On Motherhood and Borrowed Bodies

[Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Dr. Valerie Mason-John, whose story "The Gift" is included in IMOW's MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe exhibition.] 

Motherhood today in the west is so different than what it looked like a hundred years ago. Yes, even in the west, it was a village that raised our children. Often the grandmothers raised their grandchildren, while the mothers went out to work.

Today we are lucky if we get to see our grandparents more than once a year. The family has broken down so much that there is often nobody in the family who will take children in when a mother is in crisis. So we raise our children in foster care, children's homes, and adoptive homes. Motherhood is very different for those of us who grow up in this context.

Born in the 60s, I can say I was raised by a village. I grew up in an orphanage, and every adult was your guardian. I am fortunate for my upbringing and know that if I had of been raised by my biological mother, I would not have had the emotional and physical health I experience today. Intuitively I think she knew she couldn't be a mother to any of her kids and gave all four of us up.

I have had several mothers (two of them dead--Aunty Claire and Aunty Morag). My dad, Uncle Boris, who has also passed. I have a foster mother still very much alive, and my biological mother is also still alive, so perhaps I am lucky.

My award-winning novel Borrowed Body, once called "the British Color Purple," has just been published in North America by Demeter Press. It is a slice of quintessential England in the 1960s and 70s, where a black child is born into the new year of 1965, to a society that wasn't prepared to accept an African baby abandoned on a harsh English winter day. So begins Pauline's spirited journey, in the spirit world and in and out of foster homes, back and forth to orphanages. Her spirit friends parent her throughout her moving rites of passage.

I have been asked if there is a sequel to Borrowed Body. I consider my recent TEDx talk (posted above) the sequel . Whether you read my novel first, or watch my TEDx talk, know this is the story of many children who do not make it in life.