Recent Releases: Best Books for (and about) Mothers

With Mother’s Day quickly approaching here are some recent (and recent-ish) fiction and non-fiction releases for - and about - mothers.

 
 

Has it been months since you’ve read a book with actual adult words that had nothing to do with farm animals or superheroes or going potty? Well then, it’s time to take a break. Pour yourself some wine. Put on your comfy pants. All good? Ok, welcome to the party.

Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley, the creators of #IMOMSOHARD, know that you probably didn’t get to shower today and that the last thing you need is more advice on how to be a better parent. Instead, they invite you to join their laugh-out-loud, best friend banter on the eighty bajillion ways moms give their all every day.

Come for the laughs, stay for the kinship with two friends who are just getting it right, getting it wrong, and leaning on each other for a laugh at the end of the day. They don’t care if your house is a mess and they won’t judge you if you pee a little when you sneeze. So kick back, relax, and enjoy. You deserve it.

 

 
 

Hilarious best friends Cat and Nat created a massive online community of moms by sharing their ultra-real and just a bit R-rated dispatches from the mom trenches. From what not to eat a few days after giving birth (chicken wings) to the most effective ways to dodge post-partum sex, Cat & Nat’s Mom Truths shares everything no one will tell you about having kids.

Mixing memoir, humor, and advice, Cat and Nat tell never-before-told stories about the stress, guilt, joy, and laundry (oh the laundry!) of being a mom in their first book. With seven kids between them and millions of fans on social media, they get real about the parts of parenting that somehow don’t make the Instagram feed. Sharing their outrageous humor, fearless myth-busting, and genuine comfort on every page, they walk you from pregnancy to the toddler years and beyond. And they dole out ridiculously honest advice, like what you think you need at the hospital when you have your first baby (lip gloss) versus what you actually need (hemorrhoid pillow), and how worried you should really be about germs (less than you are). Fearless crusaders against the perfection myth and all the gluten-free, sugar-free baking it entails, Cat and Nat assure you that you’re already doing a great job, making this an essential companion for moms everywhere.

 
 

A collection of witty one-line advice New Yorker writer Patricia Marx heard from her mother, accompanied by full-color illustrations by New Yorker staff cartoonist Roz Chast.

 
 

As an undergraduate, Michele Filgate started writing an essay about being abused by her stepfather. It took her more than a decade to realize what she was actually trying to write: how this affected her relationship with her mother. When it was finally published, the essay went viral, shared on social media by Anne Lamott, Rebecca Solnit, and many others. The outpouring of responses gave Filgate an idea, and the resulting anthology offers a candid look at our relationships with our mothers.

While some of the writers in this book are estranged from their mothers, others are extremely close. Leslie Jamison writes about trying to discover who her seemingly perfect mother was before ever becoming a mom. In Cathi Hanauer’s hilarious piece, she finally gets a chance to have a conversation with her mother that isn’t interrupted by her domineering (but lovable) father. André Aciman writes about what it was like to have a deaf mother. Melissa Febos uses mythology as a lens to look at her close-knit relationship with her psychotherapist mother. And Julianna Baggott talks about having a mom who tells her everything.

As Filgate writes, “Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we’re always trying to return to them.” There’s relief in breaking the silence. Acknowledging what we couldn’t say for so long is one way to heal our relationships with others and, perhaps most important, with ourselves.

 
 

In We Live for the We, first-time mother Dani McClain sets out to understand how to raise her daughter in what she, as a black woman, knows to be an unjust--even hostile--society. Black women are more likely to die during pregnancy or birth than any other race; black mothers must stand before television cameras telling the world that their slain children were human beings. What, then, is the best way to keep fear at bay and raise a child so she lives with dignity and joy?

 McClain spoke with mothers on the frontlines of movements for social, political, and cultural change who are grappling with the same questions. Following a child's development from infancy to the teenage years, We Live for the We touches on everything from the importance of creativity to building a mutually supportive community to navigating one's relationship with power and authority. It is an essential handbook to help us imagine the society we build for the next generation.

 

 
 

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had envisioned for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her desperate attempts to win her over. And as a pillar in the community, an advocate for female refugees, and a woman happily married for decades, no one had a bad word to say about Diana…except Lucy.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana is dead, a suicide note found near her body claiming that she longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body.

But the autopsy finds no cancer.

It does find traces of poison, and evidence of suffocation.

Who could possibly want Diana dead? Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad she’s gone?

Fractured relationships and deep family secrets grow more compelling with every page in this twisty, captivating novel.

 
 

Eloise “Lou” Hansen is graduating from Columbia University summa cum laude, and she's ready to conquer the world. Just a few minor problems: she has no job, no prospects, and she’s moving back into her childhood bedroom. Lou is grimly determined to stick to a rigorous schedule to get a job and get out of her parents’ house. Shelly “Mama Shell” Hansen, on the other hand, is ecstatic, and just as determined to keep her at home. Who else will help her hide her latest binge-shopping purchases from her husband, go to SoulCycle with her, and hold her hand during Botox shots?

Smothered is a hilarious roman à clef told via journal entries, text messages, emails, bills, receipts, tweets, doctor’s prescriptions, job applications and rejections, parking tickets, and pug pictures, chronicling the year that Lou moves back home after college. Told from Lou’s point-of-view, Smothered tells the story of two young(ish) women, just trying to get it right, and learning that just because we all grow up doesn’t mean we necessarily have to grow old. (After all, what is Juvaderm for?)

 

 
 

Like most first-time mothers, Angela Garbes was filled with questions when she became pregnant. What exactly is a placenta and how does it function? How does a body go into labor? Why is breast best? Is wine totally off-limits? But as she soon discovered, it’s not easy to find satisfying answers. Your obstetrician will cautiously quote statistics; online sources will scare you with conflicting and often inaccurate data; and even the most trusted books will offer information with a heavy dose of judgment. To educate herself, the food and culture writer embarked on an intensive journey of exploration, diving into the scientific mysteries and cultural attitudes that surround motherhood to find answers to questions that had only previously been given in the form of advice about what women ought to do—rather than allowing them the freedom to choose the right path for themselves.

Infused with humor and born out of awe, appreciation, and understanding of the female body and its strength, Like a Mother debunks common myths and dated assumptions, offering guidance and camaraderie to women navigating one of the biggest and most profound changes in their lives.

By far the oldest book on the list, this one is a classic on the complicated mother-daughter dynamic.

 
 

It was Tannen who first showed us that men and women speak different languages. Mothers and daughters speak the same language–but still often misunderstand each other, as they struggle to find the right balance between closeness and independence. Why do daughters complain that their mothers always criticize, while mothers feel hurt that their daughters shut them out? Why do mothers and daughters critique each other on the Big Three–hair, clothes, and weight–while longing for approval and understanding? And why do they scrutinize each other for reflections of themselves?


Deborah Tannen answers these and many other questions as she explains why a remark that would be harmless coming from anyone else can cause an explosion when it comes from your mother or your daughter. Most importantly, she helps mothers and daughters understand each other, the key to improving their relationship. With groundbreaking insights, pitch-perfect dialogues, and deeply moving memories of her own mother, Tannen untangles the knots daughters and mothers can get tied up in. Readers will appreciate Tannen’s humor as they see themselves on every page and come away with real hope for breaking down barriers and opening new lines of communication.

 

Gina Warner