In her essay called Mother Tongue, Yoojin Grace Wuertz talks about her personal journey and it starts with the Korean songs her mother hums to her child, Emmett, and the meaning of her child’s name in her own language and in Hebrew. Like many of her friends and acquaintances in bilingual homes, she knows the value of knowing several languages but she is hesitant to speak in Korean to her child. The reason for this is personal. It isn’t that she didn’t know her language as she has grown up in a community that cherishes its roots, so she has imbibed a large vocabulary that embraces certain concepts like Christianity but ignores others like politics. She worries that her knowledge of the language is too fractured to make her an effective transmitter. She worries about her identity, about being an American mom rather than a Korean mom.
There’s a lot that speaking your language demands of you, which includes a social contract with the culture that the respective language represents. But then again, each language offers a different world to process. Suppose by being monolingual, you are missing out on the richness of experience? Wuertz talks about how she gets around to talking to her son in her mother tongue and how the hesitation seems worth the wait.
Another story I came across was by Lucy Scholes and talked about loneliness.
What is it like to be around thirty and unemployed and unattached? Scholes remembers one such period in her life. There was an offbeat lack of direction as reminiscent of Penelope Fitzgerald’s book Offshore. The words of several other women writers like Dorothy L. Sayers, Joan Didion, Jean Rhys, Elizabeth Bowen, Olivia Laing, Anita Brookner, etc help her find some merit in the ‘sanctity of solitude’ and the loneliness that women in cities inhabit on an almost daily basis.
‘I came to London to study literature, so perhaps it’s only natural that my existence here has always been tempered by the books I’ve read that are set in the city, a potent alchemy at work in the particular way in which the real and the fictional combine in my mind. My experience in this city has always been twofold, containing and dependent on both my lived experience and the very real topography of the streets, as well as the fictional versions of the same city I have read about in novels. They intertwine, and in doing so become indistinguishable from one another.’
Read the essay A Woman Alone in London: On the Literature of Solitude.