In my early days of parenting, the only mom books I read were of the how to genre; you know, “how get your kid to sleep longer than three hours” or “how to make good decisions about absolutely everything related to babies.” While such books were helpful to a point, I quickly grew weary of them. The lists and neatly formatted bullet-points simply did not match the crazy, beautiful, sleep-deprived reality I was living every day. So, when my son was about nine months old, I ditched all of my how-to books and slowly began filling my reading list with memoir – particularly, memoirs about motherhood.
I love motherhood memoirs because although they have not helped me discipline my toddler or achieve a great post-baby body, they have nonetheless taught me a good deal about the wild ride that is mothering. Reading memoir reminds me that motherhood, in all its ordinariness, is insanely powerful: we simply cannot escape the influence of moms — the simple ones, the exciting ones, the nontraditional ones, or even the ones we never knew.
There are so many fantastic memoirs written on motherhood, and the ones I’ve listed below aren’t necessarily the most popular – simply a few I’ve picked up in the past year. Although these books all classify as memoir, they vary widely in content and style, so perhaps at least one of them will pique your interest!
- The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother by James McBride. McBride’s memoir relates the life story of his Jewish mother, an immigrant from Poland, who marries a black man in the 1940s and raises 12 children. The book dances back and forth between the voice of the author and the voice of his mother – quite beautifully – and the result is an at-times-painful but ultimately beautiful story of race, religion, identity and resilience. This memoir has tremendous depth. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
- Glitter and Glue: A Memoir by Kelly Corrigan. After college, Corrigan moves to Australia searching for adventure and eventually finds herself employed as a nanny for the young children of a widowed husband. As she cares for a family who is missing the presence of a mother, she begins to realize the significance of her own mother, whose voice she hears in every experience. This is an enjoyable read with a good mix of light-hearted narrative and thoughtful reflection.
- Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott. No one writes like Lamott, who combines literary brilliance with quirky humor and gut-exploding honesty on every page. This book records the ordinary, day-to-day musings of a single, 35 year-old first-time mom, and it beautifully captures the highs and lows of the first year of parenting. I laughed out loud over Lamott’s honest confessions and felt I could relate in so many ways.
- Postcards from Cookie: a Memoir of Motherhood, Miracles, and a Whole Lot of Mail by Caroline Clarke. This is a fascinating adoption memoir, written by a woman who meets her birth mother through coincidental circumstances in her 30s. Not only does Clarke discover she already has personal connections with her birth mom’s family, but she also learns she is related to the famous singer Nat King Cole. It’s a fairly easy read that reveals how mothers of all kinds influence us.
- Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom by Lisa-Jo Baker. This book is written by a lawyer who grew up in South Africa and lost her own mom when she was 18. The author never expected to have children of her own, yet she becomes mom to three kids and shares her journey of discovering that nothing can truly prepare a woman for motherhood. This book is also a spiritual memoir, and I found it both refreshing and comforting.
What memoirs about motherhood would you add to this list?