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Katya Apekina Mother Doll
Mother Essentials

Mother Essentials: Author Katya Apekina

Written by Nora Lange

The person I credit for making motherhood even a possible life choice for me, in that she returned the role to its core—an experience of beauty, however complicated or fraught, but not a prize—was the author and mother of Fais (9), a force and creative delight on her own, Katya Apekina. Before that, I was finding myself bogged down by what the role was “supposed to look like.” Katya is free from much of the atmospheric noise that surrounds us, and she has been this way, intuitively, for as long as I’ve known her. How does she do it? I don’t know, which is why I sleep with her novels under my head and why I wish they came in toddler sizes so that I could do the same for my little girl. Her latest novel, Mother Doll, is an alive and thriving ghost story set in Los Angeles that is revealed in pieces like a set of Matryoshka Dolls, and which traces Russian history through four generations of mothers and daughters. If you want a book that you will feel deeply and that will surprise you—get this one, take it outside, and toast to spring. Want to learn more about the author behind the brand-new title? Check out her current Mother Essentials list, below.

Inky Fountain Pen. “I write tons of notes by hand for my book, but also to journal, to plan out my day, to think things through. I often don’t really know what I’m thinking until I write it out by hand. I go through a lot of pens and it was starting to feel wasteful, so I switched to a fountain pen with reusable blue ink. I like the cheaper bright colored ones because I lose everything.” Kaweco Sport Fountain Pen, $31.30, Amazon.

The Milk of Dreams. “This surrealist writer and painter Leonora Carrington’s children’s book is wild.” The Milk of Dreams, $17.62, Bookshop and Amazon.

Polaroid Camera. “My daughter and I like to make creepy little tableaus and photograph them and then leave photos for each other. For awhile she would photograph appliances and then tape photos of the object to the object. Meta!” Fujifilm Instax Instant Camera, $78.68, Amazon.

Alcohol Markers. “We have been making exquisite family corpse collaborations, where we draw faces and creatures and then hang up the results on the glass doors and windows of our home. The markers make the paper translucent and they look like freaky stained glass!” Ohuhu Alcohol Markers, $24.99, Amazon.

Bathrobe. “I spend a lot of time in my various bathrobes. When I’m writing, it’s like a security blanket. It’s hard for me to think with anything digging into me. My favorite one I got a million years ago at World Market and have worn it hard.” Cloud Cotton Robe, $76, Parachute.

Sports Bras from Jenette Bras. “I like to go on runs, but the double sports bras of my youth were not cutting it after having a child. This store measures and fits you in person. The alphabet begins with D is their jingle.” JenetteBras.com.

Foam Roller. “Until I started foam rolling, I kept injuring myself when running. I was always having knee pain because my hips were too tight.” High-Density Round Foam Roller, $13.68, Amazon.

Podcasts. “I love my husband’s podcast, Random Tape. My daughter is often a featured guest. The episodes are short and fun and weird. In one they put aluminum cans in the dryer and recorded the sound. In another, our dog’s stomach makes crazy noises.”

Suntegrity Tinted Sunscreen. “A friend who has a skincare podcast called Put the Lotion in the Basket told me to use this, so I do. I trust her and have no interest in doing my own research! It doesn’t leave me looking like a mime.” Suntegrity 5-in-1 Sunscreen Moisturizer, $48, Credo.

Wordle. “We started doing this game everyday during the pandemic.”

PG Tips. “I drink this British tea out of huge mugs all day long. When I was younger I used to be really sensitive to caffeine, but since having a child, I am basically immune to it. I also love using an electric tea kettle, because sometimes when I’m writing I lose track of time, and I have burnt several regular tea kettles this way (oops).” Fellow Corvo EKG Electric Kettle, $195, Williams Sonoma. PG Tips Black Tea, $10.98, Amazon.

Hikes. “My husband and I try to do a hike together every week. We usually go to Deb’s Park near us with a lake full of turtles. Our dog is very confused by turtles. I think he sees them as moving rocks. During the pandemic, our daughter went to an outdoor nature school that went there, so she knows all the cool little spots, so when she joins us she can tell us if the wild buckwheat is pollinated or not, and which plants are edible and which are poisonous.”

Citrus Trees. “I love the smell of citrus blossoms—it’s my favorite floral scent. We have a citrus hystrix tree in our yard. We use its leaves in curries, and our neighbors have lemons and oranges. I love when the smell of that and the night jasmine wafts in through the windows at night.”

For more MOTHER ESSENTIALS, peep our recent features on comedian JENNY SLATE, Gold Stories founder Subikksha Balaje, poet MAGGIE SMITH, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream co-founder LAURA O’NEILL, author and doula BRANDI SELLERZ-JACKSON, designer CLARE VIVIER, Miles & Milan founder SHENNEL FULLERGRACE NA of Pistola, the designers behind MILK TEETH, photographer NICKI SEBASTIAN, Duster co-founder MELISSA MAGSAYSAY, Herman Miller creative director KELSEY KEITH, chef VALERIE GORDON, artist ERIN JANG, Chicago party mom KRISTEN KAZA, Hedley & Bennett founder ELLEN MARIE BENNETT, Mochi Kids founder AMANDA STEWART, chef CRISTINA KISNER, chef CAMILLA MARCUS, artist CAROLINE Z HURLEY, Just Date founder SYLVIE CHARLES, food icon AMANDA HESSER, Prickly Pear founder MONA BAHRAINI, Solace Summer founder MEGAN BRE CAMP, Wonder Valley co-founder ALISON CARROLL, OZMA designer HEIDI BAKER, author TIFFANY ROSE SMITH, and PHOEBE SUNG of Cold Picnic.

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