Inspired by…with Adrienne Gruber | Book*hug Press

Inspired by…with Adrienne Gruber

Today, we’re excited to share eight works that inspired Adrienne Gruber in writing her new essay collection Monsters, Martyrs, and Marionettes: Essays on Motherhood. Read on to see how Gruber’s first work of nonfiction was influenced by films, podcasts, essays, and more!

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary by Sarah Manguso

Sarah Manguso’s Ongoingness was instrumental in providing me with an alternative to the traditional essay. This book is 97 pages of text, and is essentially one essay – or one could think of it as 97 mini essays, some no longer than one sentence – that links themes of motherhood, postpartum, time, memory, and what we try to hold onto. Manuguso’s writing has captivated me since I read Ongoingness – she has this wonderful sparse style that allows for room to breathe and to explore the blank page. She’s not afraid to let her prose sit heavily on the page, and as a poet transitioning to writing non-fiction, Manguso’s work was an entry point into this genre for me.

The Crying Book by Heather Christle

This is another great book of non-fiction that plays with form and style. This poetic memoir unpacks crying and tears and what makes us cry while also providing bits of trivia on the subject, like the description of a brass gun invented by a student in the Netherlands that “collects, freezes and shoots tears” or how, on the moon, gravity exerts one sixth of the force it does on Earth, which make tears fall more slowly, like snow. Christle explores her own postpartum experiences while navigating her own history of crying. This book felt like another window into what non-fiction could be.

The Podcast You’re Wrong About

I listened to this podcast obsessively after I had my third daughter and my days were spent wandering around Vancouver during covid lock downs, when I couldn’t even sit in a coffee shop. The last essay in my book shares the title of the podcast and explores my anxiety around what having kids would do to my writing, and how wrong I was to believe that becoming a mother would ruin me as a writer.

The New York Times’ Article Series: The Primal Scream Line

Any opportunity for a good scream came in handy while I was working on this book, and the New York Times provided just that. An actual phone number that allowed for burnt out mothers and caregivers to call and record themselves venting or crying or simply screaming into the recording on the other end. I spent a great deal of time while writing this book taking care of my kids, being pregnant, taking care of my aging parents, and trying to keep my own mental health intact, all while the pandemic created global panic and constant worry. Some days, I just needed to scream.

The outdoor pool at my old apartment complex

I wrote drafts of two essays over the course of the summer of 2020 when I was heavily pregnant and could barely move. My two school-aged daughters were at home with me for the summer, and we lived in an apartment in downtown Vancouver that happens to have an outdoor pool. Both my daughters were finally able to swim on their own, so I could sit with my laptop in the shade on a deck chair and keep an eye out for them as they splashed around for hours and I wrote. It was a prolific time, which is amazing because I was in my third trimester and could barely walk around the block, but every morning I could take my girls down to the pool and get some work done on my book.

The Sea Monsters Exhibit at the Vancouver Aquarium in 2015

Wandering around the sea monster exhibit at the Vancouver Aquarium while I was pregnant was the beginning of the idea that monsters really do exist, that mothers can be monsters, that babies can turn us into monsters, that biology is creepy and birth is unpredictable and didactic.

 A Mind Spread Out on the Ground by Alicia Elliott

Alicia Elliott’s brilliant book of essays made me want to write essays just as powerful and beautiful. A Mind Spread Out on the Ground helped me to realize that my book was definitely not there yet, that it needed a LOT more work to get to the level of Elliott’s book, but it gave me something tangible to reach for.

Coraline, directed by Henry Selick

The creepiest movie of all time – and a special inspiration for my book. Coraline is a stop-motion animation about a girl whose parents ignore her a little bit – really, they’re just busy – so when Coraline finds a portal in her new home to another dimension where her parents look like themselves but act overly enthusiastic about her, she’s bewitched. But it turns out her ‘Other Mother’ just wants to sew buttons onto Coraline’s


ADRIENNE GRUBER is an award-winning writer originally from Saskatoon. She is the author of five chapbooks, three books of poetry, including Q & ABuoyancy Control, and This is the Nightmare, and the creative nonfiction collection, Monsters, Martyrs, and Marionettes: Essays on Motherhood. She won the 2015 Antigonish Review’s Great Blue Heron poetry contest, SubTerrain’s 2017 Lush Triumphant poetry contest, placed third in Event’s 2020 creative non-fiction contest, and was the runner up in SubTerrain’s 2023 creative non-fiction contest. Both her poetry and non-fiction has been longlisted for the CBC Literary Awards. In 2012, Mimic was awarded the bp Nichol Chapbook Award. Adrienne lives with her partner and their three daughters on Nex̱wlélex̱m (Bowen Island), B.C., the traditional territory of the Coast Salish peoples.

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