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The Baby on the Fire Escape

Creativity, Motherhood, and the Mind-Baby Problem

5 July 2022


An insightful and provocative exploration of the relationship between motherhood and art through the lives of women artists and writers

What does it mean to create, not in “a room of one’s own” but in a domestic space? Do children and genius rule each other out? In The Baby on the Fire Escape, award-winning biographer Julie Phillips traverses the shifting terrain where motherhood and creativity converge.

With fierce empathy and vivid prose, Phillips evokes the intimate struggles of brilliant artists and writers, including Doris Lessing, who had to choose between her motherhood and herself; Ursula K. Le Guin, who found productive stability in family life; Audre Lorde, whose queer, polyamorous union allowed her to raise children on her own terms and Alice Neel, who once, to finish a painting, was said to have left her baby on the fire escape of her New York apartment. A meditation on maternal identity and artistic greatness, The Baby on the Fire Escape illuminates some of the most pressing conflicts in contemporary women’s lives.


"The Baby on the Fire Escape looks at the extreme ways some female artists have overcome the restraints of parenthood… The book’s strength lies in Phillips’s nimble talents as a portraitist." — Lucy Scholes, The Sunday Telegraph



160 x 239 mm • 320 pages


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