Waiting for the Spider to Come Home”: Mothers and Mothering in Lalita Tademy’s Cane River

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Through the voices of Elisabeth, Suzette, Philomene, and Emily, Tademy reconstructs the narrative of her family history; these voices, in turn, speak for those whose stories will go untold. These women, unlike many others, survived- not whole, not necessarily in tact; yet, they managed to use their limited resources and their belief in family to triumph in the face of meaningless suffering. Like Harriet Jacobs whose slave narrative recounts her decisions to take a white lover and to save herself and her family by hiding in the “loophole of [her] retreat,” Tademy’s ancestral matriarchs employ numerous strategies of mothering in an effort to rescue their families, especially their girls, from the intricate webs of race, class, and gender imbedded in Louisiana Creole culture. In Cane River, mothers use their bodies to secure the futures of their children, they sacrifice their personal freedoms to ensure the birthrights of their offspring, and they nurse away the miseries of slavery, rape, and death. However, they are also silent, absent, or unmoved during times of crisis. They are not always the nurturers: sometimes they are the nurtured. They are jealous. They are obstacles in the way of dreams. Tademy does not idealize or romanticize mothering; instead, she humanizes the roles of her foremothers by revealing their flaws and fallibilities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReclaiming Home, Remembering Motherhood, Rewriting History: African American and Afro-Caribbean Women’s Literature in the Twentieth Century
EditorsMarie Drews, Verena Theile
StatePublished - 2009


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