Owning her identity

Portland zinester's tales become a book
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  June 3, 2009

hausfrau main

After twice seeing the one-woman stage adaptation of The Passion of the Hausfrau at Portland Stage Company, and perusing several issues of the Hausfrau mutha-zine, I was curious to see how Nicole Chaison's tales of motherhood would translate to book form. Turns out, the trials and tribulations of parenting — trying to be a nurturing, progressive, patient mom, while also being a loving wife, and fulfilling personal creative and intellectual needs — are equally entertaining when bound all together. And the Hausfrau trajectory, which the Portland mother of two compares to the self-discovery journey of a mythical tragic hero, lends itself to being told in a continuous arc. 

The Passion of The Hausfrau: Motherhood, Illuminated | by Nicole Chaison | Villard | 256 pages | $22

The Passion of the Hausfrau: Motherhood, Illuminated (a book-release celebration is planned for June 19 at Longfellow Books), retains the zine's conversational tone. It is a unique skill to impart parenting wisdom without being patronizing or self-righteous, and perhaps Chaison's whimsical, comic-inspired drawings, which complement and add to each story, help achieve that.

But most appealing is how vulnerable Chaison allows herself to be. Here is a woman who struggles with her sex drive, her feelings of ineptness and insecurity, her occasionally unruly children; here is a wife who loves and sometimes resents her husband; here is a writer without time to write; here is a woman who drinks wine to calm down, needs medication to deal with depression, deals with a passive-aggressive mother, gets sick, and cries. In other words, a woman like many of us. And because we relate to her, Chaison's joys — her delight in her children, her creative blossoming and success, her honest relationship with her husband — are that much easier to embrace.

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