Ariel Gore


| November/December 2000

'I want to see ugly people in movies and TV.
I want to see fat people and quirky people.'

Ariel Gore's transformation from globetrotting teen to the hippest of mamas reads like a movie script about a Gen-X slacker following her bliss to unlikely success. The plot in a nutshell: While traveling around the world, the scruffy 19-year-old discovers she is pregnant; gives birth to a daughter, Maia, in Europe; returns home a single mother; goes on welfare; launches the feisty parenting zine Hip Mama; scores a major book contract complete with a $100,000 advance; debates House Speaker Newt Gingrich on MTV; launches hipmama.com; gains legions of appreciative fans.

During the busy decade since her daughter's birth, Gore, 30, has also grown from a politically active but engagingly naive teen mom to a well-respected alternative parenting guru. It's not a role she aspired to. 'I always thought of myself as just one mama out there looking for everybody else's opinion,' she says, 'but then I got older and people started listening to what I had to say.' Gore's latest book, The Mother Trip: Hip Mama's Guide to Staying Sane in the Chaos of Motherhood (Seal), firmly establishes her newfound status as an expert in a series of essays on the joys and challenges of raising children. She spoke to senior editor Andy Steiner from her home in Portland, Oregon.

What are your favorite children's books? Do you have any favorites from your childhood?
When I was a kid it was all about Madeline and Babar, then Shel Silverstein, Beverly Cleary, and Judy Blume, and finally Maya Angelou and the diaries of AnaÔs Nin. But, honestly, I didn't read that much as a kid. You always hear about writers being these people who were devouring Shakespeare at age 4, but that wasn't me. I came to writing not as a huge reader, but as someone who had trouble talking and needed another way to express myself. My favorite children's books as a mama have been the works of Dr. Seuss and The Little Prince. For preteens there's Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself by Sabrina Ward Harrison, The Legacy of Luna by Julia Butterfly Hill, and The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories by Tim Burton. I also like All Round, an amazing children's magazine out of Denver.

Is there anything you think children shouldn't be allowed to read?
Kids have a hard time processing a lot of sexual content. Narratives that mix sex with violence, or pleasure with punishment, like those in the Bible, are also not cool with me. It's difficult when adult material is packaged as a comic book or marketed to kids, but usually grown-up stuff isn't presented in a way that interests my daughter. TV and other visual media are more difficult, because they draw children in and throw images at them that they may not be able to deal with.



So is there anything on TV that's OK for kids?
I like Doug, on Nickelodeon. Maia likes to watch So Weird and Caitlin's Way, and we sometimes watch Ally McBeal. I wouldn't argue that it's a pro-feminist show, and I know she wears those short skirts and everything, but it's fun and my daughter likes it.

What do you think of Dr. Laura Schlessinger?
I didn't know much about her until my last book tour, when people kept repeating her slogan--'I'm my kid's mom'--as a joke. I didn't get it. So I got her latest book just to educate myself. I couldn't read the whole thing. It was too scary. It's not just that she's praising stay-at-home moms. I could handle that. It's that she's really hateful to everyone else. If you're poor or a single mom or gay or ever had an abortion, that's it for you. You're going to hell.