Ruth Reichl has written several food-related memoirs that include "Mim tales," humorous stories about her mother Miriam Reichl. Writing these after her mother's death, she has regretted that they presented only one side of Mim's character - one that her mother would not have liked. In rediscovering a box of her mother's papers, Ruth found a woman she did not really know - someone who understood well the troubles that she appeared not to see - a woman who needed something meaningful to do. Ruth writes about her relationship to this new woman in Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way.
Ruth assumed that deep down her mother wanted her daughter to follow her example. There had been direct statements to the contrary - warnings about marriage and careers - but Ruth did not take them seriously. In the unsent letters and scraps of paper that served as her mother's haphazard journal, she found her mother had been serious. Miriam had tasted the world of work briefly on several occasions only to have husbands (supported by the prevailing mood of the time) insist that the woman's place was in the home, where all the new time-saving appliances left little to do. She was clinically depressed. Miriam did not want her daughter to be an intelligent woman with nothing to do. Her gift to Ruth was presenting herself as someone not to become.
Not Becoming My Mother is a small and fascinating book about a woman who represents women of her age, women denied careers after World War II. Book groups should pounce on it.
Reighl, Ruth. Not Becoming My Mother: And Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way. Penguin Press, 2009. ISBN 9781594202162