Queen for a Day

The mothers in Queen for a Day face parenting challenges beyond the ordinary--difficulties ranging from simply going to a playground to suing for space in a public school and protecting their marriages from the stress. In Maxine Rosaler's linked stories, Mimi Slavitt and other mothers who struggle with raising special-needs children are by turns in denial, courageous, wily, angry, kind and cruel.
In the first story, Mimi's relationship with her husband, Jake, is contentious. Parenting Danny adds to the strain, so it's easier to deny he's different. Rosaler's portrayal of Danny suggests he's autistic, but the boy's counselor determines he "didn't have anything you could pin a label on." In these distressing tales, the counselor is the first of many who mislead the parents; the most egregious offender is "The District"--New York City schools. The stories vary from first person to third, and are non-linear, but the angst of these mothers is constant.
The title, taken from the 1950s reality TV show that pitted downtrodden housewives against one another for prizes, hints at Rosaler's ironic humor. Mimi and her friends (she has time only for mothers who share her desperate quest for a better life for their kids) subtly compare successes. At times Mimi and Jake "forget to hate each other" in their shared love for Danny. These stories are not happy, but are a testament to resilience and perseverance, and a glance into lives that many are spared. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco
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