itself. A brilliant, vital, necessary contribution to the canon.”
ELISA ALBERT, author of After Birth
“Sure, Nuria Labari’s book is about being a mother, but as is indicated in the subtitle, it’s about so much more. About womanhood, creativity, the joys and travails of married life, the way love changes over time. Basically, about the difficulties of being in today’s world. It would be a mistake to think that this is a book just for moms though. It’s a book for anyone interested in what it means to be human. Labari’s voice—thanks to Katie Whittemore’s sharp, lively translation—is absolutely riveting for its earnestness. Being a creative, perceptive mother is messy business, but Labari never shies away from that messiness, transforming this memoir into a work of art.”
CHAD POST, Open Letter Books
“Labari writes with candor.”
“A sincere, revealing and visceral chronicle of motherhood.”
“Prepare to read a book like you’ve never read before, one that breaks the bounds of the narrative and the biographical, the conventions of both traditional and alternative values. A book of humor, love, and pain; as intoxicating as strong wine and as tumultuous as life. The truth is that I can’t imagine the possibility of someone not liking it.”
“A story told from the edge of a knife, a fictionalized chronicle that investigates pain and darkness, but also love, solidarity, and hope.”
“In clean, quick, and pointed prose that gets into the reader’s soul from the start, Labari’s novel leaves space for reflections on pain and makes room for understanding and coming to the aid of the fragile, incidental individual in today’s society.”
“Nuria sheds a light on this chaos of darkness that I inhabit when I think about my motherhood (or non-motherhood).”
“Nuria Labari shows that living motherhood and writing about it is the new punk. A book against social conventions and against the predictable.”
SERGIO DEL MOLINO
“There are many ways to talk about motherhood, but Nuria Labari’s book is profoundly original and brilliant. This novel is an explosion, an intellectual journey through the most primary instincts and the most human love. Nuria Labari has written a necessary book on a universal theme.”
LARA MORENO, author
“Labari infuses this story with some of her own experience, going beyond the life of a protagonist who lifts the veil on stereotypes and turning this text into a universal story about motherhood loaded with humanity, doubts, humor, regrets and imperfections.”
“This novel joins the debate already opened by public figures such as Samanta Villar: the ambivalence generated by motherhood in contemporary female identity.”
ANABEL PALOMARES, Jared
“For Labari, the important thing is to take the issue of motherhood to the streets and to books, to take away that sense of duty to be maternal that floods us and infiltrates our way of living sex.”
PAOLA ARAGÓN, Fashion & Arts
“Nuria Labari’s book must be read slowly, with a pencil, underlining. And, at the end of each chapter, get up, walk, think. It is both a necessary and insufficient book: we need more women, we need more mothers, more non-mothers, more workers, more artists, more grandmothers, more cleaners, more executives, more single mothers … We need more voices. That said: how well you think and what a pleasure to read you, Labari. Somebody take care of those girls for a while, please. Let Nuria keep writing.”
PALOMA BRAVO, Zenda