Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

Shortly after Kaia was born, a sweet friend of mine sent a care package for Kaia and me. It included the book by Anne Lamott entitled Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year. I looked at the title and laughed. I decided I would read it after Kaia turned one. So I started reading it a few weeks ago, and while it is definitely over the top, neurotic, and hyperbolic, it is extremely relatable on everything from the concept of “they just send you home with a baby?” to “I hate my fucking breast pump.” It’s an easy book to read, laugh, and cry at. Anne, though a single mom by choice and a well paid writer at the time, faced a lot of her own demons before having a baby, including drug and alcohol addiction, as well as… an addition to bad men. Despite that, she had an amazing “village” she had built herself — her mom, siblings, and friends who genuinely treated her and her baby like family. It was really endearing to see how they truly gathered around her and acted as family can (and should) when a new baby arrives.

One thing that I was caught off guard by, and I guess I shouldn’t be, but I was, given the time it was written (1989) was exactly how much of a white gaze this book had. Granted, I knew going into this that this was written by a white female American writer, but it was a turnoff to me whenever she called out how her church members were black or another friend was Latino. She was eager to give them race descriptors, yet she never mentioned that other people were white; you just assumed if their race was not stated that they were white. Therefore, she basically “othered” anyone who was not white. People probably weren’t that cognizant of things like that in the 1980s, but people are hyper cognizant of them now.

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