Jessamine Chan recommends 6 books about motherhood
The novelist recommends books by Rachel Yoder, Diane Cook, and more
Jessamine Chan's debut novel, The School for Good Mothers, is set in a near future where mothers deemed unfit are monitored and counseled by a government organization. Below, she names six other books that offer unique insight into motherhood.
Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder (2021).
Yoder's wild, glorious tale of an exhausted stay-at-home mom who might be turning into a dog put into words so many of my feelings about motherhood, art making, and the question of how to live fully while doing both. Buy it here.
The New Wilderness by Diane Cook (2020).
For readers who prefer motherhood novels with a dose of the climate apocalypse, Cook offers the story of conflicted, loving Bea and her daughter, Agnes, whom she is trying to save by having relocated their family of three to the only remaining patch of unspoiled land in North America. The book, which was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, is as vast as its title implies, but also startlingly intimate. Buy it here.
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (2018).
Set in a world where abortion is illegal, where in vitro fertilization is banned, and where personhood rights are granted to every embryo, Zumas' novel is essential reading on the current erosion of reproductive rights, and how that loss of bodily autonomy will impact the lives of individual girls and women. Buy it here.
Motherhood by Sheila Heti (2018).
I read everything Heti writes, and her novel about maternal ambivalence is no exception. I loved rattling around in this narrator's exquisite and far-reaching mind and pondering a gigantic life decision— whether to become a mother— with her. Buy it here.
Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks (2018).
I recommend this memoir to anyone interested in the real-world issues that partly inspired my novel. Through the story of her experience with child-welfare authorities— after leaving her 4-year-old son sitting alone in her car for just a few minutes — Brooks presents a vital critique of American parenting culture. Buy it here.
This Boy We Made by Taylor Harris (2022).
More than any book I've read in recent years, Harris' memoir about parenting a son who exhibits symptoms of an undiagnosed ailment captures the experience of liminality that we're all living right now. It also offers wisdom, hope, and humor. Readers will find themselves deeply invested in the Harris family and dazzled by the author's fierce love and devotion. Buy it here.
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