seal  Purdue News

February 27, 2004

Purdue prof's new memoir paints mother's hidden passions, dreams

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A new memoir by a Purdue University English professor explores the side of mothers that their daughters rarely see.

Minrose Gwin

In "Wishing for Snow: A Memoir," Minrose Gwin, professor of English, tries to piece together the person her mentally ill poet-mother wanted to be. The book is $24.95 and was published by Louisiana University State Press.

"Mothers and daughters each have their own personal imaginative lives that are not always visible to the other person, and this is compounded with mental illness," Gwin says. "The memoir became not only a way of knowing my mother, if only incompletely, but a way of imagining her as she might have been. Not just giving a fair and balanced picture, which I tried to do, but a full and deep one that acknowledged her passion and possibility, her own imaginative life despite her mental illness.

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"At first 'Wishing for Snow' was about me, my sorrow as a daughter; then it became about her, moving toward her imaginatively. Then it became about all of us – flawed daughters and disappointing mothers who are always seeking, and perhaps never quite finding, one another."

Gwin started the book 15 years ago after her mother's 1988 death. As materials, such as poetry, a diary, newspaper clippings and postcards, arrived from her mother's estate, Gwin started to realize how little she knew about her mother underneath her mental illness. She used this information, as well as receipts, traffic tickets, and college and medical records, to piece together her mother's life. The memoir weaves these materials, especially the poems, throughout the book.

"I was trying to understand her with what links I had," Gwin says. "I wanted to draw a portrait that acknowledged her passions and who she wanted to be. I wanted her to be able to speak for herself."

The memoir shares the life of Gwin's mother, poet Erin Taylor Clayton Pitner, through her childhood, college education, marriages, motherhood, battle with mental illness and death from cancer.

An expert in feminist theory and literature of the American South, Gwin also has authored "The Woman in the Red Dress: Gender, Space and Reading" and "The Feminine and Faulkner: Reading (Beyond) Sexual Differences."

Gwin is working on her next novel, which is about a young girl whose father commits a racial crime in Mississippi during the 1960s.

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Source: Minrose Gwin, (765) 496-2811,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: Review copies of her book are available by contacting Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Related Web site:
Louisiana State Press

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