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These Books On Black Motherhood Are Right On Time For Mother’s Day!

Originally Published May 11, 2023

As Mother’s Day approaches, millions will celebrate the mothers in their lives. Mothers who have birthed, raised, or nurtured in any capacity will be treated to dinners, gifts, cash, and other acts of kindness.

Books make great gifts, too. Several books have been written that celebrate Black mothers and motherhood. Maya Angelou penned her opus, Mom & Me, Me & Mom, a book that details the trials and triumphs of having a relationship with her mother. Angelou also penned I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which explores her relationship with her grandmother, who raised her and her brother.

Angelou’s contemporary, Toni Morrison, penned the Pulitzer Prize-winning, Beloved, where Sethe, the story’s main character, manages to escape slavery only to be haunted by her baby girl, who she killed to save from the horrors of slavery.  

While many other books celebrate Black mothers, BLACK ENTERPRISE composed a list of reads celebrating different aspects of Black motherhood. 

1.) Anna Malaika Tubbs: The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation 

While many people recognize the names James Baldwin, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, not much is known about Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little, the mothers of the activists and civil rights leaders.  

Baldwin, King, and X’s work and words endure. However, the mothers of these men were highly-educated and self-taught. Their self-didactic habits were passed down to their sons as an act of resistance. This text gives us insight into the brains and the magic in them that produced iconic leaders.

Purchase The Three Mothers here.

2.) Jacqueline Woodson, Red at the Bone

Red at the Bone tells a multi-generational story of womanhood. The main character is Melody, a Brooklyn teenager raised by her grandparents. While Melody feels her grandparents’ healthy love, curiosity leads her to uncover the shocking details of her mother, Iris, who birthed Melody as a teenager. She discovers that Iris was conflicted over an unplanned pregnancy and her independence. 

Red at the Bone explores young girls’ identity, sexuality, education, and class. 

Purchase Red at the Bone here.

3.) Brit Bennett, The Mothers

Brit Bennett’s debut novel follows a strikingly beautiful and rebellious Nadia Turner. After her mother’s suicide, Turner falls into the arms of a pastor’s son and football star, Luke Shepard, whose promising football career is cut short by an injury. 

Turner and Shepard’s relationship begins as puppy love and becomes serious after an unexpected pregnancy. As Turner and Shepard trudge into adulthood, barely making ends meet as general laborers, The Mothers ask a powerful question: Do we really have to live subject to our parent’s decisions and the decisions adults made as children? 

Purchase The Mothers here. 

4.) Dani McClain, We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood

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There is no solid blueprint for parenthood, so McClain set out to understand how to raise a Black daughter in a racist society. The Columbia University graduate spoke to Black mothers active in social movements. 

McClain’s interviews with Black mothers produced We Live for the We. Readers follow McClain as she raises her daughter from infancy through her teenage years. Outside of McClain and her daughter’s journey, McClain uses thorough research and critique to help provide Black mothers with solid information on parenting.  

Purchase We Live for the We here.

5.) Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers Gardens: Womanist Prose 

Next to The Color Purple, In Search of Our Mothers Gardens: Womanist Prose is probably Alice Walker’s best work. In this collection of essays, Walker examines the collective motherhood of Black women.

Witnessing the camaraderie of her mother, her aunts, and Black women writers, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author keeps the stories and information gleaned from these in her mind when she sits down to write. 

Purchase In Search of Our Mothers Gardens: Womanist Prose here.

6.) Jamaica Kincaid, The Autobiography of My Mother 

Jamaica Kincaid’s 1996 novel follows Xuela Claudette Richardson, whose mother died in childbirth. Without her mother’s love, Xuela trudges through a depressing life filled with meaningless sex, relationships, and a profound lack of hope. 

All of the hurt leads to Xuela performing a self-inflicted abortion.

The Autobiography of My Mother speaks to the overwhelming number of Black women who die during childbirth. Kincaid’s novel also tells of enslaved mothers killing their children to spare them the horrors of slavery.  

Purchase The Autobiography of My Mother here.

7.) Candice Brathwaite, I Am Not Your Baby Mother

Candice Brathwaite has a national conversation about the dangers expectant Black mothers face. After giving birth to her daughter, Esmé, Brathwaite began having serious health issues, such as a lump in her abdomen and profuse sweating, which doctors passed off as hormonal changes. These health issues, which doctors ignored, led to Brathwaite falling into septic shock. It took Brathwaite nearly one month to recover from her illness. 

I Am Not Your Baby Mother gives voice to mothers experiencing life-altering and potentially fatal health issues after giving birth.

Purchase I Am Not Your Baby Mother here.

8.) Ann Petry, The Street

Lutie Johnson is an attractive and stoic woman living on Harlem’s infamous 116th Street with her 8-year-old son, Bub. Set in the 1940s, Johnson, who has survived the emotional toll of an alcoholic father and a cheating husband, is determined to create a safe space for Bub. 

Johnson attempts to steer her Bub away from negative temptations that flood post-war Harlem, a place many Southerners imagined as the promised land of well-paying jobs, beautiful homes, and less racism. 

Purchase The Street here.

9.) Terry McMillan, Mama

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In Terry McMillan’s 1987 debut novel, readers meet Mildred Peacock, a single mother raising four girls and one son. After forcing her cheating husband, Crook, to leave, Mildred accepts poverty wages to work dead-end jobs to support her family. Her journey is pushing her to the brink of mental breakdown. 

Purchase Mama here.

10.) Nefertiti Austin, Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender, And Parenting in America 

Nefertiti Austin brings readers into the obstacles and harsh comments, asking her why she would want to adopt a “crack baby” and telling her she’ll never be able to raise a Black boy alone. 

Throughout Motherhood So White, Austin examines the history of adoption in the Black community while weaving in her personal narrative in her fight to create a family. Unsurprisingly, she learned that motherhood is looked at through a white women’s lens.

Purchase Motherhood So White here.

11.) Hafizah Augustus Geter, The Black Period: On Personhood, Race and Origin  

Hafizah Augustus Geter, a queer Nigerian-born daughter of a Nigerian Muslim woman and an American Black man, Geter’s memoir disrupts every idea that tells her she’s not worthy of living the life she desires.  

Despite Geter losing her mother when she was 19 years old, by remembering her mother’s lessons on revision, Geter goes through life stiff-arming shame, disability, gender inequality, and white supremacy. 

Purchase The Black Period here.

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