24 Memoirs About Unforgettable Moms

Posted by Cybil on May 1, 2018
Goodreads Mother's Day

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"Behind all your stories is always your mother's story.
Because hers is where yours begin."
-Mitch Albom

The bond between a mother and child can be the most emotional and complicated of any relationship, so it's no wonder that moms have inspired some of the most heartfelt and heartrending writing in all of literature. In honor of Mother's Day, we rounded up 24 memoirs about some exceptional and unforgettable women written by their daughters and sons.

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There are also some amazing memoirs written from the mother's point of view. Here's a list of six books about the experience.

What book would you recommend for Mother's Day? Share it with your fellow readers in the comments!

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Comments Showing 1-25 of 25 (25 new)

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message 1: by Elyse (last edited May 01, 2018 10:19AM) (new)


message 2: by Emma (last edited May 01, 2018 11:05AM) (new)

Emma Oredson Mama's Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes Mama's Bank Account By Kathryn Forbes


message 3: by Ferne (last edited May 01, 2018 02:40PM) (new)


message 4: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. Though in this one you also get an unusual father thrown into the bargain.


message 5: by Helen (new)

Helen Bookwoods Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. From concubine grandmother to Communist party mother in Mao's China. Lovingly but unrelentingly recalled. Stunning, confronting and unforgettable.


message 6: by Prachee (new)

Prachee Ammi: Letter to a Democratic Mother by Saeed Akhtar Mirza. Beautifully written, part memoir, part history.


message 7: by Shirly (new)

Shirly Comeback: A Mother and Daughter's Journey Through Hell and Back
by Claire Fontaine, Mia Fontaine

A truly moving, remarkable book. (not an easy read - difficult subject matter)


message 8: by Mary (new)

Mary Latham-Martin When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir from Mexico, Maine. I just loved this book. Although sad, it did not bring me down like Angela's Ashes.


message 9: by Kamal (new)

Kamal the net is not good to read on the line can i have a copy for free so i can read later?


message 10: by Laura (new)

Laura Castle Looking for a great book to read yourself, or to give someone for Mother's Day? Order a copy of Cameron Castle's My Mother is Crazier Than Your Mother.

This book is a must read for any mother or child. The story of Dorothy Taylor is one of a woman ahead of her time. Her perseverance, headstrong joy, and disregard for worrying too much about what others think of her actions sets a good example for all of us. When author Castle calls her crazy, it is the craziness of Lucille Ball, of Amelia Earhart, of Rosie the Riveter - women who are authentic and brave and unique.

https://www.amazon.com/My-Mother-Craz...


message 11: by Traci (new)

Traci York-Goble The Rainbow Comes and Goes A Mother and Son On Life, Love, and Loss by Anderson Cooper

Loved this book!!!


message 12: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Kamal wrote: "the net is not good to read on the line can i have a copy for free so i can read later?"

...Do you mean the article? In that case, it is already free. Or do you mean the books? In that case, I mean no offense but why would they buy you a free book?


message 13: by Mare (new)

Mare Kinley I will second both Glass Castles and Wild Swans.


message 15: by Meredith (new)

Meredith The Liars' Club is amazing. Ruth's mother in The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir is unforgettable albeit as deeply flawed as Jeannette's in The Glass Castle.


message 16: by Therese (new)

Therese Katsuro wrote: "Kamal wrote: "the net is not good to read on the line can i have a copy for free so i can read later?"

...Do you mean the article? In that case, it is already free. Or do you mean the books? In th..."


Books are free at the library, and there are also some free books that you can win here on Good Reads. Look under Browse at the top of this page. Click on it and then drop down to giveaways. You will find books of every kind, but in the meantime the best placed would be the library if you can't afford to buy any books.


message 17: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Angela's Ashes is a great read .


message 18: by Ali (new)

Ali Meredith wrote: "The Liars' Club is amazing. Ruth's mother in The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir is unforgettable albeit as deeply flawed as Jeannette's in The Glass Castle."

I second those.
Loved The Glass Castle. Reading The Liars' Club right now. Definitely to be read.


message 20: by Bridget (new)

Bridget LOVED Mom & Me & Mom but I have loved majority of her stuff I have read anyway but this one was so touching! She died within a few days of me finishing this book adding to the "heartbreak".

Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights seems interesting, something I might be willing to read/listen to.


message 21: by C.E. (new)

C.E. Crowder I haven't read it, but I don't think Jeanette Winterson casts her mother in a very flattering light; which brings the rest of these selections into potential question as ways to "celebrate" motherhood.

I admired the mother in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn".


message 22: by Susan (last edited May 14, 2018 07:52AM) (new)

Susan C.E. wrote: "I haven't read it, but I don't think Jeanette Winterson casts her mother in a very flattering light; which brings the rest of these selections into potential question as ways to "celebrate" motherh..."

