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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Woman Who Gave Birth To Her Mother

1. In each of the stories, Chernin presents a scenario in which a woman comes to terms with her relationship with her mother, a process Chernin identifies as "giving birth to one's mother." Why is this a fitting term? What sorts of ideas and images does it evoke?

2. Each of these stories offers a different interpretation of the idea of giving birth to one's mother. How would you apply this term to your own experiences? What does it mean to each of you individually?

3. Chernin identifies women's experiences resolving their mother issues as a series of seven stages: idealization, revision, blaming, forgiving, identification, letting go and giving birth. Discuss individually which stage best describes your present state and why.

4. How do you think it is possible to move from one stage to another? What sorts of revelatory experiences or emotions can trigger this movement?

5. Which stories did you find particularly meaningful? Discuss why.

6. Not everyone experiences their relationship with their mother as a troubling one, but, as Chernin points out, each of us has a mother story. If you were to contribute a story to this book, what would it be?

7. How do you think women who have experienced motherhood might reconcile their mother issues differently from women who have never been mothers?

8. How does the story about the wedding differ from the other stories in the book? Why do you think Chernin positioned it after the series of seven stories but before her own? Given Chernin's own experiences as a mother and as a daughter, what do you think might have motivated her to write this book?

The Woman Who Gave Birth To Her Mother
by Kim Chernin

  • Publication Date: August 1, 1999
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0140284664
  • ISBN-13: 9780140284669