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Telling Those Mother Stories
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Telling Those Mother Stories

By 49thShelf
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tagged: mothers day, moms
A selection of recently new books telling the complex and amazing stories of mothers and mothering.
My Mother's Daughter

My Mother's Daughter

A Memoir of Struggle and Triumph
edition:Hardcover

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
"A phenomenal, human story. . . . I could not put this book down." —CLARA HUGHES
An instant national bestseller, this raw and affecting memoir is the story of a mother and daughter who beat the odds together.
 
Decades before Perdita Felicien became a World Champion hurdler running the biggest race of her life at the 2004 Olympics, she carried more than a nation's hopes—she carried her mother Catherine's dreams.
 
In 1974, Catherine is determined and tenacious, but she's …

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Excerpt

Prologue

Olympic Games, Athens, Greece
August 2004

I know I am supposed to be here, this is more than a race to me.
I know she is watching the baby she chose not to throw away.
Maybe this will finally make her see that everything that happened before tonight was worth it. That she is worth it, that I am worth it, and so are all the other mothers and children like us.
The eight of us had only a few moments left to warm up over the hurdles before we would be introduced to the thousands in the Olympic Stadium. It was loud before the start of the 100 metres hurdles final. People were shouting, and flags from around the world were being waved in the air by hopeful fans. Everything happened in slow motion, as if I were in a trance. The officials putting down hurdles, then scurrying out of our way, teammates watching nearby from the stands with Canadian flags wrapped around their shoulders, the other runners grunting and slapping their thick quads into submission—or was it an act of intimidation? None of us finalists made eye contact. It was as though the others were just bodies floating about. But we could see the tension around the corners of our mouths; our faces mean, expressionless corks that prevented all our emotions from spilling out.

I walked back to my lane marker after practising a start and knew there was nothing left to do. I was ready. Every cell in my body felt electric, as if I could shock the life out of anything I touched. I pulled in a deep breath, held it for five thumping heartbeats, then let it rush out of me with any microscopic remnants of doubt. I enjoyed this feeling and this moment despite the magnitude of it. I’d never felt anything so encompassing, so kinetic. I recognized it as that perfect edge. The one all of us athletes try to recreate hundreds of times in practice, in our dreams, in our journals—but never can. Because nothing can replicate the biggest day of our lives. No imagining can ever be real enough.

The fuzzy haze I saw before big races blurred everything: the crowd, the outside lanes, Melissa the American to my left, and Irina the Russian to my right. Everything but my ten waist-high barriers, out in front, which were crisp and clear. The starter commanded us to take our marks, and the customary ritual began as we made our way into our blocks.

Think of all the work you’ve done, Perdita. You can do this.
We were two Americans, two Russians, one Jamaican, a Ukrainian, and two Canadians. The fastest and most fearless sprint hurdlers left standing in the world. I was the world champion and the youngest among us, unbeaten in a string of races leading up to the Olympics, including my heat and semifinal rounds in Athens. Even though I had welcomed the eyes of my entire country on me and understood I was the favourite, remarkably I had arrived at the start line carrying only the weight of my own expectations. “If you want it, you can’t be afraid to go for it” is a mantra a hurdler must adopt before even starting her climb to the top of the world.

“Set!” the starter yelled. I raised my hips. The riotous crowd was suddenly silent, I was alone, and my Olympic dream was before me.

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Home on the Strange

Home on the Strange

Chronicles of Motherhood, Mayhem, and Matters of the Heart
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

A funny, heart-warming ode to motherhood written by an award-winning journalist and humour columnist.

For Susan Lundy, motherhood began when she moved into her boyfriend's Salt Spring Island home at the age of twenty-one. Her new living arrangement came with furniture, a pair of kids, and a biting gerbil named Quasimodo. Susan was a career-oriented budding journalist, eager to write her way to fame and fortune. Becoming a mom was not part of her plan—at least not yet. But after surveying her ne …

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Dead Mom Walking

Dead Mom Walking

A Memoir of Miracle Cures and Other Disasters
edition:Paperback

NATIONAL BESTSELLER
SHORTLISTED for the 2021 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
"A comedy for catastrophic times." --CBC
"A hilarious memoir of effervescent misadventures." --Toronto Star
"How am I laughing at someone's mother's cancer? How? We think we can't laugh about death, about cancer, about our mothers and their suffering . . . and we can't, but we can. And there's so much relief in that." --Carolyn Taylor, BARONESS VON SKETCH SHOW
A traumedy about life and death (and every cosmic joke in between …

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Excerpt

I was lying on a buffalo skin rug, high on ayahuasca. My thoughts were going deep: Why can’t she just get the damn surgery? How long will she keep this up for? What exactly did she mean by the “quantum plane”? I waited expectantly for access to a higher realm — and maybe some insight into my mom’s magical thinking. Suddenly my face felt wet. I opened my eyes. The shaman was standing over me, flicking Peruvian flower water on my head, chanting “Sha-na-na-na-na-na-na.”

