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Mother, Animal

UK Publisher: Elliot & Thompson

An intimate and radical story of mothering in the Anthropocene.

When Helen Jukes falls pregnant, she does what anyone else would; she goes out in search of information to help make sense of the changes underway inside her. But as the months pass and her body becomes increasingly strange, the pregnancy manuals seem insufficient; even the advice of her friends, passionate proponents of one birthing approach or another, feels oppressive.

And so she widens her frame of reference, looking beyond humans to ask what motherhood looks like in other species, in other ecologies. Here begins a queerer, wilder process of enquiry – one in which nematodes, polar bears, spider monkeys and dung beetles (among others) begin to unsettle and expand her notion of what mothering is, and what it means.

And as she enters the sleeplessness, chaos and intimate discoveries of life with a newborn, these animal stories become Helen’s companions and guides – revealing the deceits inherent in the image of the ‘natural’ mother, and compelling her to explore where her own animality begins and ends.

In this intricately woven domestic memoir blending cutting-edge research from the fields of evolutionary and human biology, nature writing and natural history, Jukes explores the much overlooked idea that the mothering body is worthy of our observation.  What Jukes discovers is both surprising and important. The philosophical questions raised by her various enquiries serve to completely undermine conventional ideas of gender, hierarchy and individual autonomy.

Helen Jukes is the author of the acclaimed memoir A Honeybee Heart has Five Openings, a Book of the Year...