In Mother Is a Verb, a highly original interpretation of mothering, the writer, feminist, and historian Sarah Knott weaves a tale that begins with her own story, as she grapples with whether to have a child, before expanding into maternity in other places and times. Knott structures the book to mirror the phases of pregnancy and early mothering, and covers everything from miscarriage to late-night feedings, from morning sickness to evolving terminologies.
Though her own story is ever-present—we feel the baby on her hip, always at her side—Knott uses her present moment as a means of exploring the past, drawing on techniques from literary nonfiction and feminist maternal theory’s embrace of anecdote. She builds a trellis of tiny scenes of mothering, using diaries, letters, reports, court records, conduct guides, clothing, and objects, as well as her own experiences. In so doing, Knott creates an unexpectedly moving and visceral depiction of mothering, past and present, as both a shared and an endlessly various human experience. Mothering, in her hands, is bodily and not merely biological.