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Essential Reading
Essential Reading: Alternative Motherhood



Every mother has likely come to the realization that her maternal experience is utterly individual, despite the universality of motherhood itself.  We turn to one another for support and understanding, for the camaraderie of those engaged in a common project, but here we also discover anew that each of us journeys on a distinct path, as unique as our very lives.  That discovery, however, is often more fascinating and enriching than it is disappointing; it can be psychologically salutary to catch a glimpse of a different way, even as we negotiate our own obscure progress.  This month, our editors suggest a clutch of maternal memoirs and essays that illuminate the challenges of parenthood as many of us will never know it, which yet resonate in surprising and touching ways.

Kate Hopper, Literary Reflections Co-editor, "loved Amie Klempnauer Miller's She Looks Just Like You: A Memoir of (Nonbiological Lesbian) Motherhood. After years of conversations about whether they wanted to become parents, Amie and her partner decide to take the plunge. When Amie can't become pregnant, her partner, Jane, volunteers and immediately conceives. It's a lovely memoir about expectations, new motherhood, and the courage and love that are a necessary part of forging a family."

"Birthing the Mother Writer" columnist Cassie Premo Steele writes, "The best mothering memoir I have ever read is Cherrie Moraga's Waiting in the Wings: Portrait of a Queer Motherhood.  It is best, not just 'queer best,' because of its raw writing, heartbreaking scenes of hospital birth, portrayal of the spirituality of early mothering, and its map for making 'familia' from scratch."

Katherine J. Barrett, Reviews and Profiles Editor, reminds us of A Million Tiny Things: A Mother's Urgent Search for Hope in a Changing Climate by Kenna Lee, which she has previously reviewed for Literary Mama. The book "describes motherhood that is 'alternative' in several ways. Lee and her partner are both mothers to their three kids. Lee gave birth to two children, her partner to one, and they both share parenting responsibilities. These women do not, however, share Lee’s 'tad bit self-righteous' and 'fringe radical' environmentalism. Lee’s partner, nicknamed 'The Pragmatist,' sees the sense in buying a minivan for their growing family. Lee, meanwhile, lusts after a re-fitted, veggie-oil-fueled Mercedes with the bumper sticker, 'I veg to differ.' Throughout her memoir, Lee valiantly tries to reconcile normal with alternative, compromise with unflinching values, the independent woman with the mother and partner." (Read the full review here.)

Suzanne Kamata, Fiction Co-editor, recommends  My Baby Rides the Short Bus, edited by Jennifer Silverman, Sarah Talbot, and Yantra Bertelli, "an anthology of essays written by non-mainstream parents of children with 'special needs.' This book, which collects material from writers both well-established and up-and-coming, is by turns raw and funny, but always real."



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