What does a great artist who is also a mother look like? What does it mean to create, not in “a room of one’s own,” but in a domestic space? In The Baby on the Fire Escape: Creativity, Motherhood and the Mind-Baby Problem (WW Norton), award-winning biographer Julie Phillips traverses the shifting terrain where motherhood and creativity converge. She travels to Seattle from her home in Amsterdam to speak about her book, in which she explores the intimate and varied struggles of brilliant artists and writers of the twentieth century. Ursula K. Le Guin found productive stability in family life, and Audre Lorde’s queer, polyamorous union allowed her to raise children on her own terms. Susan Sontag became a mother at nineteen, Angela Carter at forty-three. As Julie Phillips threads together vivid portraits of these (and other) pathbreaking women, she argues that creative motherhood is a question of keeping the baby on that apocryphal fire escape: work and care held in a constantly renegotiated, provisional, productive tension. A meditation on maternal identity and artistic greatness, The Baby on the Fire Escape illuminates some of the most pressing conflicts in contemporary life.
“Before I met Ursula K. Le Guin, I had no personal models for how a woman with children might also be a writer. What I did have was the children. Here, with her customary clarity, with empathy, nuance, and acuity, Julie Phillips questions some of our most admired artists about the ways in which the creativity required by motherhood and the creativity required by art have thwarted and supported them.” —Karen Joy Fowler, author of Booth and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Julie Phillips, American biographer and book critic is also the author of James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, which received several honors including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Hugo and Locus Awards, as we;; as the Washington State Book Award. She is working on a biography of Ursula K. Le Guin.
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