Happy Mother’s Day from all of us at Literary Mama! We are thrilled to share a list of books that are near and dear to us as mothers, daughters, and friends of mothers. Each pick features some aspect of motherhood to celebrate each and every literary mama.
It’s my first Mother’s Day, and as a mama to a newborn I am still fascinated with the birth process. I chose to give birth at a birth center with the help of a midwife, nurse, and a very supportive husband. Because a few of my friends have had home births and birth center experiences, I didn’t find the idea to be strange. I did find that when I told people about my birth plan, it was often received with surprise and many questions. Thais Nye Derich’s newly released book, Second Chance: A Mother's Quest for a Natural Birth after a Cesarean crushes the stigma of home birth by juxtaposing her first birth experience, a hospital birth that culminated in an unplanned caesarean, with her second birth experience, a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) home birth. With brutal honesty Derich takes her reader on a journey of more than just her birth experiences. She also shares about forgiveness by writing about her traumatic childhood and the strain that her first birth put on her marriage. By the end of the book, I found myself cheering her on in both the birth of her second son, Mikko, and in general as a mother and advocate of natural childbirth. Using both her hospital experience and research, Derich helps to dispel the stigma of both VBACs and home births while shedding light on what she sees as a broken health care/hospital birth system. She captures the frustration of explaining her circumstances in the quote, “It’s useless to say anything to her. She is already married to the fear she has been fed. She’s the norm, and I am the exception, so I nod politely and look back at the kids.” Without coming off as superior for her choices, she instead teaches her reader to advocate for herself regardless of choice in birth style. I highly recommend this book to both expectant mothers and mothers in general. Editor’s Note: We’re proud that Thais is a former contributor to our pages. Read her work here.
Columnist Kate Ristau shares a book that hit home for her as a mother. She writes, “I finally picked up a book I’ve been waiting a year to read. I originally chose Ollie's Odyssey by William Joyce because the cover featured a little stuffed animal setting out on a journey. I thought it looked interesting, then I read the first two lines: ‘When Billy was born he was nearly lost. He came into this world with a small hole in his heart, and for the first few days of his life, he was seldom with his mother and father.’ I bought the book immediately, but couldn’t move beyond that first page. I wasn’t ready to read about the little boy and his stuffed animal. I needed to know my son would be okay first. Three weeks after my son’s heart surgery, I was able to pick up Joyce’s book again. There are so many things I could say about this book, but this is what matters—Joyce has captured magic on the page. He has found the wonder of childhood and wrapped it up with the pain and loss and joy of parenting. Paired with wonderful, evocative paintings, the book is perfect for kids, teens, or parents. Each will walk away with their own understanding of the story. I’ll share it with my own son next year, when we are a few more steps away from his surgery. I hope he’s able to understand how Billy’s journey is so much like his own, and how friends like Ollie can keep us all safe and strong.”
Kim Ruff, Creative Nonfiction and Fiction Editorial Assistant, offers a memoir by an impressive mama. She says, “My favorite books are those that when I finish the last page, I want to immediately flip back to the beginning and start reading again. This is how I feel about Kate Braestrup’s memoir, Here if You Need Me. It’s a bittersweet story of how Braestrup navigates her newfound role as a single mother and widow, who decides to honor her late husband, a Maine State Trooper killed in a car accident, by pursuing his dream of becoming a Unitarian minister. What she couldn’t have known after becoming a minister is that she would serve with the Maine Game Warden Service, which conducts the state’s search and rescue operations when people go missing in the wilderness. Besides the surreal details of her experiences during rescue missions, what drew me in and made me never want to put the book down was Braestrup’s conversational tone. She manages to strike a perfect balance between matter-of-fact and playful, funny and heartbreaking, faithful and realist, yet always welcoming. I predict when readers finish this book, they will feel like they’ve just had a long talk with a friend.”
Fiction Editor Lisa Katzenberg found a book that embodies the spirit of Mother’s Day. She shares, “When I first flipped through I Wish You More, a picture book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld, I’m pretty sure I got choked up right there in the bookstore. This sweet story is full of charming wishes for kids: ‘I wish you more ups than downs,’ ‘I wish you more we than me,’ ‘I wish you more hugs than ughs.’ Complimented by the perfect illustrations of Tom Lichtenheld, this gentle book presents a subtle way for moms to show encouragement and support of a child. The book is more poignant this Mother’s Day, as Amy recently passed. Her 20-year-old daughter, Paris, is continuing Amy’s spirit of spreading love through her Project 1,2,3.”
Whitney Archer, Columns Editor, offers a book that would make a great gift for a lucky mama in your life (or for yourself!). She shares, “I picked up a copy of Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History, written by Kate Schatz and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl, at a local used bookstore because I was intrigued by the striking cover and papercut illustrations. But the content was even stronger—the profiles of the individuals and groups were encompassing and diverse. One of my favorite profiles was on the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, a group of mothers who protested against the Argentinian government in the 70s. They wore headscarves embroidered with the name of their children and grandchildren, who were kidnapped by the government for dissent. The women’s individual names are not recorded, but their actions on behalf of their children and society still speak loudly. Another profile was about refugees, which include mostly women and children. It was a welcome reminder of the need for inclusive research and information. I found it an excellent title to recommend (or give!) to families, children, or maybe your best friend.”