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The Mother Wound

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Member Reviews

Amani Haydar suffered the unimaginable when she lost her mother in a brutal act of domestic violence perpetrated by her father. Haydar was five months pregnant at the time, and her own perception of how she wanted to mother (and how she had been mothered) was shaped by the murder. In The Mother Wound, Haydar reflects on her parents’ marriage, her family’s history, and the social and cultural context in which she grew up.

We couldn’t call it ‘the night Mum died’ because she didn’t just drop dead. All of the available words betrayed reality.

What was most striking about this memoir, was Haydar’s clear account of her childhood, when she ‘…hadn’t yet found the language of abuse…’ but understood her parents’ relationship was bound by cultural, religious and personal complexities that she didn’t fully understand –

It is hard to spot a red flag in a man who is simply doing what everyone else is doing.

Haydar’s parents were brought together in an arranged marriage. Her mother was thirteen years her father’s junior, and their arrival in Australia was not all that her mother imagined on leaving Lebanon. Nevertheless, her mother forged a successful career, became involved in her community, and had a large network of friends.

Adding to the complexity of this story, was Haydar’s first experience of traumatic loss – in 2006, her maternal grandmother was brutally killed in the war in Lebanon, and unbelievably, her mother discovered this while watching the evening news in Australia.

The challenge in this memoir is cultural. On one hand, Haydar forces us to look through the cultural lens, to understand the impact of racism on her everyday life, and how that played a part in her mother’s murder. On the other, she asks the reader to ignore the cultural and social context, and see domestic violence for what it is, and her purely as a victim of a horrific crime.

I’d forgotten that my appearance would affect my right to participate in conversations on gender-based violence. How could I have forgotten? People were so accustomed to correlating Muslims with violence that I wasn’t allowed the compassion that might be extended to other victims. I wasn’t even allowed an opinion about my own mother’s death.

Haydar is a lawyer by profession, and her experience of the justice system as a victim adds another perspective to her story. When court proceedings begin, she is quickly reminded that ‘…truths also exist outside courtrooms and judgements’. It prompted me to think back on Kate Rossmanith’s excellent examination of how society views victims and manages remorse in Small Wrongs. Haydar says –

It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing…. The victim on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of the pain. The victim demands action, engagement and remembering…

And with her father’s family more upset that he was in jail than the fact that her mother was dead, and putting continual pressure on Haydar and her siblings to forgive, she notes –

…in classical Islamic jurisprudence, remorse is seen as a personal and spiritual matter that does not mitigate the punishment or compensation able to be sought by victims of violent crime. It is seen as metaphysical, particularly in homicide, since the primary victim is not present to receive an apology anyway and no one truly has the right to accept one on their behalf.

Much of the memoir describes Haydar feeling her way through grief and trauma. I read a lot on these topics, and when I come across new words that capture the pain, they invariably hold my attention. Haydar does that, eloquently revealing the weight of (often contradictory) social expectations of the bereaved, and of the victim –

We want trauma to create revolutionaries; we look for the heroes who refuse to give up hope. We want to feel better about it all.

You must be grief-stricken and meek. Not wild with rage. Certainly not vengeful. The only good victim is a helpless one.

How is there any satisfactory ‘conclusion’ to a story like this? Haydar’s life adjusts around her grief; she finds ways of channeling her sadness, and ways of honouring her mother, of which The Mother Wound is one. In writing this book, Haydar has managed to do a particularly extraordinary thing – she tells her personal and unforgettable story, but she also tells speaks for the thousands of women and their families who are victims of domestic violence.

I received my copy of The Mother Wound from the publisher, Pan Macmillan Australia, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

4/5 Powerful.

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Despite the heaviness of the topic, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Armani deals with the aftermath of her dad murdering her mother, and the way her extended family deal with the situation. Domestic violence is the key theme, with the outrage of victim blaming still prevalent today.

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Amani’s story is devastating, demonstrating the gaps in Australia’s legal system and of the importance of intersectional feminism. Beautifully written, The Mother Wound is an important read that I will carry with me.

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The Mother Wound, Amani Haydar

A daughter, mother, artist, lawyer, writer and advocate after she lost her mother to the domestic abuse committed by her father, this memoir explores Haydar’s feelings and reflections following her fathers trail. Her writing is emotive and impactful while still being beautiful even dealing with such heavy content.

In 2015 Haydar starts her journey to becoming a mother whilst dealing with the horrific murder of her own. She reflects on growing up in Sydney within a Muslim Lebanese community, her career in law and her role as a witness in her father’s trial. This powerful memoir explores the intergenerational trauma initially with the death of her Teta (Grandmother) as a victim of war, then moving on to her relationship with her mother, realizing the coercive control and violence she grew up around, but never truly understanding its impact at the time.

