My Photo
Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Blog Book Tour: It's a Boy by Andrea Buchanan

Today I'm happy to be blogging about Andrea Buchanan's new book, It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons.

It's a Boy contains an amazing variety of essays all with one common theme: they are written by women about their experiences raising sons. Some of the essays are about the writer's trepidation when she found out she was having a son, what Andrea calls "prenatal boy apprehension." Others are about the unique challenges of raising boys who have been labelled as bullies. And still others address the ups and downs of raising boys who like "girly" things, such as shiny bead necklaces and the color pink.

The editor of It's a Boy and one of the contributing writers, Andrea Buchanan, is the managing editor of, an online literary magazine for the maternally inclined. She also is the author of a book of essays on motherhood, Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It. Mother Shock was an eye opening book for me and I found much solace in Andrea's writing during the long dark months when I felt like I was stuck--both physically and mentally--at home with a toddler and a newborn.

Because I so enjoyed Mother Shock, I was eager to read--and enjoy--it's a Boy. I was not disappointed. The writing--at times thought provoking, at times heart breaking--is superb and always eloquent. Andrea has put together a remarkable collection of essays by an equally amazing collection of writers.

I was delighted to find out that one of my favorite essays in the book, "Pretty Baby" was written by Catherine Newman, whose writing I became familiar with from her parenting column on Catherine also has written a memoir based on her column, titled Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family. In "Pretty Baby," she writes about the love her son has for the color pink, a fact that tends to elicit unpleasant reactions from complete strangers. Catherine explains her son's fondness for pink with an objective logic. "Are we genuinely shocked that the girls' section--with its plush bubblegum everything, its rhinestones and puppies and velvet detailing--calls out to some boys like a pastel siren song?" She refuses to let society's irriational fear of boys and the color pink affect how she mothers her child, and she appreciates it when others see her son for who he is, a happy, funny, smart, kind kid who just happens to be wearing a "pink shirt with a heart on its sleeve."

Melanie Lynn Hauser, one of my favorite bloggers and the author of Confessions of Super Mom wrote a beautiful essay on what it's like to be a mother to a teenage boy. In "Shapeshifter," Melanie writes about this elusive and almost-mythical creature. "He doesn't need you. He's perfectly capable of taking care of himself; doesn't he tell you that a dozen times a day?" Melanie aptly puts into words what it's like living with a son who one minute is embarassed by you and the next minute needs you to bake him cookies. "His eyes squeeze shut as he's hugging you and somehow, with those famous eyes at the back of your head, you can see this. Then he whispers. "Mommy."" Hidden behind humor, Melanie's tale of mothering an older son rings bittersweet and true.

The most moving essay in the book was written by Susan Ito. In "Samuel," she relives the pain and sense of failure she felt at losing her first child--a son--to preeclampsia. It's a heart wrenching piece of work filled with the kind of simple yet poignant writing to which any mother can relate, especially if she has experienced a loss of her own. Susan writes, "I have looked at a thousand boys, from toddlers to young men, since that day in 1989, and none of them have come close to the perfection of that unlived life, that beautiful son who never took a breath." Andrea calls Susan's essay "the emotional center of the book." I agree.

When I read Susan Ito's essay I wept for her son who never got to experience life outside her womb. And while I wept, I was thankful for my own sweet children, for my girl and for my boy. When I read Catherine Newman's essay, I rejoiced for the boy striving to be an individual in a world that prefers conformity. And I felt that same happiness when I saw my own son playing with his doll. I hope that he will always feel as free to play with dolls as he does now. When I read Melanie Lynn Hauser's essay, I wept for the mom who understands that she must tread carefully in her teenage boy's world if she wants to be allowed to remain. And then I found myself weeping for the mom that I will one day become when my own little boy--who now needs me more than anything in the world--will turn silent and secretive; when he will turn to others for comfort.

The writings in It's a Boy touch upon many aspects of raising boys, including the fears, the hopes, and the sorrows that can begin when the child is still in utero and that can continue until even after he is old enough to buy his own house. Both moms and dads will be able to relate to these individual stories. Combined, they ultimately reveal what most parents of boys know: that boys aren't just made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails, but that they're also made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Boys are complex creatures who might want nothing to do with us one minute and then need a hug and a plate of warm cookies the next. They are complicated; they are complex; they are contradictory. They are boys.

Do yourself a favor and add It's a Boy to your Holiday wish list. The stories will make you laugh and they'll make you cry. Like me, you will find yourself loving every minute of this book.