My book group's task for May is to, "read a book with a positive maternal figure" which I knew might be a challenge, but I didn't anticipate the level of difficulty this theme was! I could think of a couple bad*ss ladies who inspired me and supported their children and other women in books, but it was a handful that I could count on one hand.
Cue the blessings of bookish internet friends! I reached out to one of my favorite bookish facebook groups to ask for recommendations and suggestions and they came through like the champions they are!
I marked the ones I have read with a * so you can see what I can endorse, but obviously most of these I haven't gotten to, meaning: do your own homework to see if they're ones you might be interested in. Hopefully this is helpful!
*Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling - ALL HAIL MOLLY WEASLEY!! Queen of wizards and of mothers. I might re-read the series just for her character.
*Ramona Quimby books, by Beverly Cleary - I did read several of these when I was much younger and honestly, don't remember much of Ramona's mother, but this recommendation was made several times and would probably make for some fun reading.
*Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott - Marmee was mentioned several times as well, and while I have read this and the movie with Elizabeth Taylor and June Alyson from 1949 has a special place in my heart, it has been such a long time again! Worth revisiting.
This is How it Always is, by Laurie Frankel
Beartown, by Fredrik Backman
The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant
Room, by Emma Donaghue
Eternal Life, by Dara Horn
Shelter in Place, by Nora Roberts
Anger is A Gift, by Mark Oshiro
Little Big Love, by Katy Regan
I Liked My Life, by Abby Fabiaschi
On Beauty, by Zadie Smith
*Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Waterson - Another one of my favorite fictional mothers, and who I relate to more now that I'm a mother and catch myself, um, saying things she says while dealing with my own kids with Calvin-esque tendencies. Obviously any time spent with Calvin and Hobbes is well spent.
*The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion - This is a book about loss, but also deals with being a mother, mothering as children get older and experience their own significant struggles, and is written exquisitely and honestly.
Kid Gloves, by Lucy Kinsely - A graphic novel!
Come Back: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back, by Claire and Mia Fontaine
Catastrophic Happiness: Finding Joy in Childhood's Messy Years, by Catherine Newman
*I Am, I Am, I Am: Sixteen Brushes with Death, by Maggie O'Farrell - I loved this book when I read it last year, especially because she wrote this as proof of bravery for her daughter. It is a little scary, but it is worth it.
It's pretty interesting that when specifically looking for maternal figures in books, I ran into two categories: instructional/inspirational, OR detrimental plot points. Many of the mothers depicted are the source of issues, mental and/or physical anguish, a relationship that has caused suffering, regrets, shame, totally absent, or, if you read thrillers, sometimes are the cause of serious and dangerous consequences.
The how to "enjoy the mothering process" isn't at all what I was looking for in this prompt either. I could write like, 1,000 more words about how interesting this is from an information seeking and organizing place, and then another 10,000 on what it means when those are the main two characterizations in literature that mothers seem to fall into, but another time.
What I want to find, and am now looking out for in my own reading, is mothers as characters, who aren't the center of the book, aren't a trigger for a plot point or source of trauma, but who exist in the books as human beings and who are depicted as supportive, positive forces. Is that really so hard?!
I would LOVE to add to this list, so if you have any recommendations from your own reading please drop them in the comments. I'm on the lookout now to compile my own booklist that solves this issue so others can find it!
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