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Literature

Books: A Thoughtful Gift Idea for Mother’s Day

Books are a great gift idea for all occasions, including Mother’s Day. Surprise mom this year with some wonderful works of fiction this year. The origins of Mother’s Day trace back to ancient Greek celebrations of the mother goddess Cybele, the only known goddess from Phrygia, a region of Asia Minor from the 6th century BC. Worship of the goddess spread from the east to the ethnically Greek areas of Anatolia, then to the Aegean islands and mainland Greece. In Rome, she was called Magna Mater, the Great Mother. Her worship was met with some resistance at first since the rituals of her cult were often wild, with music, dancing, and wine. Associated with animals, Cybele was depicted with a lion or on a lion-drawn chariot. The arrival of Christianity led to a more sedate celebration of Mother’s Day which in fact started out as a celebration of Mother Church. 

The campaign to make Mother’s Day an official holiday in the United States began in 1905 spearheaded by Anna Jarvis the year her mother passed away. The celebration of Mother’s Day began with a memorial she held in honor of her mother at St. Andrews Methodist Church in Grafton, WV, in 1908. Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation making the second Sunday in May the official celebration of Mother’s Day in the United States in 1914.

In Greece, the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ in the Temple, February 2, was traditionally celebrated in part as Mother’s Day, but in recent times, the second Sunday of May became Mother’s Day there as well as in many countries around the world.

On My Aunt’s Shallow Grave White Roses Have Already Bloomed by Maria Mitsora, translated by Jacob Moe is a collection of sixteen short stories and is a powerful retrospective of the Greek author’s work, spanning forty years. “Moving across the urban netherworld of Athens to imagined Latin American towns and science-fiction dystopias, Mitsora animates the alternatingly dark and revelatory aspects of the human psyche, depicting a world in which her protagonists are caught between reality and myth, predestination and chance, rationality and twisted dreams,” as the book’s description notes.

For moms who enjoy Greek mythology, Circe by Madeline Miller is a fascinating retelling of myth, recasting the character of Circe from the Odyssey as the protagonist of her own story. From the very first pages, Miller captures the reader’s attention and draws them into what is essentially an epic family saga with strong, unforgettable characters.

The book begins with Circe’s birth as the daughter of the sun god Helios and a nymph who was herself a daughter of Oceanos, the divine personification of the sea. Her childhood progresses rapidly since divine beings do not follow the growth cycle of mortal beings and we are soon drawn into the story with the punishment of the Titan Prometheus for stealing and giving humans fire. This is not the first time Miller has been inspired by Greek myth. Her first novel, The Song of Achilles, reimagined Homer’s Iliad and was published in 2012. 

The books mentioned above are available online and in bookstores. 

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