The Mother Wound by Amani Haydar
Amani Haydar is a remarkable woman. A lawyer by training, she is also an acclaimed artist who has been a finalist for the Archibald Prize, and with the publication of her memoir, The Mother Wound, she can add ‘accomplished writer’ to her list of talents. Haydar’s superb memoir begins as she becomes a mother. In the joyous moments following the successful delivery of her first child, a well-meaning midwife asks Amani, ‘So, where is your mother’, to which Amani gives a truthful answer: ‘she was murdered in March by my father’. Amani’s mother, Salwa Haydar, was killed by her husband in a frenzied stabbing attack that was witnessed by one of Amani’s sisters, who was also injured when she tried to intervene. This book is a daughter’s tribute to her mother’s life, an acknowledgement of the deep trauma and devastation caused by domestic violence, and an account of grief experienced at its most extreme during pregnancy and early motherhood. It is also a story of a victim’s experience of the courtroom and the act of giving evidence as witness, made even more poignant because of Haydar’s legal background.
While the subject of this memoir is horrifying, reading this exceptional work is a pleasure thanks to Haydar’s beautifully crafted words. Its measured fury is a testament to its writer’s intent to honour the life of her mother through education and action, and I learned so much reading this book. Haydar generously shares stories about Lebanese migrant experience in Western Sydney, the place of remorse in sentencing, Islamic faith and spirituality, the complexities (and sometimes punishments) of familial expectation and obligation, the hard work and incredible personal resolve it takes to recover from trauma, and so much more besides. That her maternal grandmother also died too young, and as a victim of violence during war, speaks to the larger themes that underpin the book: the transference of trauma across generations, particularly as it passes between mothers and daughters – the ‘mother wound’ of the book’s title – and the connections between the violence of the state and violence in the domestic sphere. This is an important and outstanding book, one that deserves a wide readership ready to accept its lessons with the same open-heartedness in which they are offered.