Recognizing and honoring the unique and different aspects of being a mother in 2023

While Mother’s Day is a time for mothers across the globe to be celebrated, it is equally important to take into account the issues that society and policies have enacted that put mother’s in a position to make difficult and often impossible choices. We hope this reading list of recent books focused on motherhood expand your idea of what being a mother means.

Essentially a Mother: A Feminist Approach to the Law of Pregnancy and Motherhood
by Jennifer Hendricks

In this incisive and groundbreaking book, Jennifer Hendricks argues that feminists must overthrow the skewed value system that subordinates women, devalues caregiving, and denies too many the right to parent.

Invisible Mothers: Unseen Yet Hypervisible after Incarceration
by Janet Garcia-Hallett

Drawing on interviews conducted throughout New York City, Black feminist criminologist Janet Garcia-Hallett shares the traditionally silenced voices of formerly incarcerated mothers of color and exposes the difficult realities they face when reentering the community and navigating motherhood.

Pressing Onward: The Imperative Resilience of Latina Migrant Mothers
by Jessica P. Cerdena

Both a contemporary view of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on racially minoritized populations and a timeless account of the ways immigration enforcement and healthcare inequality affect migrant mothers, Pressing Onward uses ethnography to tell a greater story of persistence amid long-standing structural violence.

Militarized Maternity: Experiencing Pregnancy in the U.S. Armed Forces
by Megan D. McFarlane

Despite the armed forces’ increases to maternity-related benefits, servicewomen continue to be stigmatized for being pregnant and taking advantage of maternity policies. In an effort to understand this disconnect, Megan McFarlane analyzes military documents and conducts interviews with enlisted servicewomen and female officers.

Opting Back In: What Really Happens When Mothers Go Back to Work
by Pamela Stone and Meg Lovejoy

Taking a career break is a conflicted and risky decision for high-achieving professional women. Yet many do so, usually planning, even as they quit, to return to work eventually. But can they? And if so, how? In frank and intimate accounts, women lay bare the dilemmas they face upon reentry.

Grandmothering While Black: A Twenty-First-Century Story of Love, Coercion, and Survival
by LaShawnDa L. Pittman

Sociologist LaShawnDa L. Pittman explores the complex lives of Black grandmothers raising their grandchildren in skipped-generation households (consisting only of grandparents and grandchildren). Through careful examination, she explores the various forces that compel, constrain, and support Black grandmothers’ caregiving. 

This is Our Freedom: Motherhood in the Shadow of the American Prison System
by Geniece Crawford Monde

For the overwhelming majority of women leaving correctional institutions in the United States, there is one aspect of their identity that informs their needs, opportunities, hopes, and dreams: their roles as mothers. This Is Our Freedom provides an intimate and moving portrait of women’s journeys prior to and after incarceration.