In I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou wrote: "To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.”
To celebrate Mother’s Day, library staff share their favourite books about motherhood in the below list. We highlighted several excellent collections of essays, including The M Word: Conversations About Motherhood, a collection of essays on (the sometimes unconventional aspects of) maternity by some of Canada's best writers, including Heather Birrell, Saleema Nawaz, Susan Olding, Diana Fitzgerald Bryden, Carrie Snyder, and Alison Pick, and Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood. Along the same lines, although written by one author, is L'amèr, ou, Le chapitre effrité, which explores motherhood though a mix of fiction, poetry, and feminist theory, delving into the image of femininity and motherhood in popular culture. Mothers of the Nations Indigenous Mothering as Global Resistance, Reclaiming and Recovery delves into what it means to be an Indigenous mother, using local and international examples of the strength and diversity of experiences different women have had. This book explores a broad range of topics including birthing practices, food and mothering, and inter-generational parenting.
Sometimes, motherhood is about strength in unique circumstances, such as in Like A Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, an empowering, feminist assessment of the science and culture of pregnancy and early motherhood, and Kid Gloves, a graphic novel memoir about the journey to motherhood.
Sometimes, “being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation," as author Robert A. Heinlein wrote in the sci-fi novel, Have Space Suit ― Will Travel. We recognise and celebrate this in the titles we have collected here, including Feeding My Mother by Jann Arden (where the traditional tables are turned) and Through, Not Around: Stories of Infertility and Pregnancy Loss, a collection of essays about miscarriage and pregnancy loss by Canadian women and men.
Of course, there are some amazing archetypal mothers in fiction, including the beloved Marmee in Little Women! We also love The Mothers by Brit Bennett, a luminous novel narrated by a collection of mothers (a kind of Greek chorus) about one young woman, Nadia Turner, who makes a difficult choice after a brief romance.
We also highlight a few unforgettable memoirs, including All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung, about her adoption and subsequent search for her birth family upon becoming pregnant with her own daughter, and They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson, about cleaning out the family home after the death of the author’s parents. Mixing memoir with fiction, Épiphanie by Myriam Beaudoin is narrated by a woman who, like the author, is diagnosed with unexplained infertility. How she copes with the diagnosis, and shapes her life in the future, forms the basis of this incredibly beautiful book. We also feature some memoirs by famous nurturers and collective mothers to many of us, including Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa. Lastly, Raising Henry: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, & Discovery, tells the story of a mother’s love for her young boy with Downs Syndrome.
Whether you are a mother, grandmother or godmother, have a mother, or do the important work of mothering in other ways, check out the list below to find some great titles to read, listen to, or watch this Mother’s Day – and all year round!