Essential Reading: Mother’s Day
We are exploring the many colors of mothering with our reading recommendations this month, starting with an “in the trenches” novel that will make you laugh out loud, moving onto an anthology of stories about mothers that will touch your soul, and ending with a parenting guide that might just make your life a little more harmonious.
Years ago in I Don’t Know How She Does It, Kate Reddy (played memorably by Sarah Jessica Parker in the movie version) was a successful hedge fund manager, as well as a wife and mother of young children. Author Allison Pearson intelligently and humorously captured this savvy businesswoman navigating a male-dominated workplace, while simultaneously fending off the “Muffia” moms at school, and feeling guilty about everything else that she just doesn’t get around to. In Pearson’s sequel How Hard Can It Be?, Kate is on the cusp of 50 and feeling it. She left her job seven years ago and her new struggle is keeping up with two teenagers, menopause, a husband deeply entrenched in a mid-life crisis, aging parents, and finding a way back into the world of work. As Kate struggles to recapture the confidence and vitality of her younger self, she has to deal with her teenage daughter’s BELFIE crisis (Google it), her in-law’s deteriorating health and intransigence, and her husband’s pompous reincarnation as a counselor and born-again health-freak. This is a book for mothers because it doesn’t shy away from the hardships, dilemmas and failings of modern parenting, the way that dealing with aging parents makes us feel cheated, or the fact that we’re often so busy we fail to notice what is right under our noses. If you have teenage kids, are 50 or thereabouts, or are “enjoying” the side effects of menopause, this book will put a smile on your face. I laughed every time Kate called on “Roy,” the name she gave to her errant menopausal memory. I found this book as entertaining and relatable as the first, even if the end was a little too tidy for my taste.
Felicity Landa, Fiction Editor, invites us to dip into this collection of memorable stories: “Michele Filgate’s anthology, resulting from her viral article on Longreads, is a treasury of stories from a star-studded group of writers. What My Mother and I Don't Talk About features fifteen authors: Kiese Laymon, Alexander Chee, and Carmen Maria Machado to name a few. This collection of essays is beautifully assembled as each writer bares their soul and their relationship with their mother. What is unique about this collection is the range of emotions and themes—Nayomi Munaweera reflects on what it was like to live with her mentally ill mother in an abusive household, while Julianna Baggott talks about the joys and repercussions of a mother who confides in her. What I like about Filgate’s introduction, and why I believe this is such a fitting and inclusive collection of essays for Mother’s Day, is that she reminds us that not everyone looks on the holiday with joy and celebration. There is indeed pain and sadness, ‘for some the intense grief that comes with losing a mother too soon or never knowing her,’ Filgate writes, ‘for others, it’s the realization that their mother . . . doesn’t know how to mother them.’ In her essay, Lynn Steger Strong grapples with the same story of her mother, and how over time that story changes in her own mind as she becomes a mother herself. She writes, ‘There is a gaping hole perhaps for all of us where our mother does not match up with “mother” as we believe it’s meant to mean, and all it’s meant to give us.’ The one thing that stands out to me as a universal truth in this compelling and poignant collection: motherhood is complicated. From our relationships with our own mothers to those with our own children. Dylan Landis’ beautiful speculative essay about her mother’s intimate relationship with artist Haywood Bill Rivers flows with burning questions she was never able to ask, punctuated with her mother’s reaction to Landis’ own interracial marriage. You’ll laugh out loud reading Cathi Hanauer’s recounting of her first ever conversation with her mother that wasn’t facilitated by her parent’s complicated relationship. No matter how you feel about your mother this Mother’s Day, these stories will stay with you long after you’ve set this book down.”
Social Media Editor Abigail Lalonde recommends this classic, which has stood the test of time: “I recently realized that my daughter is very much like me in that she is a bit stubborn, very independent, and rather busy. While I’m sure most two-year-olds are similar, I am pretty much clueless when it comes to child behavior and psychology. I always find myself reading voraciously, playing catch up via parenting books. In my frustration, I turned to How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 by Joanna Faber and Julie King, and I am so glad I did. It is incredibly helpful as a current resource with tips (and warnings) for what the future may hold. Instead of constantly feeling underwater or frustrated, I feel empowered and have stopped battling with my toddler because I now have a plethora of tools. Each chapter offers solutions to common toddler fiascos, followed up with testimonials from parents. At the end of each chapter, a recap is available for when you need to refresh your memory on what to do and say (there are a lot of scenarios and tools). It’s been simply amazing to see how much easier life can be by speaking a language my daughter understands. I can’t recommend this book enough to parents of toddlers, or parents-to-be. I feel it will also be useful for my adult relationships, especially the section on praise. I still intend to read other parenting guides, including the original How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, but I know this book will be my go-to for many years to come.”
We’d love for you to share your favorite mothering books with us in the comments or tweet us @LiteraryMama. You can also follow us on Instagram @Literary_Mama and Goodreads for more recommendations.