Great River Reading returns to campus

Benjamin Rayburn, Features Reporter

Laura Jean Baker joined Winona State University students on campus this past week as she read from her memoir, “The Motherhood Affidavits,” which she wrote in 2018.

This was part of the John S. Lucas Great River Reading Series that is held yearly at Winona State.

This series’ topic was chosen by the Great River Series which many faculty, including Debra Cumberland, are a part of.

“We look for writers that are compelling and engaging,” Cumberland said. “It is hoped that this will be viewed as a benefit and a gift so that students can have a different perspective to be able to learn and appreciate diversity and different lifestyles.”

The Great River Reading Series provides an important place at Winona State for stories like Baker’s to be told.

Baker received her masters in fine arts at the University of Michigan, and is currently a creative writing professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Her first published book was titled “How to Love” and was a work of fiction. It was published while she was an undergrad, and it took over 20 times for it to finally be published.

“The Motherhood Affidavits” gives an in depth and a real look at motherhood, mental illness and poverty. Baker became addicted to motherhood and the hormone oxytocin that is released during labor and while breastfeeding. Baker has three boys and two girls of her own, and she discusses raising her children through her memoir. Her book delves into many different emotions she felt while battling this addiction while also giving a provocative, honest, and compassionate view of motherhood while comparing it to her husband’s work as a public defender.

Her husband, Ryan, is in the memoir as well, regarding his work as a public defender during this time.

This memoir also details how his wife’s childbearing addiction over an eight-year period took a toll on their family and Ryan’s casework in criminal defense.

“I wanted to cover my husband’s work and talk about humanizing his criminal clients versus my own shortcomings as a mother through my addiction,” Baker said.

Depression and motherhood addiction took over Baker’s life for those eight years. Her memoir gives us an important look into mental health and how she was able to overcome it.

Baker is currently working on a new book called “Growing up with Alice: Meditations from a Mom on the firing line.” This book touches on how mothers of school shooters get blamed a lot, and raising children post columbine in public school systems.

“Experts use FBI databases and criminals to fuel the fear that makes people think that school shootings have increased after Columbine and Sandy Hook occurred,” Baker said. “There isn’t enough safety at the University of Wisconsin, or any public schools. There is no safety protocol. We need to work on better safety for all of our students.”