This brutal memoir is a raw and devastating, a tough read but a necessary one. Discussing cultural shame, victim blaming, Islamophobia and the context of feminism in religion, Haydar uses her own story to highlight these systemic issues most face in similar situations.

Thank you to NetGally and Pan Macmillan Australia for the ARC.

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Thank you NetGalley And Pan Macmillan Australia for an ARC of this wonderful memoir.
The story of Amani’s life brought so many emotions as a reader. Amani has faced horrors many of us hope never to endure and she shares her life in a way that is heartwarming and courageous. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to read Amani’s memoir.

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A true story written bravely by Amani Haydar. I truly can't describe how she can bear this trauma of her mother, murdered by her father after 28 years of marriage. Thirty stabs while her sister was there, screaming for help. Amani, as an eldest daughter, was pregnant too that time, had to pick up the pieces left of her family, a brother still in prison, and two younger sisters that needs shoulder to lean on.
I learn from this book that knowledge and education are the keys to everything. I tried to put myself in Amani's position, and seriously with big grief and trauma like that, I'd probably lost in the process to work around the welfare and justice system.

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Last year, my friend Carly Findlay was a mentor with Kill Your Darlings - and she told me about this author she’d been paired with, to mentor. Carly told me about this author’s incredible forthcoming memoir - the story of how her mother was murdered by her father, in a brutal act of domestic violence, when the author was five-months pregnant. How that devastating loss shaped her own outlook on motherhood, her childhood, and then further how her background as a lawyer informed her understanding of the cultural and societal pandemic of domestic violence, and violence against women. That author was Amani Haydar, her memoir is 'The Mother Wound' - and it’s one of the most harrowing and important books you can read this year.

I can’t even begin to imagine the grace and triumph of Haydar, to have put this much of herself and her family on the page to break open this impactive story for all to read and learn. It is absolutely remarkable and I cannot tell you how thankful I am that she shared this story - I can’t imagine it was easy, but it’s brutal and brilliant. 💗💗💗 Carly was absolutely right about how special this book would be, how vital. I’m glad it’s out now for people to read and share, and I wish Amani Haydar all the success she’ll have coming her way.

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‘The last time I saw my mum alive, she was vibrant.’

In March 2015, Amani Haydar’s father killed her mother, Salwa Haydar. He also injured his youngest daughter, Ola, during his frenzied attack. Pregnant with her first child, Amani had to go to the Kogarah Police Station to give a statement. Her father had turned himself into the police.

Why did Haydar Haydar kill his wife of 28 years, the mother of his four children? While the Haydars had recently separated after an unhappy marriage, Amani recalled that while her parents had fought a lot, her father had never bashed her mother.
n this memoir, Ms Haydar writes of her family’s experiences of war in Lebanon, of her parents arranged marriage, of her grandmother’s brutal killing during the 2006 war. Culture and context are important, as is the complexity of intergenerational trauma.
n the six years that have passed since Salwa Haydar was murdered, Ms Haydar has reassessed what she knew of her parents’ relationship, and the different faces and layers of domestic violence. She wonders if she should have realised earlier that her mother was at risk? There may not have been an history of what she recognised as physical domestic violence but there certainly was of emotional abuse and of coercive control.

How can Ms Haydar’s book be both terribly sad and tremendously uplifting? How can anyone move beyond the trauma of losing two parents to looking for ways to make a difference for others as well as for herself? And, importantly, how does Ms Haydar negotiate the ‘othering’ experienced when negative stereotypes (both in relation to domestic violence and to Muslims) are applied? Ms Haydar and her sisters have also had to deal with being ostracised and abused by family members who support her father.

‘Storytelling cracks the crust of shame imposed on victims and shifts the burden to where it rightfully belongs: spitting and smouldering in the palms of the abuser.’

This is a difficult book to read, and I admire Ms Haydar’s courage in confronting so many issues to write it. There is despair here and grief. There is also hope, support, strength, and resilience. Ms Haydar invites us to look at the stereotypes of victims as well, reminding us that it is okay to be angry. Ms Haydar recounts the trauma of her father’s trial, with its victim-blaming and false accusations against her mother.

In 2018, Ms Haydar had an entry in the Archibald Prize. Her painting is a self-portrait in which she holds a photograph of her mother, who holds a photograph of her own mother. I find this moving and uplifting. Three strong women, together.

This is not an easy book to read, but it is important. Highly recommended.

‘We are in a process of breaking cycles, and we are imperfect.’

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and PanMacmillan Australia for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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