Mother Knows Best: The Politics of White Christian Motherhood

I wrote this essay in March of 2012 for an online religion magazine, but it was never published. One of the editors was afraid that the comparison between the WKKK and Michelle Bachmann was “too dicey.” Just associating Bachmann with the Klan seemed like dangerous territory. The editor had me add a disclaimer about how I wasn’t calling Bachmann a racist or white supremacist, but rather I was just “comparing” their use of Christian motherhood as a political strategy. Even with the disclaimer,  the magazine passed on the article. Now, five years later, we are in a moment in which we can’t dodge the discussions of white supremacy and politics (politicians), so I thought I would publish this essay here at my site. It’s lightly revised with disclaimers and previous hedging about white supremacy removed. 

In 1924, Robbie Gill, the Imperial Commander of the Women of the Ku Klux Klan (WKKK), gave a speech entitled “American Women” at the annual Klonvocation (Klan speak for convention) of the Ku Klux Klan (1915-1930). She proclaimed:

We women of America love you men of America….We will mother your children, share your sorrows, multiply your joys and assist you to prosper in the way of this world’s good. In return, we expect you to recognize our power for good over your lives, and in the nation….We pledge our power of motherhood to America….Our knees can be the altars of patriotism to them.

For Gill, just as mothers parented children, they could also parent the nation. Maternity functioned as a claim to authority in public spaces, and she let Klansmen know that women as mothers could change the nation for the better. Gill, however, was not satisfied to let men (even Klansmen) dictate national politics and policies. (more…)

Amazon Giveaway of Grace Period!

I’m excited to announce a GRACE PERIOD: A MEMOIR IN PIECES giveaway on Amazon. You can win one of the five copies of the eBook available. That’s right you can get a copy of my book for FREE, so what are you waiting for?

Here’s what folks are saying about GRACE PERIOD so far:

“Baker is one of my favorite writers thinking about higher education today, and it turns out she’s a gifted personal essayist as well. In Grace Period, Baker combines higher ed commentary and personal storytelling in this beautiful reflection on what happens when the future you planned for doesn’t happen and you have to build something new in its place.”–Book Riot

A dynamic, meditative book for anyone who has changed careers or contemplated doing so.”–Katie Rose Guest Pryal, J.D., Ph.D., author of the Hollywood Lights novels and columnist for Chronicle Vitae and Women in Higher Education

Check it out and please feel free to share the giveaway with your friends!

Things you forget about making a book

Your book was published this week. Something you created made it out into the world, and your creative work with it is finished. (Book promotion is a different story.) There’s nothing more to write for this particular book, which makes you wistful, nostalgic even. Your book was not finished. And now, it is. One book complete, and another (and another) wait to be written. You try to remember what writing this particular book was like, but your memories have already dissipated. You realize how little you remember. You realize how much you’ve already forgotten. This thought stays with you awhile.

There’s so much you forget about making a book. There’s so little you remember.

Perhaps, there’s a reason for this forgetting. Perhaps, if you remembered everything required to write this book, you would run for the hills or the mountains or the forest or the streams instead of writing another book. Perhaps, if you remembered, you wouldn’t write the next book, the next essay, the next poem, the next paragraph, the next line, or the next word. If you remembered what making a book required, maybe you would give up on writing. Maybe you might not want to create anything. But, if you forget, maybe you can write another book because you’ve forgotten the agony of a book’s beginning and the harrowing and continuing doubts about its potential.

Here are the all of the things you forget about making a book once it’s published:

You forget that a book is made word by word, line by line, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, and chapter by chapter. You build a book piece by painstaking piece. Only you. It’s yours to build. It’s yours to protect and harbor. It’s yours, it’s yours, it’s yours(more…)

Release Day!

This morning at 5:15 am, I looked at my phone with bleary eyes. I wanted to check my email before I left my house to catch a plane. And resting in my inbox was an email from my press letting me know that Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces was released. I blinked a few times to make sure that my overactive imagination wasn’t playing a trick on me. I looked at my phone again, and the email was real. What a lovely thing to happen on a regular Tuesday in June.

So, today is release day for my third book, and I’m having a hard time containing my excitement. No one at the Atlanta airport seems to appreciate my inability to stop smiling. Grace Period is a different book than my previous ones because it’s memoir, not monograph. But, it’s also not a traditional memoir. The story of my transition out of academia appears in fragments, or pieces, rather than a story with a clear beginning or end. I wanted to document how it felt for my life to veer off the path I expected and onto different paths that I wouldn’t have been able to imagine four years ago.

Here’s the description:

How do you build a life after failed dreams and missed opportunities? Kelly J. Baker finished her PhD in religion and imagined that she would end up in the tenure-track job for which she trained. She had done everything right: written a provocative and well-researched book, given presentations at national conferences, published articles, and created and taught a number of popular classes. Doing everything right, however, doesn’t guarantee anything if the career you trained for is no longer sustainable. The economic depression in 2008 gutted the job market for tenure-track jobs in the humanities, so she couldn’t find her dream job and worked instead as an adjunct and later a full-time lecturer.

But after five years of job rejections and a new baby on the way, she decided to take a year off to figure out if the career she trained for was actually the life she wanted. Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces are the essays that she wrote to make sense of how her life went off-track. Expanding on her popular Chronicle Vitae column of the same name, she documents her transition out of academia and the emotional turmoil of rebuilding a life beyond what she had prepared for. Instead of telling an easy story about her exit from the academy into a brand-new post-academic career, Baker resists smoothing over the hard reality of transitions, the importance of waiting and anticipation, and the realization that the lives we imagine for ourselves are tenuous at best and often are impossible to achieve.

I hope you all enjoy it. And please let me know what you think as you read it.

Cover Reveal for Grace Period!

For those of you who didn’t know, I wrote another book. It’s an essay collection, but also a memoir, about my transition out of academia and all the transitions that followed. Grace Period: A Memoir in Pieces is coming soon from killing the buddha e-books. (It will be available from Amazon and Apple, and I’ll let you know as soon as it is released).

Today, I wanted to share with you the lovely cover that Gordon Haber created. The photo is one that Chris took of my favorite water tower in our hometown of Marianna, Florida. You might recognize the image as it is featured here at Cold Takes in black and white, and I’m so happy it was incorporated into the cover. So, check it out and let me know what you think!