A reading by Vashon author Alice Bloch from her latest memoir, “Mother-Daughter Banquet,” will take place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, at Vashon Bookshop.
Bloch is another example of artists who are drawn to live on Vashon Island; she writes fiction as well as memoirs. “Mother-Daughter Banquet,” earned her a Minerva Rising Press Memoir Award.
Her short fiction and essays have been included in the anthologies “Hers 2,” “Careful Reading, Thoughtful Writing,” “New Worlds of Literature” and “On Being a Jewish Feminist.” She wrote a column for the Los Angeles Jewish Newspaper, served as a contributing editor of the Lesbian Review of Books and now reviews classical music, opera and theater for Seattle Gay News.
On Vashon, Bloch coordinates the island’s Meals on Wheels program.
In “Mother-Daughter Banquet,” Bloch explores the meaning of motherhood from various perspectives. Her own mother died when she was 9, and Bloch assumed the role of surrogate mother to her four younger siblings. This was the launch point for several maternal roles that influenced Bloch’s development as a woman and as a writer.
The characters in Bloch’s new book include Laura, a flamboyant immigrant grandmother, who longed for a life on the stage but settled for becoming an extremely dramatic housewife. Norma, a docile mother, lived her life in Laura’s shadow but still managed to join the Navy in World War II and ultimately birthed what Bloch calls “an unseemly number of children. ” Jean, the gruff but insecure stepmother, worried incessantly about the opinions of others, worshipped Emily Post and yearned for a life of more freedom than she was able to permit herself. Rosalind, the high-spirited aunt, went to Harlem in the 1930s to pursue a career as a jazz pianist and songwriter. She lived long and well, and eventually found a healthy balance of creativity, love and work.
Bloch uses her memoir to dive deep into her memories of growing up as a Jewish lesbian in mid-twentieth-century Ohio. In this account of her life, the lives of the four mothers, and her relationship with each, Bloch address issues of truth in memory along with questions of love and reconciliation.
A discussion and book-signing will follow her reading.