In this piece that is mostly a review of Jacqueline Rose’s book Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty, Parul Sehgal offers more titles to add to the motherhood reading list.
“Mothers “are not in flight from the anguish of what it means to be human,” Rose writes. She quotes Julia Kristeva: “To be a mother, to give birth, is to welcome a foreigner, which makes mothering simply ‘the most intense form of contact with the strangeness of the one close to us and of ourselves.’”
Isn’t it pretty to think so? Recent books on motherhood, however, frequently and sometimes unwittingly, illustrate a different phenomenon: how motherhood dissolves the border of the self but shores up, often violently, the walls between classes of women.
Sehgal names some of these walls: pay gaps and maternal health outcomes, both hinging on race. She points out:
…so many of these books (almost all of them are by white, middle-class women) seem wary of, if not outright disinterested in, more deeply engaging with how race and class inflect the experience of motherhood.
The books listed in this article and in Elkin’s are a beginning. As a canon, the list has glaring gaps, most noticeably around race and queerness. The following articles seek to fill those gaps, and I’ll be discussing them in depth in the coming days: