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Mothers, Tell Your Daughters - Bonnie Jo Campbell - <span class="date-display-single">11/07/2015 - 2:00pm</span>

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters

11/07/2015 - 2:00pm

Presented in partnership with Arcadia Books and featuring a special reading by Colleen Madden, join us for an afternoon with Bonnie Jo Campbell.  Campbell’s searing new collection, Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories offers powerful insights into unforgettable heroines who are determined to shape their own futures with—or despite—the men in their lives. With writing that is muscular and suspenseful, Campbell’s work has been likened to Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver, sharing with these writers a focus on the American working-class. The characters in this collection are enthralling and multifaceted—precocious girls coming to terms with a cold and dispassionate world, mothers fighting tooth and nail to provide for their children, wives scarred by abuse who find strength to break free. Though their lives are marked by trauma, Campbell infuses her protagonists with strength and agency so their stories, despite their circumstances, are never simple or predictable.
In the title story, a woman hospitalized from a stroke and has lost the ability to speak but her interior thoughts parlay intense and impassioned life lessons to her daughter. In “A Multitude of Sins,” an obedient wife sits at her abusive husband’s deathbed as he dies slowly—and suddenly gains a whole new feeling of her self-worth with her newfound independence. The story “Tell Yourself” traces the ever more frantic thoughts of a mother who drives herself crazy over the possibilities for her pubescent daughter to be sexualized by men. In “My Dog Roscoe,” a new bride becomes obsessed with the notion that her dead ex-boyfriend has returned to her in the form of a mongrel. And in “To You, As a Woman,” a patient in a hospital waiting room relives a brutal assault and wonders, as a mother and sister, about the mothers and sisters of her assailants.
Despite their strength of will, it is clear that these woman are at the short end of a very uneven power dynamic. With intensity and precision, Campbell peels back their harsh outer layers to expose the traumas they have lived through and the hardships that have shaped them—their stubbornness and severity are transformed through her writing, and reveal themselves over the course of the stories, in ways that showcase their bravery and resilience.
The rural America that Bonnie Jo Campbell portrays is no calm countryside—it’s gritty and stark. Trust doesn’t come naturally, and neither does tenderness. Campbell’s writing simmers with suspense—her characters, full of life and energy. The relationships of mothers and their daughters are complex and messy, heartbreaking and durable. These women search for love, chase their dreams and follies, reach the end of their ropes, or just try to survive in an inhospitable world. Familial relationships in this collection strangle and support, they are sources of trauma and solace as these characters struggle to be good mothers, good sisters, good daughters, good wives, and simply do the right thing.
There are four never-before-published stories in this collection of 16 stories, in addition to those that have previously appeared in Tin House, The Kenyon Review Online, The Southern Review, Story Magazine, and One Story, among other publications. Campbell is the author of Q Road, Once Upon a River, and American Salvage, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. 

Bonnie Jo Campbell

About Presenter Bonnie Jo Campbell


Bonnie Jo Campbell lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan and teaches at the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University. Her stories have appeared in the Southern Review, the Kenyon Review, and the Alaska Review. She has won the AWP award for short fiction, a Pushcart Prize, the Eudora Welty Prize (2009), and she was named a Barnes & Noble Great New Writer.


Mothers Tell Your Daughters

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