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Grown-Up Reads

9 Honest Memoirs About Moms and Motherhood

by Jennie Yabroff


If you like to tell stories about your life, it’s a good bet that one of the main characters of many of them is the woman who raised you. So it’s no wonder that so many authors find the complexity motherhood such an irresistible topic. Whether a cookies-and-milk type, a cigarettes-and-vodka type, or somewhere in between, you’ll likely find a mother who reminds you of your own in the pages of these memoirs — which, by the way, would all make great gifts to let your mom know those hours she devoted to teaching you to read was time well spent.

  • Mother Daughter Me

    by Katie Hafner

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    It sounds like the setup for a sitcom: a mother, daughter, and grandmother sharing a roof. And maybe all would go according to plan if it really were a made-for-TV comedy. In real life, however, things were much rockier when journalist Katie Hafner invited her mother to move in with her and her teenaged daughter, Zoë. Hoping to bond across the generations, Hafner instead found herself confronting difficult memories of her own childhood — and learning more about her mother than she ever expected.

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  • Now My Heart Is Full

    by Laura June

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    Often by the time we’re teens, we think we know all there is to know about our mothers. But having a child of your own can quickly change all that. In this memoir, Laura June writes about how the birth of her daughter, Zelda, caused her to rethink many of her assumptions about her own mother, an alcoholic whose struggles overshadowed much of June’s childhood. By the time she was an adult, June thought she was done with her mother entirely, but Zelda’s birth made her rethink their relationship.
    (On Sale: 7/24/18)

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  • Mom: A Celebration of Mothers from StoryCorps

    by Dave Isay

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    The genius of StoryCorps is its simplicity: Real people telling real stories. That’s it. Yet the impact of these deeply personal stories is immediate and profound. In this collection, editor Dave Isay compiles some of the funniest, most moving, least likely, and relatable tales about moms — what it means to have one, to be one, to lose one, and to find one. It just might inspire you to write down your own reflections.

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  • I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This

    by Nadja Spiegelman

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    Nadja Spiegelman’s father, Art, wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus. But for Spiegelman, the truly fascinating parent was her mother, art director Françoise Mouly. As Nadja came of age, Françoise confided in her about her own turbulent childhood in France. Determined to learn more about the woman who made her mother who she was, the author moved to Paris and began the work of putting together the trail of breadcrumbs leading to herself.

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  • Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year

    by Anne Lamott

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    No list of memoirs about motherhood would be complete without Operating Instructions, a book chronicling Lamott’s first sleepless year as a single mom. With brutal honesty, humor, and plenty of self-deprecation, she captures the many extreme emotions that the experience sparked, from pain and fear to joy and extraordinary love. A perfect pick for readers deep in the trenches of new motherhood and looking for a kindred spirit with whom to laugh and cry.

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  • Black Milk: On Writing, Motherhood, and the Harem Within

    by Elif Shafak

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    When you have a new baby, it can be hard to find the time to brush your teeth. So how do you carve out space to write a novel? For Turkish writer Elif Shafak, the answer was, you don’t — but the consequences of abandoning her art were devastating. In this searching memoir, Shafak discusses how famous writers before her negotiated raising children while holding on to the art that sustained them.

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  • The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation

    by Melissa Rivers

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    Joan Rivers had her fans and her detractors, but no one could deny her devotion to her daughter, Melissa, who often joined her mother on the red carpet critiquing the awards show outfits of various celebrities. Joan was brash, brassy, complicated, and generous, and no one knew her better than the woman who grew up with her. Here, Melissa pays tribute to her larger-than-life mother.

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  • A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother

    by Rachel Cusk

    Some mothers bring home their babies from the hospital and are over-the-moon in love. Others have a more ambivalent relationship with the newest member of the family. But the complicated feelings of new motherhood are rarely explored as candidly as in this memoir by novelist Rachel Cusk, who admits to both adoring and resenting her children when they were tiny and their needs were endless. Her openness may make you feel better about your own impatience or frustration with the many unexpected, conflicting obstacles that motherhood can bring.

  • Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence

    by Rebecca Walker

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    When Alice Walker is your mother, you don’t take the relationship for granted. Growing up, Rebecca Walker was taught to be smart and skeptical, and that her life could be anything she wanted it to be. But did she want it to include a child? In this memoir of overcoming her conflicting emotions and choosing motherhood, Walker explores how smart, independent women can also embrace a role they may have never thought they wanted.

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What memoirs about motherhood have you read and loved? Let us know in the comments below!