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When Mother’s Day is Hard

Posted about 1 year ago by Jennifer Deuell

Mother’s Day is not happy for everyone. Instead, it can be a time of grief, pain, ambiguity, frustration, strain, and even guilt. Personally, Mother’s day has been a sad day for me for the last 10 or so years of my life, first for years of infertility and more recently for the loss of my own mother. These are just two reasons why someone might find Mother’s Day difficult. There are so many more. And we want to show our support to them, too. 

As I’ve stated in several of my other blog posts, I find solace in reading. I’m sure most librarians do. But I’m also confident that the comfort of books stretches far beyond our profession and that a great number of people can be helped through reading. (That is why I do what I do.) So, I’ve compiled a book list for those who experience emotions other than happiness on Mother’s Day. I hope that at least one of these titles will help validate your feelings.

For those who have lost a child:

Crossing the River: Seven Stories that Saved My Life by Carol Smith

“In Crossing the River, Smith recounts how she faced down her crippling loss [the loss of a child] through reporting a series of profiles of people coping with their own intense chal­lenges, whether a life-altering accident, injury, or diag­nosis.”

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Acclaimed author, Didion, reflects on the death of her daughter and her role as a parent.

Waves by Ingrid Chabbert

Based on the author’s own experiences, this is the story of a couple who, after years of infertility, finally become pregnant only to suffer a miscarriage. Told in graphic novel form.

For those who have lost a mother:

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Filled with magical realism, this is the story of a teen who believes her mother has turned into a bird after her suicide. She travels to Taiwan where her mother grew up, hoping to find her mother, the bird. And, in a way, she does.

The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke

“What does it mean to mourn today, in a culture that has largely set aside rituals that acknowledge grief?” The author explores this question when she finds herself ill-prepared to cope with her mother’s death.

Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder

Graphic memoir depicting the author’s experience caring for her dying mother and, eventually, coming to terms with her new life as a motherless daughter.

For those longing to be a mother or have struggled with infertility:

Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley

A graphic memoir recounting the authors experience with infertility, miscarriage, eventual pregnancy, and traumatic birth.

Mothers in Waiting by Crystal Bowman

A collection of 30 stories of women who have experienced infertility (an estimated 10% of the female population).

The Art of Waiting by Belle Boggs

“A brilliant exploration of the natural, medical, psychological, and political facets of fertility.”

For those who have a strained relationship with their mother:

Mother in the Dark by Kayla Maiuri

A novel of class, inheritance, and the chains between mother and daughter. Anna, the main character, struggles with maintaining her carefully boundaried life and coming to terms with her childhood.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

As Lucy recovers from an operation, her estranged mother comes to care for her. Although the two appear to reconnect, below the surface lie unresolved emotions that inevitably come out.

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

“Delving into one of her life’s most rich, rewarding, and fraught relationships, Mom & Me & Mom explores the healing and love that evolved between the two women over the course of their lives, the love that fostered Maya Angelou’s rise from immeasurable depths to reach impossible heights.”

For mothers who are struggling to do the best they can:

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Memoir of a woman who had to put herself first in order to learn how to become a better parent.

And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready by Meaghan O’Connell

A raw account of the author’s experience becoming a mother before she felt like a grown up. Told with unflinching humor.

I Just Want to Pee Alone by Some Kickass Mom Bloggers

I think the title says it all for this one. An audiobook with hysterical essays like: Embarrassment, Thy Name is Motherhood; A Pinterest-Perfect Mom, I am Not; And Then There was that Time a Priest Called Me a Terrible Mother; and So She Thought She Could Cut Off My Stroller.

For those who are fostered or adopted:

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

A memoir of transracial adoption, written by a Korean adoptee was raised in a sheltered Oregon town and dealing with issues of racism, identity, and loss.

A Girl Returned by Donatella Di Pietrantonio

Based on a true story, this is the fictional account of “an unnamed 13-year-old girl is sent away from the family she has always thought of as hers to live with her birth family: a large, chaotic assortment of individuals whom she has never met and who seem anything but welcoming.”

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

The fictional story of three teenagers connected by blood but separated by foster care and adoption.

For foster and adoptive mothers:

Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America by Nefertiti Austin

The author shares her experience of adopting a child as a single Black woman through the lens of history and culture in America.

Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

The author, writer and star of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, tells the story of adopting a three year-old girl out of foster care using wit and charm.

Stranger Care: A Memoir of Loving What Isn’t Ours by Sarah Sentilles

“’You were never ours,’ Sarah tells Coco, ‘yet we belong to each other.’” The story of a woman’s experience fostering a baby and nurturing not just the child, but her birth mother too.

Jennifer Deuell

Jenn Deuell is a Librarian with Richmond Public Library. She is a native of Fredericksburg, VA but has lived in Richmond for long enough that she now considers it home. She loves all things YA and can usually be found curled up at home with a good book (rainy day or not). Her other hobbies include traveling and spending time with family, including her husband, daughter Hannah, and two rescued pit bulls. For YA reading recommendations from Jenn, visit Bookologist.

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