I actually decided to not add Jeanette Walls' (another Jeanette) The Glass Castle to my TBR because one of the blurbs suggests that while her parents were, at best, dysfunctional (and likely more accurately emotionally and psychologically abusive) the book nevertheless portrays "a tender, moving tale of unconditional love in a family." It was a difficult decision because I think Walls is a wonderful writer. But, I have no end of frustration with this type of story - 'my parent(s) were abusive but I knew I had to love and forgive them unconditionally'. Blech!

Personally, I think that it is time that we stop with the unquestioned idea 'unconditional love of a family' and the unexamined 'celebration of motherhood*' as if these concepts are givens, to the point that even for abusive families the children 'must' write about redemption and unconditional love - for really, it is the children who are expected to love without condition abusive parents who set ever-changing, impossible-to-meet conditions from them in order to try (and never succeed) in 'earning' love from their parents.

We need to finally start questioning the idea that giving birth automatically makes someone a loving mother. Many, too many, of us have experiences that prove otherwise. But this unquestioning and unconditional glorification of motherhood diminishes and dismisses the experiences of those of us who grew-up in abusive homes, and with abusive mothers. It further stigmatizes us when we say, or even hint at the idea that, our mothers were not perfect loving beings who had our best interests in mind and even - gasp! - that our mothers were actively harmful to us. This portrayal of the 'celebrated loving mother' means that people think if there are problems in the home it must be the fault of the terrible child(ren) rather than the abusive mother. We have created a culture in which our society gaslights the abused children as much as the abusive parents do.

I posted Wisechild's book both because I really did connect with the text and because I object to the unquestioned and unexamined idea of unconditional motherly love. Wisechild had the courage to say how it was for her, and for many of us, to grow up in an abusive home, and to address the repercussions that that abusive situation had on her emotional and psychological health. If this had been a discussion of fiction books, I would also have included Bitter Melon by Cara Chow.

Are there good mothers, and good-enough mothers out there? Yes! Do I read about these mothers? Yes. More so in fiction than memoirs because I read a proportionately more fiction books than non-fiction and not all my non-fiction books are memoirs. But, I agree with Bessel van der Kolk (one of the world's leading experts on trauma); it is time that we also start talking about the abuse of children by their families. This is a huge, overlooked (often consciously so) problem that has major negative impacts on individuals, families, communities, and cultures at large.

It is time to stop celebrating people just because they have happened to give birth to someone(s).



*Of course, my argument also holds for ideas of unconditional love of fathers but a) this discussion is about mothers; b) due to unfair gender stereotypes mothers more so than fathers are expected to automatically be loving and nurturing; c) I have a feeling the come June we will have the same type of posting for fathers' day. Maybe by then we can start the discussion examining the role of parents?


message 23: by Mary (new)

Mary Latham-Martin Bravo, Susan! There are far too many memoirs about how children "soldiered through" the problems their parents created. One reason I did not like Angela's Ashes. The other was the writing style. Blech! And it was a bestseller plus won awards!

Shameless self-promotion here, so be forewarned. I recently published a memoir about a wonderful mother and family. But the main story is about how I discovered an entire family I knew nothing about. It's called Sibling Revelries - Finding Family After 62 Years, and is available on Amazon. Now my father - that's a different story.


message 24: by Pam (new)

Pam I agree, Susan, but with a caveat. My mother was very abusive when I was young, but changed over the years. I had a lot to overcome, but I worked on it because by then I was an adult, and responsible for myself. I learned to forge a different kind of relationship with a woman who, although flawed, sincerely loved me (I was lucky). So, sometimes it is loving in spite of rather than because of. I guess I could've continued to hate her - I certainly had enough reasons - but it would've robbed me of the relationship we *were* capable of having... which is one that makes me smile now, 23 years after losing her. I think people loving their f'd-up parents can sometimes be what heals them.


message 25: by Susan (new)

Susan Pam wrote: "I agree, Susan, but with a caveat. My mother was very abusive when I was young, but changed over the years. I had a lot to overcome, but I worked on it because by then I was an adult, and responsib..."

Hi Pam,

That is a solid caveat and one that I had not considered. Yes, that is a caveat that should be attached to what I had written.

I also think it is great that you had the courage to work through all of that and to be able to approach and work with your mother to forge a new type of relationship. That is wonderful that you were able to do that, and that your mother was able to meet you in the way that she was able to meet you. I am happy for you that you were able to have that time with her, and that you are now able to draw on those memories :) <3

Motherhood, is such a complicated concept. I agree that there are many aspects to be had in relationship to that discussion. Thank you for adding nuance to my thoughts.


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