Angela Garbes

05.23.22

Recently we had the pleasure of spending a sunny Spring morning with author Angela Garbes in Fort Greene Park where we discussed her new book, Essential Labor, being a mom in the midst of a pandemic and so much more! Garbes second book "explores assumptions about care, work, and deservedness, offering a deeply personal and rigorously reported look at what mothering is, and can be. A first-generation Filipina American, Garbes shares the perspective of her family's complicated relationship to care work, placing mothering in a global context—the invisible economic engine that has been historically demanded of women of color."

We are so excited to share this interview with you! You can purchase Angela's book 'Essential Labor' here!

You just published your second book, Essential Labor, can you tell us about your process during that writing time? What does your routine look like as a mother and writer while still in the midst of an ongoing pandemic!?

I wrote Essential Labor in seven months, which is obviously insane. In order to get it done, I had to reinvent my entire creative process?! I abandoned my (double Virgo) perfectionist tendencies and adopted the mantra "embrace urgency and imperfection." For almost two months, I got up at 5:30 am and free wrote 1,000 words each day--no overthinking, no editing--to get scenes and ideas and words on the page. That helped me tap into a sort of primal creativity I felt so distant from for most of the pandemic. Practically speaking, my spouse was amazing--he instructed me to run away for a week every month for six months straight to simply write, free of any domestic and parenting responsibilities. That solo space and time were crucial to getting the book done. My daughters were patient and understanding.

As for a routine, right now I don't have much of one! I am doing a lot of promotion and traveling, which means I am not doing a lot of writing. The chaos of a book launch means that when I am home, though, our little family routines--morning cuddles with my daughters in bed, bagels for breakfast, watching the NBA playoffs, reading books--feels sweeter and more nourishing than ever.

As a first-generation Filipina American, writing about mothering as social change, who do you envision as your reader, are there certain people, groups that you hope get the chance to pick this up and what do you hope they take from it?

To be honest, I wrote this book mainly for myself. I always want to write the essays, articles, and books that I need--that I want and deserve, and that don't necessarily exist yet. I am writing myself and my people into books because growing up I never really saw myself represented in all the books and media I consumed. I consider my writing, in part, service, but it's also quite selfish. That said, I hope Pinay, Fil Am, Asian American, and women of color see themselves in the work and I hope just as much that white women and everyone else read it as a loving challenge and invitation to consider the way our society devalues the care work that is predominantly done by women of color in America.

Who and what are you currently excited about and inspired by?

At this exact moment, when what our country is doing to women--especially low-income women of color--is nothing short of violence, I am inspired by abortion providers, activists, volunteers, and everyone providing money, transportation, and care to ensure no one is forced into motherhood and economic hardship. I am inspired by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and everyone working for a living wage and basic protections for the domestic workers who take care of us. From a creative standpoint, I can't stop thinking about Maggie Gyllenhaal's film The Lost Daughter--a lush celebration of a middle-aged woman's body and the beauty of imperfect mothering and accepting your full self.