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

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This month we asked our editors and columnists for essential books on the theme "Single Motherhood." They did not disappoint.

Fiction Co-Editor Kristina Riggle writes, "The novel Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, is about a bigamist, his legitimate daughter and his 'secret' daughter. It's also about a type of single motherhood as lived by Gwendolyn, the mother of the 'other daughter.' Was it conventional, or wise, to have a baby with a married man and struggle along nearly alone while his acknowledged wife and daughter got the best of all he had? Certainly not, but it's her life just the same, and Jones's portrayal is fascinating and real."

Suzanne Kamata, Fiction Co-Editor, shares, "The Last Samurai, a debut novel by Helen DeWitt, is one of the most unusual novels I have ever read and thoroughly enjoyed. It's about a hyper-intelligent multilingual boy, Ludo, who lives and watches Akira Kurosawa's classic film with his somewhat less intelligent, eccentric single mother. At the heart of the story is Ludo's quest to figure out his father's identity. Much of this book is told in dialogue and rambling asides, but it somehow works. I loved it."

Editor-In-Chief Caroline M. Grant recommends Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year. "It still stands up, nearly twenty years after it was first published, as one of the most honest and funny motherhood memoirs published. Certain lines still ring in my head, including one from a scene in which, talking to a friend on the phone, Lamott overhears her friend's child babble happily and then burst into tears. Her friend explains, 'Oh, the great god Dad just came into the room and then left and now she's frustrated.' We joke about the 'great god Dad' sometimes in our household, though every day I feel so grateful my kids have their good, basic dad, because Lamott's words on the topic are so poignant. She writes, 'I felt a flush of many feelings at once--longing, jealousy, sorrow beyond words that Sam doesn't have a daddy. He will grieve over the years, and there is nothing I can do or say that will change the fact that his father chooses not to be his father. I can't give him a dad, I can't give him a nuclear family. All I can do is to give him what I have, some absolutely wonderful men in our lives who loved him before he was born, who over the years will play with him, read and fish and walk with him, make him laugh and throw him up in the air until he is too big, men who will be his uncles and brothers and friends, and I have to believe that this will be a great consolation.'"


Rhena Tantisunthorn received her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University in 2007. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and daughter and is currently working on a book about her experiences working with Karenni refugees on the Thai-Burma border. You can find her blog here: Rhena Tan.


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Great recommendations! I was thrilled to see that Anne Lamott has a new one out too: "Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son."
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