Black Milk by Elif Shafak ― Book Review. #mothersday
Black Milk is intriguing to read because it is Elif Shafak’s recounting of her struggle with postpartum depression. Because it is Mother’s Day, it is even more important to discuss literature that construes the dark and underrepresented side of motherhood. For the writer of some of my favourite books such as ‘The Bastard of Istanbul’, it was when she became a mother that she also had to struggle with the worst writer’s block. As she recalls “for the first time my adult life… words wouldn’t speak to me”. In writing this book she deals with the theme of how being a father doesn’t stop one from being a writer but being a mother changes everything.
“There is a rule that has survived to this day, and it is still valid, in the cultural milieu; male writers come to mind as writers first, then as men; and female writers are female first, then female writers.”– Elif Shafak
The books are filled with stories of prominent female writers and the shadows that their male counterparts cast over their success. To me, the most intriguing of these stories was that Ella Fitzgerald, i.e. the wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald. From taking credit for her work to being reduced historically to no more than his literary muse; there’s quite a lot Shafak’s essay opened my eyes to.
In writing Black Milk, Shafak draws our attention to how multidimensional women are off the record. She does so by painting her personalities as tropes that conflict within herself. Miss Dame Dervish, Milady Ambitious Chekhovian, Little Miss Practical and Miss High Browed Cynic all appear throughout the book as mirrors that Shafak has to look into and so do the readers. She not only explores the parameters and boxes women are assigned but takes it up as a personal struggle when she writes the ‘The Manifesto of the Single Girl’.
The best thing about the book is that there’s Djinns again. The writer’s block that lasts eight months and strips Shafak of her purpose in life is doing of her literal demon: Lord Poton. There’s always a mystical element to her writing and that is what I love about her books.
Writing this book was a feat for Shafak because it was so unlike her other works. She recounts it as a brave and painful experience where she portrays her own life as that of a fictional character. The flimsy lines between autobiography and fiction are what make it a unique and worthwhile read.
It’s a 4/5 and not only because its Mother’s Day.
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