A look at mothers in literature
By Whitney Archer
Every May, we celebrate and thank our mothers and grandmothers. Everybody has a mom, who, for good or bad, shapes not only our entry into the world, but our lives afterward.
We picture the ideal mother as nurturing and creative — she loves baking, crafts, and volunteering at school. But just like any other human, moms are more than mothers: they are individuals, with good and bad bound together. Indeed, what we think of as mothering should be as unique as the women themselves.
And it’s no different in books. The stories we tell about mothers matter. Who do we want to be? Whom do we fear? Our literature usually tells us, if we look closely enough. I asked the librarians and staff at the Haymarket Gainesville Community Library about their favorite book moms to get a closer look at the fictional and real-life women in our lives. And their answers, like women in real life, are diverse and fascinating.
Hannah A., Information Staff:
“I would have to say Molly Weasley [from the Harry Potter series]. She’s fabulous and who wouldn’t want a big family like hers?”
Mrs. Weasley is a loving, if overprotective, mother. Not only does she leads her large brood of excitable redheads through a wizarding war, we learn that she fought and found love during the previous one. And besides, who doesn’t want a few household spells to wash the dishes and make matching sweaters?
Book Recommendation: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling
Whitney A., Circulation Staff:
“One of the most interesting mothers who comes to mind is Marilla Cuthbert [from the Anne of Green Gables series]. She’s a spinster who accidentally finds herself as the mother of a precocious orphan. But as the story unfolds, she transforms from a stuck-in-her-ways old maid into a wise and caring mother figure who helps Anne navigate a changing world.”
Book Recommendation: Anne of Green Gables and series by L.M. Montgomery
Molly K., Circulation Staff:
“I really liked the mother/daughter relationship that’s in The Year She Left Us. Ari is adopted from China by a Charlie Kong, single Chinese-American woman, and travels back to her origins to figure out who she is. It’s a unique perspective on adoption and race.”
Book Recommendation: The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma and The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
Jeanine R., Information Staff:
“Vivian Carter is fed up with the chauvinistic culture at her high school where the boys ‘act like animals’ while the girls are subject to surprise dress code checks. Inspired by her mom’s past, Viv starts Moxie, a group that fights back. Lisa Carter is such an inspiring mom in this moment and a realistic example of what we go through as supportive parents. We may be the adults now with responsibilities, but like Lisa, many of us know what it’s like to be seventeen and want to speak up for our rights.”
Book Recommendation: Moxie: A Novel by Jennifer Mathieu
Jean D., Circulation Staff:
“A Chair for My Mother is about a single mother and her daughter who lose everything they owned in a fire, and now the mom has no place to rest her sore feet after working long hours. Every week, Mama, Grandma, and the daughter save their spare change for a big, soft chair. And finally, they are able to buy a velvet chair covered in roses. I love how the story is about starting over and perseverance through hard times.”
Book Recommendation: A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
Martha S., Circulation Staff:
“Asha Waghekakr, the mother in the nonfiction book Behind the Beautiful Forevers, is a force of nature. She is a powerful, self-assured mother determined to help her family get ahead. Asha has no qualms about using unethical and cruel means to get what she wants. She’s intelligent, forceful, and not somebody to mess with.”
Book Recommendation: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
About the author: Whitney Archer is often found at the Haymarket Gainesville Circulation Desk. When she isn’t helping patrons check out books, she’s chasing her young son, reading (of course!), or crocheting. In her spare time, she copyedits and writes for literary journals. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, AOL.com, and various magazines.