Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Desiring Motherhood: Essential Reading

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Editor and Columnist Caroline Grant has just finished The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade. "I can't stop thinking about these women's stories. Ann Fessler (both an adoptee and adoptive mom) interviewed dozens of women, girls really, who were sent away to bear children they often weren't allowed to see, and then returned to families and a culture that didn't want to hear their stories. So they stayed silent, many of them counting down every day of 18 years until they could begin a search for the children they had relinquished. As one woman said about the days leading up to her interview, '. . .all these physical things started happening. My jaw doesn't want to open and my lungs are all tight. I thought, "I wonder why I can't open my mouth." Then I realized, I'm supposed to be silent. I'm not supposed to tell this story. The secrecy has dominated everything. It's so powerful and pervasive and the longer you keep a secret, the more power it takes on.' Many of these women desired motherhood powerfully, and it's tragic how it was denied them."

Fiction Co-Editor Susan Ito shares her choice: Cradle and All: Women Writers on Pregnancy and Birth, ed. by Laura Chester "This book was published the year I first got pregnant, and the collection of fiction, poetry and memoir so moved me. It doesn't flinch or leave out the 'hard parts,' and it really opened me to the power and beauty of honest words about an almost indescribable experience, when I was most hungry to understand what I was going through."

Columns Editor Dawn Friedman writes: "After my bout with infertility (but not during,) one of the best books I read was Crossing the Moon: A Journey into Infertility, by Paulette Bates Alden. She's a woman who went through primary infertility and eventually decided to live child-free. After we adopted Madison and our family was complete, I was able to see how much I'd missed by not really reading that book. And it's a great piece of writing. It makes a nice companion piece to Paradise, Piece by Piece by Molly Peacock, which is about her decision NOT to have children in part because she wanted to devote herself to writing. (Now in hindsight, I wish there was more support for women who decide not to pursue treatment/adoption and these two books speak to that for me.)"

Twelve-Step Mama shares: "I ran across Lauren Slater's Love Works Like This: Moving from One Kind of Life to Another last year and loved it. She's honest, funny, and quite poetic. It's a psychological memoir (by a psychologist and fabulous writer) of pregnancy, which centers on her questioning the decision to have a child, made more difficult by medications she takes for mental illness. Although I could not relate to the medications part, it raised my consciousness and her prose is stunning at times."

Suzanne Kamata, Fiction Co-Editor, recommends Driving by Moonlight: A Journey Through Love, War, and Infertility by Kristin Henderson. "The author married a Marine chaplain and converted to Quakerism. This moving memoir is about, among other things, her quest to become a mother. The book made me think deeply about religion, war, and marriage."


Kathy Moran, former Literary Reflections Editor, has two grown boys and three granddaughters. A retired secondary language arts teacher and literary magazine adviser, Kathy currently works as a teacher consultant for the Greater Kansas City Writing Project and editor of their newsletter Composing Ourselves. Kathy’s reflections can be found at Marmee’s Corner.


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