I doubt there is a one of you who hasn’t heard about Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro. The book, and the writer, are EVERYWHERE and that is such a good thing! Julia is the founder of the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop and thus has been cultivating a devoted fan club of hundreds (thousands?) of writers for a decade now. I can personally attest to her talent and generosity as an instructor–I sat around her kitchen table for three workshops before she sent me off to my MFA program. Nearly ten years later, she still enthusiastically plugs everything I publish or edit or do on the internet, as she does with so many of her former students. Anyone who was ever a recipient of her wisdom and support would obviously want to turn it back to her and luckily, it seems like the whole world has been doing just that to get this book, her first published effort, a crazy amount of buzz.
About a “mommy group” who head to a Long Island beach house for a weekend of passive aggression, outright aggression, and all-around upheaval, the novel is told from multiple points of view. Often, this structure bums me out because I have a favorite character and feel like I don’t get to hear from him or her enough, or I feel like the structure is trying to turn a story collection into a more marketable novel. Neither was the case here–the action and arc of the book would have been incomplete without the exact pieces Julia put into play. There was only one character, Nicole, who launches the book, that I wanted more of–the rest of them were best taken in small doses! It says something about these folks that the apocalypse-fixated, obsessive-compulsive pothead pill-popper is the parent I’d choose to hang out with among this crew. The book isn’t a straight-up satire, but it exposes the worst stereotypes about indulgent, trendy, selfish Brooklyn parents and then forces the reader to spend a weekend with them. The miracle is that, through Julia’s lens, the reader can feel momentarily aligned with each of these people. When she lets you into their heads, she allows you to see glimmers of self-awareness–they know, sometimes, that they’re being horrible–regret, uncertainty, and deep love for their children. It’s almost enough to make me think twice before sending death-glares at Brooklyn parents who let their children lie in the doorways of crowded coffee shops, feet hanging into the sidewalk, heads in the store, and then act like I’m disturbing their child by trying to exit with my coffee. (Does that sound like a random example? Because it is not.) Julia also includes a character named Tenzin, a Tibetan nanny and parent herself, as a counterpoint. Deeply fetishized by the parents, she provides some much-needed perspective (and actual supervision for the children).
There is action, plot, suspense, drama and plenty of hilarity in this book. Julia integrates the internet in the form of chatrooms and listserves to great effect. I really enjoyed reading it and don’t have small children–I bet for people who are actually immersed in this world of playgroups and trying to get pregnant and navigating changing relationships with significant others and their children’s special needs and constant internal and external judgement, Cutting Teeth could be a lifeline.