A Reflection on Motherhood: Monia Mazigh May 04 2018
In primary school, in preparation for Mother’s Day, our teachers used to help us work on a craft or a drawing to give to our mothers. That was how we celebrated Mother’s Day. We didn’t go for brunch, buy expensive gifts, or plan a day at the spa. But those handmade crafts meant a lot for me as a little girl. I remember always putting all my efforts and love and trying to impress my mom. When I presented my gift to my mom, she would hug me, give me a kiss, and later my crafts would end up at the top of a tall wood wardrobe with other family pictures and old ornaments. A kind of a family time capsule, where love, affection, and sometimes grudges, accumulate over the years.
My mom is a very simple person; she grew up in a poor family with a sick father and a strong-headed, hard-working mother who raised my mother and her six siblings. But my mother is the product of her own time. Unlike her mother, she went to school, received a diploma in sewing, and slowly become an excellent seamstress. It was not always smooth and easy for her. Her mother wouldn’t allow her to accept an apprenticeship at a famous fashion house because it would be considered inappropriate for girl from a “good family.” Later, when my mom married my father, her struggles continued. She wanted to work so she could be financially independent, but my father wouldn’t allow it. Nevertheless she persisted and for as long as I remember she was a working mother.
First she worked as a simple seamstress. Then she became a team leader in various clothing factories. Finally she became a small business owner; she opened her own boutique beside our childhood home. She worked so hard between inside the home and out, spending her weekends cooking, cleaning, and washing our clothes. She didn’t have a washing machine until in the late ‘80s, when she bought a small one, but she still needed to do all the rinsing, wringing, and hanging up. The housework drained her. Today, when she sees me so busy between my work and housework, she advises me: “What do you think housework will bring you, a trophy? Stop killing yourself for nothing.”
When I had both my kids, my mom was there for me. She didn’t have an ease for words but her physical presence saved me. Both of my kids were colicky and inconsolable, for hours on end they would cry. In my naive magazine-bombarded mind, I had a rosy picture of breastfeeding my kids in a rocking chair, but the reality was much bleaker and more chaotic. I had postpartum depression and suffered continuously from negative cyclical thoughts. If it wasn’t for the support of my mother, standing alongside me, I would have been somewhere else. Mother-daughter relationships are complex. For some, it is all smooth and all beautiful. For others, it is tense and difficult. When I was growing up, I sometimes wished my mom was more present at home and that I wouldn’t spend all my weekends helping her with scrubbing and dusting. Sometimes I wished my mother would be like some of my friends’ mothers, perhaps take me to watch plays or drive me to the beach for a swim. But she did neither. I was selfish in wishing to have the “perfect mother.” My mother is perfect in the way she was able not only to survive but to defy the impositions of poverty and patriarchy while maintaining a resilient spirit all the way.
Unwilling to endure a culture of silence and submission, and disowned by her family, Nadia leaves her native Tunisia in 1984 amidst deadly violence, chaos, and rioting brought on by rising food costs, eventually emigrating to Canada to begin her life.
More than twenty-five years later, Nadia’s daughter Lila reluctantly travels to Tunisia to learn about her mother’s birth country. While she’s there, she connects with Nadia’s childhood friends, Neila and Mounir. She uncovers agonizing truths about her mother’s life as a teenager and imagines what it might have been like to grow up in fear of political instability and social unrest. As she is making these discoveries, protests over poor economic conditions and lack of political freedom are increasing, and soon, Lila finds herself in the midst of another revolution — one that will inflame the country and change the Arab world, and her, forever.
Weaving together the voices of two women at two pivotal moments in history, the Tunisian Bread Riots in 1984 and the Jasmine Revolution in 2010, Hope Has Two Daughters is a bracing, vivid story that perfectly captures life inside revolution.
Monia Mazigh was born and raised in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada in 1991. She was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband, Maher Arar, was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge. She campaigned tirelessly for his release. Mazigh holds a Ph.D. in finance from McGill University. She is the National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. She has published a memoir, Hope and Despair, and her novel Mirrors and Mirages was a finalist for the Trillium Book Award in the original French.