Jules' Tools for Social Change: A Motherhood Booklist
Welcome to this month’s edition of Jules’ Tools for Social Change, a column that features a book, author or publisher whose work deals with issues of race, gender, sexuality, ability, colonialism, economic justice, or other social justice topics.See more details below
Welcome to this month’s edition of Jules’ Tools for Social Change, a column that features a book, author or publisher whose work deals with issues of race, gender, sexuality, ability, colonialism, economic justice, or other social justice topics.
You may have noticed my absence these last several months – or maybe you didn’t – but at any rate, my column has been on hiatus since April 2016 while I took some time to get acquainted with my new baby. In honour of her, here is a list of books on the topic of motherhood, something I almost feel I could write a book on myself.
Mothering as a feminist can be particularly hard to grapple with in a social context that constantly imposes ideals on us from every angle, both within critical feminist theory (whose experiences are centered? Who gets to self-determine as mothers?) and outside it (everything from the concept of “natural birth” to the so-called “mommy wars”). These books provide a variety of lenses for this intense journey I’ve set myself on.
'Til next time,
Mother Time by Métis poet Joanne Arnott is a collection from Ronsdale Press that focuses on the “ongoing work of becoming a mother.” This collection doesn’t shy away from challenge and struggle, both inward and outward. The concept of continuously “becoming” a mother as ongoing work is particularly compelling for me, as a mother who still isn’t sure how that identity fits with the rest of my identities.
Fiona Joy Green conducted interviews with sixteen feminist mothers and their adult children for her book Practicing Feminist Mothering, published by ARP Books. Mothering is important to feminist theory and practice, but as with most theories and movements, there are differing approaches. This book focuses on the spaces created by self-identifed feminist mothers to push back against patriarchal norms, and brings in the voices of children of feminist mothers to provide an intergenerational perspective.
Every list of books on motherhood needs some comic relief. Enter: Vicki Murphy’s MotherFumbler, published by Breakwater Books. The creator of MotherBlogger.ca and self-described “writer, mother and hot mess” shares her reality of parenting, which isn’t exactly what she’d been led to expect. I’ll let Vicki’s description speak for itself: “I always knew I’d be the perfect mother. So far, I’ve perfected the fetal position.”
Editor Kerry Clare brings together a collection of often raw, occasionally tragic, sometimes funny, and always compelling personal stories of motherhood in The M Word, published by Goose Lane Editions. This collection isn’t limited to parenting tales: it includes experiences of infertility & loss, abortion, childlessness-by-choice and not by choice, alongside stories of parenting and adjusting to new normals.
Blood Mother is a poetry collection by Su Croll, published by Signature Editions, that asks “how mothers are meant to see themselves when the language itself seems insufficient.” Both celebratory and honest, these poems touch on identity, feminism and representation.
Reaching deep into ECW Press’s backlist, we find Mothers Talk Back, edited by Margaret Dragu, Sarah Sheard and Susan Swan. Dragu is an interdisciplinary artist who hosted a radio program called Momz Radio that inspired this collection, which is a series of interviews conducted by a variety of interviewers. The stories in this collection are not “the baby-blue-and-pink, sanitized nursery rhyme presented in the popular media,” but reflecting deeply on particular aspects of parenting, including disability, sexual identity, step-parenting and more.
Finally, Margaret Christakos’s Her Paraphernalia, published by BookThug, was “written as a love song to her mother and daughter.” Christakos explores what has changed and what has stayed the same from her mother’s experience to her own, and what might and might not change for her daughter. This mixed collection of poetry and prose is multi-generational and focuses on issues of public and private identity and self-portraiture in an age of social media. #feministselfies
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