The Lingering of Loss

tags: Jill Lepore, history, academia, personal

Jill Lepore is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a professor of history at Harvard University. Her latest book is “These Truths: A History of the United States.”

...Twenty years ago this spring, I put my baby in his Kermit fleece and carried him out of the hospital. No one knows how these things will strike you, before they come to you, and I’d never taken care of a baby before, but I loved everything about it, everything about him. “When can we have another one?” is the first question I asked my doctor. I’d won a prize for my first book, a book about war. I didn’t go to the award ceremony. I could not leave my baby. People were very mad at me: why wasn’t I more grateful? I went to Jane’s memorial service instead, and delivered the eulogy, with my little frog.

The feminism of writers who are mothers is a fetish, but the motherhood of scholars is forbidden. When my son was four months old, I tried going to a conference. I missed him too much. I made a rule: no more conferences. People were very mad at me: didn’t I take my professional responsibilities seriously? I got an e-mail from a fellow-scholar who accused me of being an intellectual manqué. Didn’t I want to get out there, hobnob, curry favor, court support, mix it up, do battle, become a gladiator? I did not. I got pregnant again and I dragged myself through the writing of a second book, figuring that either I’d get tenure or I’d quit. Jane would understand. I wrote in my acknowledgments about my oldest son, ridiculously, and regretted it when a reviewer mocked me. I adopted two new rules: never again read a review, and never show your colleagues your soft belly, ever.

Read entire article at New Yorker

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