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The description of caring for a dying parent, as Mason so beautifully lays down in these pages, slices through you like a sharp knife—clean and quick. It may also move you in profound ripples, perhaps thinking of your own relationships with your parents, as it did me. — –Sally Parsons, Windy City Times
Janet Mason is a talented and honest writer. Her relationship with her own mother was not perfect, which of course is what makes the book interesting. More interesting is the fact she is willing to explore the imperfections without dwelling on them and becoming one of those victim writers whose memoirs I can never quite stand to read.
Life is hard. Being a mother is hard. Nobody’s really ready for it when she gets the job, no matter how much you might have read or planned. It’s just not like anything else, and you can’t really prepare.
But somehow the species keeps managing to perpetuate. Somehow some of us seem willing to take that plunge and become parents. We do our best, whatever that is. Bethany Dunbar, The Chronicle, Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, Past and Present
“You will find this book helpful in thinking about your relationship to your own mother or daughter.” — Ruth Mountaingrove, Sinister Wisdom 87 — Tribute To Adrienne Rich.
“Would I continue to be my mother’s daughter after she was gone” asks Mason at one point. An intimate, moving tribute to their relationship.”
–Diva magazine (London)
Panelist Janet Mason, poet and author of Tea Leaves: a memoir of mothers and daughters, was “thrilled” to attend, saying, “I feel like the [feminist] community is not as connected as it used to be.”
Mason wondered aloud if women artists suffer marginalization in the art and media fields.
“Yes,” she concluded – a feeling filmmaker panelist Nadine Patterson confirmed with statistics from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media revealing that for every 4.8 men working behind the camera in the film industry, there is only one woman.
But Mason, who described coming out as a feminist and then as a lesbian in the 1980s, urged her peers not to be discouraged by a lack of representation.
“It’s important to keep getting our work out there,” she said.
Panelists discuss women’s evolving role in the arts and media at Mt. Airy Art Garage – Newsworks
“This Way Out Queer Life and Literature” commentator JANET MASON’s book tour for her memoir, “TEA LEAVES”, has taken her to some North American cities, but to get to Australia she had to “fly” by phone. On the other end was GORDON WILSON at Joy 94.9, Melbourne’s gay and lesbian radio station. LGBT baby boomers caring for their aging parents is a major theme of Janet’s tale of mothers and daughters, so Gordon zeroed in on Janet’s own experiences taking care of her mother during her final months of life. –This Way Out –click here to hear the interview and This Way Out newswrap. (scroll down to the bottom of the page where Tea Leaves is mentioned next to an mp3 link.
‘Tea Leaves: A Memoir’ by Janet Mason
It is the detailed richness of the mother-daughter bond that are the most powerful and affecting parts of the book—Jane was never one to mince words, and could burn Bibles while letting the F-word fly. She was proud to let her daughter know, after years of marriage and political activism, that she thought she could easily have been a lesbian. I would have liked her, I feel sure—although she would probably have found me too wishy-washy for her tastes! Caring for, feeding, washing, chanting, singing—Mason guides, and is guided by her mother to their inevitable separation. – Dawn Robinson, Lambda Literary
The Lambda Literary Foundation book club is featuring Tea Leaves as its September selection.
“The drafts [of ‘Tea Leaves’] are like layers of a painting — some parts have been there from the beginning when the memoir focused more on my relationship with my mother. Some of the pieces were painted on top of that – such as when I revised it to contain more of my own life experiences.
“The research I originally did on the labor movement (including lots of Philadelphia labor history) is closer to the canvass – it was my starting point, but some of that is still there — especially when I write about my grandmother, Ethel, who at the end of sixth grade was taken out of school to work in a candy factory. She was 13 in 1911 and would have seen the newspaper headlines about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed 146 workers – most of them girls.”
Mason’s ability to bring the reader into her own experiences leaves the reader with an ignited interest in unspoken voices. How many women’s stories haven’t been told in your family? Let “Tea Leaves” start the conversation. Who knows what you’ll see. To read the full article, click here.
Tea Leaves reviewed by Gordon Wilson of Joy 94.9 (a gay and lesbian radio station in Melbourne, Australia)
Tea Leaves is as much a story about coming to terms with oneself as much as coming to terms with the inevitable….There is a lot that resonates with anyone who has had the privilege of caring for a parent in the last months of life. – to listen to the podcast, click here: Tea Leaves reviewed by Gordon Wilson on Joy 94.9 (A gay and lesbian radio station in Melbourne, Australia)
Bay Area Reporter
Fall 2012 bookshelf
Poet and writer Janet Mason’s Tea Leaves (Bella Books), subtitled “a memoir of mothers and daughters,” details her working-class upbringing in Philadelphia and the strong relationship she had with her mother, which made her coming out process a positive one.
