OK. That was kind of nice, to close your eyes and think for 30 seconds, wasn't it? Here's what the author says in the preface:
In Sri Lanka, young women sometimes experience psychotic responses to adolescence as they struggle with the ambivalence provoked by the separation from their families. In Medusa's Hair the anthropologist Gananath Obeyeskere tells us that these periods of distress are called "dark night of the soul" experiences. He describes a ritual tonic that the afflicted girls drink to release them from their trouble. It is called bitter milk and is a mixture of milk and crushed margosa leaves, the same bitter potion that mothers apply to their nipples when they wish to wean their babies.
I can imagine author Grumet sipping bitter milk and swishing it gently in her mouth as she tastes and feels its meaning:
Bitter milk, fluid of contradictions, love and rejection, sustenance and abstinence, nurturance and denial.She then goes on to say that these are the contradictions of teaching and her book explores these contradictions as she tries to understand what teaching means to women.