Reading Resources


On Motherhood/Womanhood

The Myths of Motherhood : how culture reinvents the good mother, by Shari Thurer

One of the best books I have read on this subject. The Introduction chapter alone is worth the book. In an enlightening, disarming survey of Motherhood across the centuries, Thurer draws on feminist theory, psychoanalysis and cultural history to show that each society has its own norms, beliefs and expectations for mothering. The “good mother”—properly married, sunservient, modest, forgoing her own needs and desires to rear her children—was invented during the Protestant Reformation, asserts Thurer. Encouraging a diversity of mothering styles, she suggests that mothers today can be personally ambitious without endangering their children.

Of woman born, by Adrienne Rich

Written long before memoir writing became so popular, this autobiographical book combines Rich’s personal life and her genius as a poet/writer to name and discuss what it feels like to be a mother who also has other callings. A classic in the field, and a treat for lovers of Rich’s poetry and essays.

The new feminine brain : how women can develop their inner strengths, genius and intuition, by Mona Lisa Schulz

A smart, funny and ultimately wise book that is a hefty read. Schulz takes complex material and makes it seem perfectly simple, and her insights on the brain are well worth the read.

Mother nature : maternal instincts and how they shape the human species, by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy

Hrdy reveals the motivations behind some of our most primal and hotly contested behavioral patterns—those concerning gender roles, mate choice, sex, reproduction, and parenting—and the ideas and institutions that have grown up around them. She unblinkingly examines and illuminates such difficult subjects as “mother love” and maternal ambition with its ever contested companions: child care and the limits of maternal responsibility.

Landscape for a good woman : a story of two lives, by Carolyn Steedman

Steedman has written an in-depth book that takes her own life and that of her mother’s and analyzes them through prevailing political and social science theory on the psychology of working class people.  This is a poignantly written and thoroughly researched book.

The yummy mummy, by F. Williams, P. Yum

Poignant and true to life, this witty novel is about the mores and competitive social cliques of new Motherhood and the new breed of mom who never misses a Pilates session or touches a bad carb.

I was a really good mom before I had kids : reinventing modern Motherhood, by Trisha Ashworth

Fresh from the front lines of modern Motherhood comes a book that uncovers the guilty secrets of moms today…in their own words.  Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile spoke to mothers of every stripe: working outside the home, stay at home, part-time and found a surprisingly similar trend in their interviews. After enthusing about her lucky life for twenty minutes, a mother would break down and admit that her child’s first word was “Shrek.” As one mom put it “Am I happy? The word that describes me best is challenged.” This book diagnoses the craziness so that mothers can step out of the madness and learn to love Motherhood as much as they love their kids.

Writing a woman’s life, by Carolyn G. Heilbrun

With subtlety and great eloquence, Carolyn Heilbrun shows how, throughout the centuries, those who write about women’s lives…biographers and autobiographers…have suppressed the truth about of the female experience, in order to make the “written life” conform to the expectations of what life should be. Heilbrun also examines literature’s silence on such vital topics as friendship between women, the female physical experience, and the richness that imbues a woman’s later years.

Reinventing womanhood, by Carolyn G. Heilbrun

Heilbrun’s important investigation into issues of identity for the 20th century American woman, still relevant in the 21st, probes the problem with past models of womanhood and the ongoing task of creating new ones today. A classic in the field.

The mommy myth : the idealization of Motherhood and how it has undermined women, by Susan J. Douglas

In the idealized myth, mothers and babies spend their days discovering the wonders of life, reading, playing and laughing. Mom wears her baby in a sling, never raises her voice and of course has unlimited patience. Baby grows up safe, happy and respectful. In real life, however, it’s a different story.  Douglas and Smith college professor Michaels blow the lid off  “new momism,” “a set of ideals… that seem to celebrate motherhood on the surface but which in reality promulgate standards of perfection that are beyond (a mother’s) reach.” The authors examine the past 30 years of television, radio, movies, magazines and advertising to show that the bar has been increasingly raised.

Mother shock : loving every (other) minute of it, by Andrea J. Buchanan

According to Andrea Buchanan, “mother shock” is the state in which many new parents exist during those first confusing, chaotic, and often comical years of parenting. It is the clash between expectation and result, theory and reality; a twilight zone of 24 hour-a-day living where life is not longer neatly divided into day and night, It is the stress of trying to acclimate quickly to the immediacy of mothering; of formulating a new conception of oneself, one’s role in the family and in the world; of shouldering a fearful new level of responsibility and a new delegation of domestic duties.

Good-enough mother : the perfectly imperfect book of parenting, by Rene Syler

Proudly imperfect mom and “early Shoe” anchor reveals the truth about modern mothering. With humor and warmth, she reassures moms that even if their kids are strangers to homemade cookies, they can emerge as happy and well-adjusted members of society.

The Dance of the dissident daughter, by Sue Monk Kidd

The autobiography of the famous author of The Secret Life of Bees, Kidd describes her journey from a conventionally religious, churchgoing woman who was a traditional wife and mother, to someone who goes through a process of questioning, anger, healing and transformation. Beautifully and courageously written.

The Dance of anger, by Harriet Lerner

This book deals with anger, an emotion traditionally forbidden to women. The author deals with this emotion in depth, and focuses how it affects intimate relationships, and what to do about it.  This book is a classic.

You’re wearing THAT? By Deborah Tannen

This book addresses the mother-daughter relationship, with it’s poignancy, love, misunderstandings and longings. Tannen deals with areas such as why mother’s criticize their daughters, the difficulty of seeing each other as separate beings, and why daughters shut out their mothers.


Theoretical Foundations

The new psychology of women, by Jean Baker Miller.

This book played a significant role in changing theoretical thinking in psychology. It argued that existing psychological theory was based upon values that were insensible of women’s lives. It successfully presented the case that psychological theory used a model of human development that valued separation from others, rather than ongoing relationships, as the norm for judging normal mental health. A scholarly book, lucidly written.

In a different voice, by Carol Gilligan

This book started a revolution in psychology too. In it, Gilligan challenged psychological results that state girls have a lower moral reasoning capacity than boys. She showed that all the subjects used in these studies are male, and that morality for similar age females includes a different standard: the importance relational morality, a factor not included in studies on moral development before her work.


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