Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Essential Reading: Mother’s Day

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Celebrating Mother’s Day at Literary Mama means celebrating all the mothers that literature has to offer—the good, the bad, the relatable, the hard-bitten, the struggling, the comical, the fearful, the mildly crazy, and every other kind, too. Truth be told, most of us are all of the above at one point or another. This month’s list is quite the variety pack, for all the mothers we are.

Kristina Riggle, Fiction Co-Editor, wants to recommend an oeuvre, but settles for a title: “This might be an odd choice for Mother’s Day, but I always think fondly of how David Sedaris’s mom is rendered in his essays. Since I should pick one collection, I’ll go with Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Some of the stories he tells would make modern, diligent, Parents-Magazine-armed mothers (me included) gasp, but you never doubt her love for David, and neither does he. I love it when moms who don’t fit the vaunted stereotype of the Good Mother are nonetheless represented positively and with tenderness.”

Columns and E-Zine Editor Kelly Sage writes, “I first read Waiting for Birdy while searching for companionship in the throes of toddlerhood. The second time, I needed another mother’s story while I was waiting for my own Birdy. Both times I neglected anything needing my attention and found solace in the reading experience. Waiting for Birdy is a memoir that chronicles the seasons of anticipation and delivery, and considers what the addition of a second child brings to a family. Filled with humor, raw truth, motherhood musings and fears, Catherine Newman’s style, similar to that of Anne Lamott, illuminates the gifts and challenges of being a mother.”

Karna Converse, Blog Co-Editor, shares, "Writing about mothers, grandmothers, women, and family is a common theme in Amy Tan’s work. Although she’s probably best known as the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, and the newly-released The Valley of Amazement, the book I identified with most is her nonfiction musings, The Opposite of Fate. Part short reflections and part previously published essays, Tan’s book takes readers on a journey that begins with her childhood and ends with her fight against Lyme disease in 2001. Tan’s musings cover a variety of topics, but each is built around the relationship a mother has with her daughter. In the introduction, she writes, 'While I never intended for the pieces in this current nonfiction book to explain my fiction, they do.'"

Avery Fischer Udagawa, “Four Worlds” Columnist, recommends a powerful pair: “One could not find two mothers more different than those of the main characters in Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy, the first and second novels by Ruta Sepetys. Between Shades of Gray tells of a Lithuanian teen deported under the Soviet occupation in 1941, who survives because of the heroic sacrifices of her mother. Out of the Easy features a girl desperate to escape her mother, a prostitute in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950. Author Sepetys was knighted by the President of Lithuania for Between Shades of Gray and is not welcome in Russia. She tangled with the mob to write Out of the Easy. These two portraits of young women and their mothers are hard-won, important, and impossible to put down.”

Editor-in-Chief Caroline Grant provides the varicolored icing for our Mother’s Day cake: “Strangely, none of the books I’ve read recently have mothers in them, so I went to my bookshelf to look over some of my old favorites and was reminded of a book that was compiled by my predecessors here, Amy Hudock and Andi Buchanan: Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined. This anthology, which came out just around the time I joined the editorial board, collects some of the very best writing from the journal’s first couple of years. It’s fun to go back and read great stories like Cassie Premo Steele’s "Chocolate," and Suzanne Kamata’s "Gan;" poetry by longtime columnist Ona Gritz or terrific essays like Nicole Cooley’s "Thirteen Ways of Looking at Being a Mother and a Poet" and Joanne Hartman’s "Evolution of a Muse." The pieces are still archived here on the site, of course, but it’s far cozier to curl up with the book, which is one way I plan to celebrate Mother’s Day this year.”


Libby Maxey lives in rural Massachussetts with her husband and two young sons. With her academic career as a medievalist having died a stunningly swift death by childbirth, she now works as an editor, writes poetry, reads when able, and sings with her local light opera company. Her work has appeared in The Mom Egg Review, Off the Coast, Tule Review, Crannóg Magazine, Mezzo Cammin and elsewhere.


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