Whenever I am unsure of what to buy as a gift for a friend or relative, I always turn to literature. Sometimes I like to browse the bookstores I know have the best recommendations and find something new that I think suits that particular person’s interests. Book browsing has always been one of the most relaxing experiences for me, so when I settle on a book as the gift I am going to get someone for their birthday or other gift-giving holiday, my anxiety around selected the perfect gift, lifts substantially. I’ll never forget the year that my sister was away from home on Christmas for the first time in our lives. She made sure to leave a gift for my parents, siblings, and I under the tree before she embarked on a week long hiking trek through the mountains of Peru. Everyone’s gift was more or less the same size and weight. We opened our presents one by one. My sister had specially selected a book for each member of our family and included a personalized, handwritten note on the inside cover. It was everyone’s favorite gift that year because it was the most thoughtful present we’d received.
If I could get people books every time the occasion called for a gift, I would. It’s the only kind of shopping that I truly enjoy and never feel guilty about; it’s the only luxury I will allow myself to splurge on more than once a month. Mother’s day could easily be turned into yet another commercialized holiday, and in many ways stores already do rule over this holiday. Instead of selecting any old item, (spoons, aprons, or an equally sexist item) that bears the words “best mom ever”, try picking her out a good summer read. For a little inspiration, here is a list of five books that touch in one way or another on the experience of motherhood and/or the female experience.
Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
A story that challenges our perception of what a blended family means. Boy Novak seems to be reconciling throughout the entire novel with her own lack of familial structure and desperately trying to change the cycle of abuse and a loveless upbringing as she navigates marriage and motherhood. This story is fascinating on many levels that deals with multiracial families and blending of step-families within a backdrop that hearkens to fairy tale elements.
Where Women are Kings by Christie Watson
Watson’s novel explores trans-racial adoption and the delicate path of creating a stable family environment for adoptive children who come from troubled and abusive pasts. It is a story that redefines the normative roles of parenthood and the struggles moms and dads face in absorbing these children’s pasts in an effort to heal those traumas and provide them with a loving future.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
An endearing tale that shows how mother-daughter relationships can occur on more than biological terms. Lily Owens, while trying to reconnect with her deceased mother in a South Carolina town that holds connections to her mother’s past, finds herself in the company of women who each serve as mother figures in the individual ways in which they can offer Lilly guidance. The story is an empowering portrait of female endurance, individualism, and independence.
Blue Nights by Joan Didion
Blue Nights is a true account of Joan Didion’s experiences with motherhood and losing her daughter. The book offers a profoundly honest retelling of her personal thoughts on the role of motherhood and being a wife. She takes readers through her decision-making processes surrounding her daughter Quintana’s illness. Didion’s accounts are both vivid and empowering to the female experience, spanning multiple stages of a woman’s life and the new challenges that arise with age.
Sisters in the Brotherhood by Jane LaTour
This book packs some major girl power. Sisters in the Brotherhood is written as an oral-history documenting the first women to pioneer NYC’s blue color job sector at the same time breaking down gender biases and stereotyping. The women in his book work alongside male coworkers as firefighters, plumbers, electrical technicians, and transit workers. LaTour’s book gives a voice to the women who traversed this ground, giving way to a new generation of women entering into these male dominated fields with confidence.
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