Article / World speaking out / Writing

Revolutionary gems on mothering, survival, rebellion, and war

I read Mai’a Williams’ book like some one starved for word gems and insights. I want to cover this book for this blog because no one talks about mothers like they are the key protagonists in this world. They (and women and people of colour and people in poor countries and..) are portrayed as being on the fringes of action and life, while apparently it is the movie actors, singers, and business people we should be listening to. But I beg to differ. Mothers are on the fringes of power, but they are at the forefront of life. Still, when I read Maia’s book I want to copy and paste every second sentence I read and put it in one of my documents where I keep things to remember. Even as someone who isn’t a mother (at the most, I care for friends, teach kids, and give birth to books and articles and collective birth to movements), I am sorely in need of constant reminders about why we do what we do – and this book is full of them.

Here’s a tiny selection of some of those gems. For the full thing, order or pre-order her book, In This Is How We Survive: Revolutionary Mothering, War, and Exile in the 21st Century here.

How we struggle

I’ve been accused of being impatient.
It’s true. I’m impatient. I don’t have time to fuck around.
None of us do.
There is hard work to be done now.
And those of us on the margins: we, mamas, caretakers, femmes, black aunties, lovers and fighters, the work is on us.
It’s not fair that this work is on us, but it is. No one else is going to do it.

I want us to love and thrive and re-create the world in the image of joy and laughter. I want our humanity to survive into the next century. On this planet. With these plants and these songs and these myths and dreams and hopes and stories and skills. I want us to be whole and intact, with our ancient traditions of healing and celebrating and mourning. And the only way we are going to be able to do this is to take care of each other.

What is revolution

Revolution isn’t an aesthetic. It isn’t just an intellectual stance. It isn’t tear gas and a beer. It is the daily discipline of justice. It is taking care of oneself and the ‘other’. It is creating the space to create just resistance communities.

The revolution we need within the revolution

One evening after work, Brian, a McGill University student with pale hair and a thin face, Asim and I ordered beers and olives in a nearby restaurant.
“We have very little of Palestinian women in the broadcast. When we focused solely on militant response and Israeli response we act as if Palestinian women only show up in the narrative as victims.”
Brian scoffed and ashed his cigarette. “This is serious news. Not some little human-interest story. There’s plenty of that shit out there, NGOs showing that Palestinians are peaceful and stuff.” He glowered, “This is war.”

The role assigned to women

Nurses woke me in the morning. The doctor checked my cervix and told me that I hadn’t progressed. Still four cm. At this point, the doctor said, that I needed a c-section. If I insisted on having a vaginal birth, then there was a chance that they would call Child Protective Services because I had endangered my baby by not following the doctor’s recommendation.
I felt like a fatted calf being taken to slaughter.

Injustice and survival

Before visiting Beit Ummar, that morning the delegation visited the demolition site of a Palestinian apartment building. We climbed rubble concrete. Random belongings tumbled out of the building as it collapsed. A few Palestinians wandered through the wreckage collecting what remained of their lives: a singed school book, the photograph of an old man, a red sock.

But I knew life was miraculous and Black and Brown children were always a blessing. Palestinian mothers were in constant danger, yet they seemed to believe more in the future than they believed in safety.


I love reading about Mai’a’s life (I use her first name because we are friends and were workmates a few years back). Her stories are raw and real, and that’s what I crave most from literature. Plus the connection. Who doesn’t want a glance into someone else’s soul? Give me the dirt, humanity, odd moments, and lessons any day. I’ll pass on the flat characters, cliches, stereotypes and glossy violence (people with accents are evil, and falling in love makes our life complete – is no one bored with that condescending formula?). And you know, maybe it takes the mothers and the fighters and the forced migrants to describe life without cliches. I suspect most of the academics and celebrities have no idea.