Review – Mother Tongue

Posted September 10, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 1 Comment

Cover of Mother Tongue by Jenni NuttallMother Tongue, Jenni Nuttall

I was worried this would come off rather gender essentialist, and there were a few points that did raise eyebrows — Nuttall is very certain of her “we” when referring to various experiences that she attributes to “being female”, and though she didn’t say anything outright trans/enby-phobic, I was conscious that there was kind of a miasma of scepticism about the increase in gender-neutral language.

There was a lot of interesting stuff in here, but I found her style a bit tedious, and at times she really wasn’t clear. For example, she talked about the Latin version of the Bible and made it sound almost like it was originally written in Latin (it wasn’t). I’m pretty sure that’s because she was talking about a translation being done from Latin to the vernacular, with the translators using the Latin instead of the original, but… mm. It just all felt a little woolly to someone who was noticing what was said. There’s simplifying it for a lay audience, and there’s making it sound like the original version of the New Testament was in Latin.

(This may of course be mostly my own reading, and if I read it again it’d seem perfectly clear. Maybe. But on first read, I raised my eyebrows. That suggests a lack of clarity!)

As far as notes go, they are very, very scanty. A whole chapter has two endnotes, for example. What are the sources for literally everything else? Who knows.

All in all, I’m inclined to suggest steering away from this one, now that I’ve sat down and thought it through. Unearthing the words female-bodied people have used about themselves is a worthy plan, but if a whole chapter has only two notes, then… nah.

Rating: 2/5

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