Bloodroot: Tracing the Untelling of Motherloss

a memoir by Betsy Warland

Print: 978-1-77133-837-0
200 Pages
October 3, 2021

It is rare for an author to re-enter one of her books published twenty years ago. In the first edition of Bloodroot, Warland traced how a mother’s shared gender with her daughter can shape the very anatomy of narrative itself. In her mother’s final year, Warland quietly discovered how to disentangle a crucial, concealed story that had rendered their relationship disconnected and fraught.

The book tracks how a mother-daughter relationship that was so disconnected was given an odd opening after the author’s mother awakens and tells her the bizarre story that she had another (secret) daughter. This seemingly deluded conversation was the opening to a much deeper and compassionate relationship between mother and daughter. The narrative traces the story that bound them together in the mother-daughter relationship, and her reflections help her find clarity, understanding and acceptance.

Warland weaves a common ground that moves beyond duty and despair, providing both questions and guideposts for readers, particularly those faced with ageing and ill parents and their loss.

The 2000 edition broke new ground in memoir form and uncharted storytelling. The 2021 edition, reprinted by Inanna for the launch of its Inanna Signature Feminist Publication imprint, includes a new foreword by Susan Olding, and a new introduction by Warland that explores subsequent questions, insights, and tenderness only the passage of time can enable.

Betsy Warland is one of Canada’s leading feminist writers. She has published thirteen books of creative non-fiction, lyric prose, and poetry.

“By trying to figure out “how her mother’s mind moves toward its death”, Betsy Warland writes not only the story of her mother’s fading away from this world but the process that we all go through when we try to figure out the distance, the pain, the love and the socio-cultural fabrics composing the narrative of our relation to she who is at the origin of the flow of life in us. What makes Bloodroot a precious reading is the path it follows from facts to memory and fragments of oneself, to thoughts creating and assembling enough proofs to “untell a (her) mother” and compose a viable relation to the truth.”
—Nicole Brossard, poet, novelist and essayist, author of Mauve Desert

“In the end, we are all motherless children. Reading Bloodroot, a thrilling accomplishment of craft, intellect and intuition, I relived my own process of motherlessness. And Warland’s narrative of motherloss is a process, though not linear, of story-telling. I kept stopping at one page after another (especially on those pages with barely a sentence or phrase or two) to breathe. “My first home (she housed me in her body) being dismantled before my eyes.” In Betsy—wordsmith, memoirist, archivist, dramatist—daughter, flesh of Mom’s flesh, Mom (her name throughout the text) had a companion for her dying. Bloodroot’s narrative offers us its own companionship, its own collusion with us as our mothers die. But Warland’s text and our collusion come after that fact of their death, in reminiscence, flashback, dream, the crafted utterance (as in the Essay for this edition). After the fact that we have left the room and Mom dies alone. But that is not how the story ends. Of course not. A death, then a grave, “an open doorway dug into the earth,” and hinged to a path, a way.”
—Myrna Kostash

“The first time I read Bloodroot, I was astounded. The book’s daring form, ground-breaking at the time, corresponded with the nonlinearity of grief and the fragmented nature of memory and gave a generation of young writers permission to tell their stories in the way they demanded to be told. Twenty-one years later, the beauty and lucidity of Warland’s prose, the artistry in her storytelling, and the boldness of her voice continue to resonate. This book is still astonishing, still heart-opening, and more necessary than ever. “
—Ayelet Tsabari, author of The Art of Leaving

“This book gently unpacks the truth about all the unmet needs that often sit between mothers and daughters. Offered with such tenderness, and careful pacing, the white space invites us to breath between revelations as we birth new ways, more compassionate ways to see one another. This is as Betsy says a narrative about abandoning disappointment; acquiescing to grace.”
—Jónína Kirton, Métis/Icelandic Poet

“Like many readers of Bloodroot 20 years ago, I swayed mightily in Betsy Warland’s sensational e/motional capacity to space and pace this intimate daughter-writer narrative of mourning that both says and unsays. I feel anew profoundly accompanied by Warland’s embodied probing of the contradictions and excisions that narrative performs. Warland’s brilliance as an innovator of creative nonfiction unfolds throughout bloodroot and the fascinating generous essay that accompanies this new edition.”
— Margaret Christakos

Bloodroot: Tracing the Untelling of Motherloss

Betsy Warland has authored 14 books of creative nonfiction, essays and poetry. Regarding her 2020, Lagoon Lagoon/lost in thought, the Vancouver Sun wrote of her “magisterial (and yet, paradoxically, minimalist) distillation,” and The Ormsby Review: “her command of art and language is that of a virtuoso.” The Winnipeg Free Press review of her 2016 book, Oscar of Between: A Memoir of Identity and Ideas, called it “an astonishing book by a truly luminous writer.” A mainstay for writers and teachers, the second edition of Warland’s Breathing the Page: Reading the Act of Writing (with new added material) will be released in 2022. This 2021 second edition of Warland’s first memoir, Bloodroot—Tracing the Untelling of Motherloss (2000), includes a new, long essay by Warland reflecting on what Bloodroot taught her in terms of craft and the nature of narrative over the past twenty years. Former director and mentor in of the Writer’s Studio and Vancouver Manuscript Intensive, Warland received the City of Vancouver Mayor’s Literary Excellence Award in 2016. The creation of an annual book award honouring Warland, The VMI Betsy Warland Between Genres Award, will be launched in 2021.


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