islands, motherhood, maternity, Caleb's Crossing, contradiction, Puritan, Early Modern America, interconnectedness, island studies borders, pregnancy, foreign


Islands have a long tradition of capturing human imagination and functioning as a space that nurtures both magic and mystery. As geographic locations, they seem to avoid easy taxonomy even while behaving easily categorizable: they exist as tourist fantasies separate from everyday landscape even while many operate as an othered land that is still “safe” enough to visit. They are isolated yet capable of nurturing strong cultural identity. They also act as autonomous entities while still being interconnected within larger natural structures, coastlines, and waterways. In these ways and more islands navigate as border spaces of inherent contradiction—contradictions which are also found in motherhood.

It is in these liminal, singular landscapes where complex human experiences become even more fraught. One such complex human experience that sees its borders redrawn when enacted on an island is motherhood, with all its facets. Reproductive rights, bodily autonomy, conception, pregnancy loss—what does the drama of maternity look like when it occurs in such a liminal, singular place as an island?

One place we might search for answers is in Geraldine Brooks’s novel Caleb’s Crossing. The character Bethia is both borderless and tied to great responsibility, capable of great love for her island upbringing even as she longs for the greater world outside of it. Bethia’s experience can inform our reading of islands and their pressurizing of fraught conceptions of motherhood.

Issue and Volume




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