– Gregg Shapiro
Tea Leaves is number two on the best-seller list (from Giovanni’s Room) just published in the Philadelphia Gay News!
2. “Tea Leaves” by Janet Mason (Bella, $15.95 pb). A memoir of caring for her dying mother and the deepening of their relationship.
Despite my mother’s feminist activism, she was in fact a conventional stay-at-home housewife for most of her life. She referred to herself as part of the silent majority. She was, however, very much her own person. She said that she voted with her dollar. She participated in many boycotts. In her later years, she took petition to senior centers to get signatures to improve the Social Security laws. My mother believed in the possibility of change.
She also had a sense of self worth. “Ask and you shall receive” was one of her favorite sayings.
If I had had a different mother, there’s a good chance that I would have turned out to be one of the people on the street telling me that they don’t care (enough) to register to vote. –The Huffington Post
Author Janet Mason shares memories and process in reading Tea Leaves
Mason who describes her mother as a atheist, feminist, hopeless realist and an amazing storyteller always encouraged Mason’s writing. “I got a lot of validation,” she said. Through her published poetry and literary commentary on This Way Out radio program, Mason has pursued her creative dreams in a way her foremothers never could, making good on the advice of an early therapist who once told her, “You’re the only one who can write the story about your life.” – NewsWorks
Since Tea Leaves was published, I have had the opportunity to talk to many LGBT people who tell me that they were the ones to “show up” when an elderly parent needed care — even when they had children of their own, and even when they had many siblings. Even those who had tenuous relationships with their parents because of their LGBT status tell me that they were the ones to step in when help was needed. –The Huffington Post
“My mother’s dying wish for me was that I get my medical screenings done on a regular basis. Now, I routinely advise friends to get second opinions and put their medical care on a credit card, if necessary. Our lives come first. The Affordable Care Act is something that benefits us all.” –The Huffington Post
“There is something here for everyone who has ever loved someone else or plans to. I highly recommend “Tea Leaves” just because it is so real a nd so beautifully written.”–Reviews by Amos Lassen
“Janet Mason’s Tea Leaves is a stunning love letter to her mother and grandmother… the integrity of her voice and experiences really will give a daughter much to think about… –Merry Gangemi producer & host, Woman-Stirred Radio (WGDR/WGDH Goddard College Community Radio)
Bookmarks, an internationally syndicated column
“The emotional tailspin that follows, chronicled with luminous prose, eventually strengthens the often-fraught mother-daughter connection, even as it impacts Mason’s own long-term relationship….the immediacy of death does heal wounds. That’s both the candid core of this loving reminiscence, and a universal truth for readers whose parents are making the transition from vital to vulnerable.” –Richard Labonte,
Montrose Star (Houston/Central Texas)/ Between the Lines (Michigan) / Seattle Gay News /
David Atlanta Magazine
“I always thought,” she said, in a thoughtful, faraway voice that sounded as if she were talking as much to herself as to me, “that I could’ve been a lesbian.”
I looked up, startled.
As she stood next to the stairs, leaning both hands on her cane, she looked at me keenly, as if looking into my life and beyond, back into hers.
“You remember my friend Mary from the organic gardening club. I think we would have been lesbians if we had the chance. One day she asked me if I liked sex. I think if it had been another time, we would’ve just done it. What’s the big deal about sex? America is so puritanical. I think that’s why the big fuss about gay rights.”
My mother stepped out with her left leg, shifting the weight that she was leaning on her cane. She braced herself against the wall again, reaching out with the cane to retrieve her other sneaker. After she pulled it over next to her foot, she looked back up at me.
Mason’s writing is clean, sharp, and inspirational. She has you both laughing and crying at the same time. I, too, lost my mother to cancer over a six-month period, and this book brought me back to that special time of spending precious final moments with her. You won’t want to put this book down from the very first page. — Bonnie Kaye, host, Books of Excellence, Blogtalk radio show –Bonnie Kaye Counselor/Author/ Host BOOKS OF EXCELLENCE — Blogtalk radio show
Author Janet Mason was the guest on on Sunday, July 8, 2012. To listen to the show, paste this link into your browser: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/bonnie-kaye/2012/07/08/books-of-excellence
Local Author Shares Experience with Community
Although Mason said she believes many people experience what she wrote about in “Tea Leaves: a memoir of mothers and daughters,” it’s not a topic often explored.
