Sometimes I think that carrying—other people, the continuity of history, generational identity, the emotional load of the everyday—is the main thing that women do.
In Marina Benjamin’s new set of interlinked essays, she turns her astute eye to the tasks once termed “women’s work”. From cooking and cleaning to caring for an aging relative, A Little Give depicts domestic life anew: as a site of paradox and conflict, but also of solace and profound meaning. Here, productivity sits alongside self-erasure, resentment with tenderness, and the animal self is never far away, perpetually threatening to break through.
Drawing on the work of figures such as Natalia Ginzburg, Paula Rego, and Virginia Woolf, Benjamin writes with fierce candor of the struggle to overwrite the gender conditioning that pulls her back into “the mud-world of pre-feminism” even as she attempts to haul herself out. From her upbringing as the child of immigrants with fixed traditional values, to looking after her mother and seeing her teenager move out of home, she examines her relationships with with family, community, her body, even language itself. Ultimately, she shows that a woman’s true work may lie at the heart of her humanity, in the pursuit both of transformation and of deep acceptance.
“With its unfailing attentiveness to the sensory and emotional textures of everyday life, Marina Benjamin’s beautiful writing feels like a model of good care. A wry, absorbing, and very moving book.”
Josh Cohen, author of How to Live. What to Do,
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“A small book with a big heart, A Little Give re-humanizes those household chores that fall to women—cleaning, cooking, picking up after others, caring for elders, the constant emotional labor involved—and lights up the meaning of dailiness.”
Beth Macy, author of Dopesick and Raising Lazarus,