ISBN: 9781615194391
Publishing: April 3, 2018
Price: $24.95 US / $32.95 CAN
Hardback: 288 pages
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The Motherhood Affidavits
A Memoir

A prodigious talent blazes onto the American literary scene with this bold, original memoir of her perilous—yet life-saving—addiction to childbearing

With the birth of her first child, Laura Jean Baker found herself electrified by oxytocin, the “love drug”—the first effective antidote to her lifelong depression. Again and again over the next eight years, Baker finds herself craving the intense highs of childbearing—cravings that, she realizes, align her much more closely with her public defender husband’s drug-addled clients than with their middleclass peers. As Ryan’s roster of defendants increases, so too does their family—nearly to the point of collapse.

Brilliantly crafted, impeccably written, intensely personal, The Motherhood Affidavits portrays a woman, a marriage, a family, caught in an impossible bind. Its heartbreaking resolution raises profound questions about whether we, as a society, are governed by morals or by laws—and whether either is an adequate measure of any one person’s ability to parent and capacity for love.

“In a work that veers from confessional to cautionary tale to small-town crime blotter, Baker offers a harrowing account of her childbearing years at the center of the Midwestern methamphetamine crisis. . . . The author writes with an imaginative, studied complexity . . . [in a memoir] which readers may find themselves unable to put down or soon forget.”—Kirkus

“Laura Jean Baker has written a beautiful and brave memoir of motherhood and its discontents, which are indistinguishable from its joys. This is a warmly intimate yet intellectually provocative personal document of originality and considerable charm.”
Joyce Carol Oates

The Motherhood Affidavits is a gripping blend of family memoir and true crime, bound together by an acute awareness of class and economic hardship in small-town America. Baker’s frank account of her Midwestern family life and her husband’s work as a public defender reads like a real-life Fargo, by turns darkly comic and desperately poignant.”
Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl and The Fortunes

The Motherhood Affidavits is the most compelling and original memoir I’ve read in years. In her profound exploration of marriage, parenthood, baby-lust, and crime, Laura Jean Baker takes a compassionate yet unsentimental look at the ways in which the poor and unlucky are driven to act in ways that might seem unforgivable . . . until we realize how close we, too, have come to committing the same horrifying mistakes.”
Eileen Pollack, author of A Perfect Life

“Who’s more desperate, the young wife and mother of five, or the petty (or not so petty) criminal? Laura Jean Baker doesn’t ask this question directly, but it’s always right below the surface in The Motherhood Affidavits. With humor, grace, and compassion, Baker connects her own vulnerabilities with those of the driftless and often clueless clients her attorney-husband takes on. What comes of this hard-sought, hard-won wisdom is sublime.”
Peter Geye, author of Wintering

“Sometimes tender, often harrowing, always a page-turner, The Motherhood Affidavits examines Laura Jean Baker’s own impulse to parent—as well as the full scope and expression of human desire, whether for love, passion, comfort, power, or just plain survival. Stunning and memorable—and definitely not just for mothers.”
Judith Claire Mitchell, author of A Reunion of Ghosts

“In this trenchant, frank, compelling memoir, hope and invention crash into hardscrabble economics, and Baker lights up the fractured lines between legality and criminality. The Motherhood Affidavits smartly explores Baker’s own pull to the chemical transformations of childbearing and the shifting realities of her marriage, then vaults beyond as she chronicles the lives of fellow city residents who’ve landed on the other side of the law.”
Nancy Reisman, author of Trompe l'Oeil

“Like an Olympic ice skater nailing a triple axel, Laura Jean Baker makes it look easy. This unflinching and elegant memoir glides between tales of childbearing, parenting, and true crime. Ambitious in its scope, harrowing in its subject matter, and dazzling in its execution, The Motherhood Affidavits asks necessary questions about the intersections between the body and the state and between addiction and empathy.”
Shelley Puhak author of Guinevere in Baltimore

“Laura Jean Baker's memoir is the perfect combination of rollicking narrative, whip-smart prose, and searing self-reflection. Here is a writer in whom we find the steely beauty of a defiantly original voice.”
Thomas Larson, author of The Memoir and The Memoirist

“This book goes where few mothering memoirs dare, tossing aside over-idealized images of the Mother. Baker’s story is of a woman unafraid to honestly examine her own parenting through the lens of all humanity. Her writing is lucid and utterly original. And her tales of mothering gone wrong—both her own and rural America’s—are visceral, compassionate, and unflinching.”
Melodie Edwards, reporter and anchor, Wyoming Public Radio

Laura Jean Baker earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan and teaches English and writing at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Oshkosh, WI, with her husband and five wildly inspiring children.