May Book List – Must-Read Books on Motherhood

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Mother’s Day is a time of gentle, even sweet, reflection on how much we adore the women who raised us. Mother’s Day is over. May is almost over. Now that we’ve spent a few weeks, let’s take a moment to appreciate the books from and about all kinds of mothers, many of whom would give Donna Reed a coronary.

Of the following ten books, some are written by mothers who offer an unvarnished, often hilarious, take on child rearing, like Tina Fey and Anne Lamott. Others speak of charismatic mothers with drug problems and serious mental illnesses, such as the books by Mary Karr, Susanna Sonnenberg, and Domenica Ruta. And some have a sociological bent – the books by Jennifer Senior and Judith Warner – that explain how modern motherhood has become a competitive sport. As always, this list isn’t the last word, so feel free to add your favorite motherhood books in the comments.

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The work of a lifetime: becoming a mother by Rachel Cusk

A rave review of Cusk’s maternity memoir notes that while the rhythms in her book are predictable – pregnancy, childbirth, sleepless nights – it’s as gripping as a thriller. A quintessential intellectual, Cusk finds solace in Edith Wharton and Samuel Coleridge when a colicky baby shakes her self-esteem. If you’re looking for warm words about the experience of parenting an infant, you won’t find them here, but you will find a wonderfully sharp, observant, and at times shocking account of a mother’s first months.

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Bossypants by Tina Fey

Fey’s memoir is viewed more as a work book, but I found the passages on motherhood to be funny, poignant, and extremely meaningful. She writes about trying to decide whether to have a second child (for normal women, not Tina Fey, second children are often adorable career killers). She also writes about the struggle to breastfeed in a way that is both hilarious and affirmative – and involves the phrase “Williams-Sonoma Tit Juicer”.

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Instructions: a diary of my son’s first year by Anne Lamott

About a decade before the first mum blogger began chronicling her baby’s life on the World Wide Web, Lamott set the golden standard for funny, relevant, and deeply moving personal writing about motherhood for the mother. first time. Lamott was a single mother who struggled with the income of a freelance writer, but her memories are never gloomy. It’s sincere without being cutesy, and spiritual without being too serious. This is a must read for any pregnant woman, as it will prepare you for your baby without scaring you (as Cusk might if you are in a sensitive location).

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Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety by Judith Warner

Just as Betty Friedan identified the female mystique in the 1950s, Warner identifies the “mom mystique” in the years: the idea that motherhood has become an inexhaustible source of work and guilt. Upper-middle-class American women drag their children to an army of specialists at the first sign of a problem, they spend all of their time leading their children to a range of rewarding activities, and they treat birthdays like a race for money. armaments, but with bounce houses. . Granted, Warner’s book chronicles the problems of the First World, but it makes it clear that spending so much time hanging over our children is not good for mothers, for children, or for society.

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The liars club by Mary Karr

Mary Karr’s memoir of her dysfunctional childhood is not only a stunning portrayal of her whimsical and artistic mother, it is also one of the best memoirs of decades. Karr is a beautiful writer, and she does not describe her youth with the air of a victim. She is a fighter and she comes from a family of fighters. Even the most dramatic and poignant parts of her story, especially when her mother sets family possessions on fire in a horrific bonfire in the backyard, are told with compassion and wit.

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Stuck in the middle with you: parenting in three genres by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Jennifer Boylan began her parenting journey as Jim Boylan. She is transgender and went from male to female when her two boys were small. Stuck in the middle with you describes her experience of parenting as a man, a woman and in the midst of her gender shift. Her story is unique and inspiring, her sons are remarkable children, and the lesson the reader takes is that Jennifer is the same parent that Jim was – or as she puts it, the same monkeys, different barrels.

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With or without you by Dominique Ruta

Ruta’s memoirs are on Mary Karr’s mind. Her mother, Kathi, is a charismatic drug addict who once paid for Domenica’s private school by selling a block of cocaine. Ruta grew up in Massachusetts and his writings about his hometown are incredibly evocative. You can almost smell the polluted swamp she grew up on. The book opens with Kathi smashing an enemy’s windshield with a preschool Domenica for the ride. You are in awe of Kathi the moment you realize she is poisonous.

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All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting by Jennifer Senior

Sometimes parenthood can seem like both the best and the worst thing that has ever happened to you. Senior draws on an impressive body of research to show why parenthood in the United States can seem so expensive. It’s a combination of unrealistic expectations – parenthood is not all rosy like our culture might have you believe – and a country that does not support parents. There is no maternity leave, no childcare support and long working hours. Harassed parents will feel soothed by Senior’s book because it proves that it’s perfectly okay to feel stressed and overwhelmed every now and then.

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His last death by Susanna Sonnenberg




What can I say, I appreciate a good memoir on a charismatic drug addict mom. Sonnenberg grew up in New York City and Santa Fe in the ’60s and’ 70s with a glamorous British mother who gave Sonnenberg his first dose of coke before entering high school. Although she grew up privileged, Sonnenberg’s childhood was unstable and chaotic, and her mother’s drug use and her ability to lie were both pathological.

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Baby Love: Choosing motherhood after a life of ambivalence by Rebecca Walker

Walker’s book is nothing if not provocative: She (naturally) ruffled feathers when the book came out because of claims that an adoptive mother cannot love like a birth mother. But the daughter of revolutionary feminist writer Alice Walker has always been controversial. Her book is journalistic, Anne Lamott style, and it offers an extremely personal look at how Walker’s idiosyncratic brand of feminism interacts with her new role as a mom.

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