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215 “I had to make a future, willful, voluble, lascivious”: Minnie Bruce Pratt’s Disruptive Lesbian Maternal Narratives | by susan driver 13 In an era when lesbian motherhood has become normalized to the point of being framed in terms of heteroreproductive assimilation, it is easy to forget the rich and challenging legacies of lesbian mothering lives and lifewritings . While legislative and cultural shifts in attitudes have rendered lesbian mothering visible and recognizable within mainstream public consciousness , the one-sided focus on acceptability and choice has obscured the fractured struggles and differences within and between mothers who exceed heteronormative ideals. Associated with the reformist and individualizing push of liberal equality rights and reduced to the logics of marital, reproductive, and familial lifestyle politics, lesbian mothering is increasingly cast in simple and universalizing rhetorics that erase the layered subjective histories that mark outlaw mothering. Commonly opposed to radical sexual edges of queer theories and cultures, lesbian mothers are cast as safe and predictable “breeders,” who are reinforcing rather than undermining domestication. Within this context, is almost impossible to think about lesbian mothering in terms of heroic transgression and erotic risk-taking, as a practice that disrupts assumptions and spurs critical thinking and political action. Yet if the words of lesbian mother writers are remembered in all their intricacy and emotional intensity, stories emerge that defy static and binary logics. In this essay, I return to the poetic narratives of Minnie Bruce Pratt as a way of recollecting reflexive modes of life-writing through 216 susan driver which the personal stakes of lesbian mothering are fleshed out as a process of ethico-political questioning and exchange. Pratt’s Crime against Nature (1990)opensuppossibilitiesforreadinglesbiansexualityandmotheringas dynamic experiential and historical relations. Moving beyond an individualizing liberal approach to lesbian mothering, Pratt’s text solicits interpretations attuned to the ambiguities and intricacies of embodied knowledge. MyargumentexpandsuponChandraMohantyandBiddyMartin’sreading of Minnie Bruce Pratt’s 1984 experiential text, “Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart,” as a productive locus through which ideals of “family” and “home” are critically rearticulated according to specific legacies of race, gender, and class privilege. I take their interpretation further by exploring how the intimate edges of becoming a lesbian mother influence her rethinking of familial investments through and against sexual desires and identities . Drawing upon Crime against Nature, I show how the erotic dimensions of subjectivity become a basis for intense pleasure and resistance against the violent repudiation of the right to mother. Signifying her sexuality and motherhoodasadialogue,Prattspursherpersonalaccountofloss,survival, and passion in mobile relation with the voices of mothers whose histories refract intersecting power inequalities and sexual relations. Her text unfolds a self in transition: letting go of a stable sense of meaning and value, she reframes her own narrative in conjunction with those told by women whose own maternal status is jeopardized through sexual, racial, and class systems of domination. Becoming a lesbian mother opens up a contested set of interactions that are not reducible to a unified identity or realm of social belonging but on the contrary risk the impossibility of symbolic or material guarantees. Embracing ambiguity, Pratt moves lesbian mothering in the direction of open-ended and inter-subjective communication that compels readers to enjoin their own stories in the flux of self-knowledge and social understanding. Pratt’s texts are both highly unique literary works and urgently political discourses that reach beyond the sphere of poetic language. Her own life as an activist, academic, and poet from the 1960s to the present encourages an integrated approach bridging the practical contingencies of social justice movements, the finely tuned poetic articulation of words, and the aesthetic skills of storytelling. Involved in anti-racist resistance for several decades, Pratt hones her writing projects out of her lived political experiences that areformativeofhereverydaylifeasawoman,lover,writer,andmother.Her publication of six books of poetry and commitment to radical pedagogy as a university professor emerge out of her involvement in projects for political change along with the difficult work of un/learning privilege. She is a deeply engaged poet whose renderings of beautiful passages and socially resonant 217 lesbian maternal narratives meanings are inseparable from the often painful and horrific realities of oppression that surrounded her growing up under conditions of racial segregation in the American South. Writing in a transformative mode that derives energy from grassroots involvement in civil rights, feminist, and transgender politics, Pratt strives to change consciousness without imposing truths or reifying interpretations. Her poetic style becomes politically charged as she writes out of the complexities of...


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