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Maushart, Susan 1958–

Maushart, Susan 1958–

PERSONAL:

Born 1958, in New York, NY; immigrated to Australia; married twice; divorced twice; children: Anna, William, Suzannah. Education: New York University, Ph.D. (communication theory). Hobbies and other interests: Pug dogs.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Perth, Western Australia. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Author, educator, columnist, and comedy writer. Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, instructor in social science.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Festival Prize for Nonfiction, Adelaide Writer's Festival, 1994, for Sort of a Place like Home: Remembering the Moor River Native Settlement.

WRITINGS:

Sort of a Place like Home: Remembering the Moor River Native Settlement, Fremantle Arts Centre Press (South Fremantle, Australia), 1993, revised edition, 2003.

The Mask of Motherhood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Everything and Why We Pretend It Doesn't, New Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2002.

What Women Want Next, [Australia], 2005, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor of syndicated weekly column to the Weekend Australian magazine.

SIDELIGHTS:

Susan Maushart, a social science instructor at Curtin University in Australia, a columnist syndicated nationally in that country, and a single mother of three children, has made a name for herself writing about motherhood.

The Mask of Motherhood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Everything and Why We Pretend It Doesn't is Maushart's effort to debunk romantic myths about motherhood. She discusses birth, breast-feeding, sleep deprivation, and domestic inequality. Moreover, she discusses how the lack of control with which mothers must cope shocks high-achieving women who are used to being in control, and how mothers hide the challenges of motherhood from non-mothers.

"Maushart's own pessimistic reading of feminism has had a powerful resonance with women readers, myself included," Julie Stephens wrote in Arena. According to People reviewer Kim Hubbard, Maushart "writes engagingly and persuasively about the fact that, with so many options open to them, today's mothers feel more pressure than ever to defend their choices by donning a happy face."

Stephens added: "Aside from documenting some of the effects of this earth-shattering transition which is experienced as so enormous in personal terms but remains socially invisible, Maushart is at her most controversial when she points to women's own complicity in masking the substance of their maternal lives." In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer commented that although Maushart makes some "valuable points" about motherhood, she is "less convincing" when discussing such topics as childbirth and breast-feeding and is overall not "breaking any new ground." Conversely, Bethan Roberts, writing on the Spike Web site, considered Maushart "particularly incisive on the problems facing older working mothers" and called The Mask of Motherhood overall a "welcome addition in the face of the relentless, brainless optimism of most women's magazines and daytime television."

In Salon.com, critic Ann Marlowe characterized Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women as "a brief against a caricature of contemporary dual—career marriage, Australian-style." Maushart maintains that women continue to do most domestic work even when both spouses work outside the home, that women do most of the organizational chores, and that women give most of the emotional support. While Marlowe noted that "too much of Maushart's analysis and rhetoric are stale," a Publishers Weekly contributor found the work to be an "often funny dissection of modern marriage; it is one hundred percent honest—like the rest of this smart and witty book."

More on the subject of women, marriage, gender roles, and discontent is offered in What Women Want Next, a book that a Kirkus Reviews critic described as a "witty and wide-ranging meditation … on what makes women happy in the post-feminist era." Maushart draws on her own experience in this book but also mines a range of scholarly and popular literature on the subject. Women, she argues, must stop blaming others for their disappointments, because—in the words of a reviewer for Publishers Weekly—"freedom has its price." Though the Publishers Weekly critic considered such observations unfocused and unoriginal, a contributor to Australian Journal of Social Issues enjoyed Maushart's "notorious wit and unerring sense of style."

Maushart also wrote the award-winning Sort of a Place like Home: Remembering the Moor River Native Settlement, in which she presents the oral literature of the Australian Aboriginals, along with official documents dealing with area natives. Jackie Huggins wrote in the Australian: "It is commendable that the rich oral literatures are placed at the beginning of the book…. This gives the book impetus and authenticity, particularly as it is organised by non-Aboriginals." Huggins added: "The Aboriginal content is good; however the official documents are tedious and a little overambitious in the range of information and time."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Arena, June-July, 1998, Julie Stephens, review of The Mask of Motherhood: How Becoming a Mother Changes Everything and Why We Pretend It Doesn't, pp. 51-52.

Australian Book Review, November, 1993, Jackie Huggins, "Read between the Lines," pp. 42-43.

Australian Journal of Social Issues, winter, 2007, review of What Women Want Next.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2007, review of What Women Want Next.

People, February 22, 1999, Kim Hubbard, review of The Mask of Motherhood, p. 44.

Publishers Weekly, January 25, 1999, review of The Mask of Motherhood, p. 83; February 25, 2002, review of Wifework: What Marriage Really Means for Women, p. 54; April 30, 2007, review of What Women Want Next, p. 149.

OTHER

Australian,http://theaustralian.news.com.au/ (May 8, 2002), "Susan Maushart."

Book Page,http://www.bookpage.com/ (May 8, 2002), Linda Stankard, review of Wifework.

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (May 8, 2002), Ann Marlowe, "Why Do Women Wed?"

Spike,http://www.spikemagazine.com/ (May 8, 2002), Bethan Roberts, "Body Electric."

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