“It’s telling a story that’s not told a lot,” she said. “It’s a story many people can relate to [because] they have, are or will go through it.”
But the untold story, she said, spans further than the reversed role of caretakers. –The Mt. Airy Patch
On a trip to Giovanni’s Room, Mason’s mother, Jane, began perusing a poem Mason had written for an anthology of lesbian eroticism.
“It had some sexual references and I was slightly embarrassed to show it to my mother. I told her I thought she might think it was dirty, and she said, ‘Your dirty is much different than my dirty,’” Mason said. “Having a mother like her made it a lot easier for me to be myself.”
“I have always been a writer,” said Mason. “It is almost as natural to me as breathing. As a child, I was always making up stories, and often I wrote them down. I think writers experience the world differently than other people; we escape into imagination and then come back and explore what intrigues and haunts us. We make sense of things by writing about them. This was very true in the writing of ‘Tea Leaves.’ I wrote about my mother’s final months and my experience in caring for her.”
“While I was taking care of her, I actually took notes, but never in her presence. I did not use a tape recorder because my mother was alternately shy and outrageous, and I didn’t want the tape recorder to be an impediment to her being herself. So I would take notes in the afternoon while I was staying at my parent’s [home] in the privacy of my room, like Truman Capote. When he wrote In Cold Blood, he would memorize the conversations he had with the killers and jot down notes on the toilet paper in the cell!”
The book addresses themes of mothers and daughters – and stories that take place in Germantown where the author’s mother lived as a girl. Tea Leaves also includes a backdrop of Philadelphia history including the textile mills in the Kensington section where Mason’s grandmother worked as a spinner and the Lighthouse in North Philadelphia, which in the 1920s was a charitable day program for the children of single mothers, most of whom worked in the textile mills.
“PFLAG members are standing on the front lines of love and acceptance and this is very important –as we can see from the headlines,” emphasized Janet Mason, “and it is a pleasure to share my memoir with them and to hear their stories as well.”
Westchester artist Maggie Ploener was joined by author Janet Mason and musicians Lee Kelly (on guitar) and Barbara McPherson (on percussion) at the opening of her show “The Sacred Dance” on August 5th at The Peekskill Coffee House. The exhibit is running for the month of August.
Following is an excerpt from Tea Leaves (which Mason read at the Collingswood Library):
My mother paved the way for me to come out to her by writing me a letter. She knew I had been having difficulties on my job and wrote that she “would love me whether I was a writer, or a waitress, or…whatever.” Later, she told me that when I broke down on the phone she thought I was either gay or pregnant. When I invited my parents over to my apartment for dinner and told them I was a lesbian, she defused the tension by holding up her right hand and saying, “Is becoming a lesbian like being saved?”
“That’s right, Mom,” I told her, “that’s exactly what it is.”
Milestones, August issue, (Philadelphia’s 50 plus newspaper)
“When my mother died, I needed time to recuperate. I needed something to explain all that happened and was happening to me. So my book became a cathartic experience that helped me make sense out of many things.”
Her mother’s photo, taken at age 9, is on the book jacket.
“Her childhood nickname was ‘Plain Jane,’ and she said she always felt like a nobody,” says Mason. “Here she is on the cover of a book for all to see. I think that would make her very, very happy.”
Levittown Native Shares Her Story With Community
“Tea Leaves” author Janet Mason shares her book with community.
When Janet Mason’s mother was diagnosed with fourth-stage cancer, Mason did what any loving daughter would do — she became her mother’s caretaker.
But the months she spent caring for her terminally ill mother left her with more than she expected. It became a learning experience about her family, complete with stories about her mother’s life as well as her grandmother’s.
Northwest Philadelphia Author Working With Journey’s Way in Roxborough
Long time Northwest Philadelphia resident Janet Mason read from her latest book, Tea Leaves, a memoir of mothers and daughters, (Bella Books) and conducted a discussion and writing workshop Friday afternoon, September 7th, with the members of the Journey’s Way writing group that meets every two weeks. Journey’s Way, a program of Intercommunity Action, is a 55-plus community based on Rector Street.
“I’ve taught people of all ages throughout the years,” said Janet Mason, “and I’ve always recognized that the older students have the most interesting stories. The people in the Journey’s Way writing group were mostly in their 70s — they have lived long and interesting lives and they have important stories to tell. It was a real pleasure working with them