I focus on books about unhappy mothers and people who don’t want to be mothers. Sign up to be notified when there’s a new post.
‘Oh–but I didn’t really want them, I thought you did.’ By Joyce Carol Oates, 1990 This book had escaped me, although I’m a big fan of Joyce Carol Oates, until Mother Tongue magazine shared it on Instagram. It’s the story of Calla, told by her granddaughter in mythical-like tangents that keep you turning the pagesContinue reading “I Lock My Door Upon Myself”
By Mieko Kawakami, 2022 Fuyuko is a proofreader who works from home and becomes completely absorbed in her work. When she did work in an office, she was treated as an outcast, so her retreat into her home is something of a relief for her. As is typical in Kawakami’s work, weather plays a majorContinue reading “All The Lovers In The Night”
By Meg Mason, 2020 This book comes with all the accolades, and with good reason. It’s funny, heart-wrenching, page-turning, and thought-provoking. If that’s not enough of a reason to read it, read it for Ingrid, Martha’s hilarious sister. Martha’s life has been messy — she has an erratic mother, she struggles with depression, and hasContinue reading “Sorrow and Bliss”
By Guadalupe Nettel (2020), tr. Rosalind Harvey in 2022 While the title is evocative, it is appropriate to the story. So much so, I would argue no other title would do it justice. In this novel, a child is not still born, as in delivered in death. Instead, the child is born — alive —Continue reading “Still Born”
By Christa Parravani, 2020 The U.S. Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization is expected any day now, and has the potential to overturn the right to obtain an abortion set out in the landmark 1973 decision Roe v Wade. That makes this book especially timely. In the new afterword, Parravani referencesContinue reading “Loved and Wanted”
By Jessamine Chan, 2022 I wanted to love this book. It’s title and description promises precisely the kind of work I am calling for in my PhD thesis: stories that tell the truth about motherhood, that call into question the so-called “maternal instinct.” And this novel does exactly those things. However, an important aspect ofContinue reading “The School for Good Mothers”
By Elena Ferrante, published 2006 (translated by Ann Goldstein) This book has received new attention lately thanks to a film version released on Netflix, starring Olivia Colman and directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal. The story features middle-aged Leda on a beach holiday, who becomes mildly obsessed with another vacationing family — particularly a young mother andContinue reading “The Lost Daughter”
By Pragya Agarwal, published 2021 I added this book to my TBR pile because of the title (which is the broad category of my research), and the fact that the description includes “reproductive justice.” (M)otherhood was not quite what I expected, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Pragya Agarwal provides plenty of scientific data alongside herContinue reading “(M)otherhood”
From Dancing Girls and Other Stories, by Margaret Atwood, 1977 This short story is a brilliant meditation on the language we use for pregnancy, birth and motherhood, but also a study of the (much discussed) transformation that takes place when a person has a child. Rachel Cusk discussed this in her book, A Life’s Work,Continue reading “Giving Birth”
Ed. by Michele Filgate, 2019 I was immediately intrigued by the title of this book, and have been looking forward to reading it for months. It is a collection of essays by established writers about their relationships with their mothers. Most of those relationships are fraught, but not all. Some have overcome serious complications andContinue reading “What My Mother And I Don’t Talk About”
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