The September edition of the Atlantic Monthly, a respected US monthly, gives Icelandic anthropologist, Jónína Einarsdóttir, a rave review for her new book, “Tired of Weeping: Mother Love, Child Death, and Poverty in Guinea Bissau”. The book is a study of mothers’ attachment to their children, how they care care for them, and how they react when their children die. In Guinea Bissau a third of children, born alive, die before they reach the age of five.
Jónína lived in Guinea-Bissau on the West African coast, one of the world’s poorest countries, for half a decade closely observing mothers and their children.
The Atlantic explains that beginning in the 1960s the academic community, “”swallowed” the notion that the “deep bonds of love and care between modern Western mothers and children are a ‘cultural construct’ – specifically anthropologists and historians ‘believed that in cultures and historical periods with high child mortality, mothers, expecting the worst, were largely indifferent to their children and so did not grieve intensely when they did'”.
The Atlantic review credits “far more careful scholarship in such diverse fields as ethography and medieval history” for dismantling that idea. The Atlantic calls Jónína’s work “sensitive and judicious” and says it is “among the latest and most cogent of such studies”.
According to the Altantic, Jónína found that, although children continuously died in her surroundings, mothers were intensely attached to their children, and the death of a child evoked in a mother essentially the same intense maternal grief as in the West.
The Atlantic calls Jónína’s work a “compelling contribution to the anthropology of emotion”.