Doing drugs was not my idea. I prefer to keep my visions 20/20. But what do you say when your sixty-seven-year-old mother asks you to go to the woods with her to take hallucinogens? To be clear, Mom was never the acid-droppin’ hippie type. She was more of a New Age junkie, always on the lookout for a new fix. And now the stakes had never been higher: she’d been diagnosed with cancer and was trying every potion under the sun — except for chemo.

As part of her alternative healing journey, Mom had decided to attend an overnight ayahuasca ceremony in the countryside an hour north of Toronto. The psychoactive plant remedy, used by Indigenous peoples in the Amazon for centuries, had become all the rage among Western spiritual seekers. Made from the vine and leaves of two separate plants and consumed as a molasses-like tea, ayahuasca’s effects are said to be cleansing and transformative. It’s been used to help overcome depression, anxiety, addiction, and many other conditions. “People say it’s like thirty years of psychotherapy in one night,” Mom boasted. That’s supposed to sound appealing?

Unsure of what to expect, Mom had asked me to come along. “It would be nice to have you there for support,” she’d said. “And maybe you’ll have your own spiritual awakening.” Spiritual awakening? My spirit likes to hit the snooze button and hates leaving downtown. But I loved my mom, and if she was going to experiment with drugs I’d rather be there to keep an eye on her. At the very least it would be a mother-daughter trip to remember (if only in flashbacks).

We arrived at a log house, where the shaman greeted us with the kind of deep, meaningful hugs that last way too long. He was a very friendly white guy in his mid-fifties who introduced himself by his Peruvian medicine-man name (I imagine his real name was something like Jerry Goldstein). Mom and I said hello to the few other participants, who were already huddled around in the living room. We found some floor space on the rug and rolled out our sleeping bags so that our feet faced the fireplace-turned-altar, adorned with feathers, crystals, and antlers.

Then, to my horror, the shaman proceeded to hand out large empty yogurt containers because, as he explained, it’s common to “purge” when you take the “medicine.” Apparently I was the only one not aware of this fun fact. But it was too late — the psychedelic slumber party had begun. The shaman blessed the ayahuasca and, one by one, we were invited to sit at the altar and do a shot. When it was my turn I gulped back the bitter brew and headed back to my cocoon, where I chased it down with some orange Vitaminwater. With notes of rancid coffee, rusted metal, and jungle rot, it wasn’t a mystery why they called ayahuasca “the vine of death.”

Now, going into this, I’d thought the shaman would just be on hand, like if I had any questions or wasn’t feeling well. But no, this ceremony was intimate and interactive. As we started our trips he began making his rounds, each time with a different act. First, he waved a fan made of feathers in my face. Next, he shook dried leaves around my body. Then he blew tobacco smoke into my sleeping bag. Um, thanks?

By the time I was being baptized with flower water, I figured things couldn’t get any worse. Then my stomach began to rumble. I absolutely hate throwing up, so I was determined to keep the poison down, even as my tummy churned like a washing machine. However, I discovered that if there’s one thing I hate more than throwing up, it’s hearing a room full of people — including my own mother — violently puking their guts out into yogurt containers. It was a sober vision of pure hell.

By about 4:00 a.m., the hope of sleep putting me out of my misery was all but lost. “It’s music time!” someone announced. I braced myself as a long-haired hippie dude picked up a guitar and began to serenade us. “Free, free, like a dolphin in the sea,” he sang repeatedly. He obviously hadn’t seen The Cove.

If ayahuasca was bringing any clarity to my life, it was that saving Mom would have to wait for another day (and that I should never leave home without earplugs). I glanced over at her. She was adorable, all strung out, swaddled in her sleeping bag. Is this how she used to look at me when I was a baby?

I was feeling restless. I wondered if it would be rude if I excused myself to go watch TV in the bedroom. Maybe I could play Scrabble on my phone? There was really no way out. So I went back to the altar and downed another shot.

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Collective Care

Collective Care

Indigenous Motherhood, Family, and HIV/AIDS
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback Hardcover

Collective Care provides an ethnographic account of urban Indigenous life and caregiving practices in the face of Saskatchewan’s HIV epidemic. Based on a five-year study conducted in partnership with AIDS Saskatoon, the book focuses on the contrast between Indigenous values of collective kin-care and non-Indigenous models of intensive maternal care. It explores how women and men negotiate the forces of HIV to render motherhood a site of cultural meaning, personal and collective well-being, and …

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Bloodroot

Bloodroot

tracing the untelling of motherloss
edition:Paperback
also available: Paperback

It is rare for an author to re-enter one of her books published twenty years ago. In the first edition of Bloodroot, Warland traced how a mother's shared gender with her daughter can shape the very anatomy of narrative itself. In her mother's final year, Warland quietly discovered how to disentangle a crucial, concealed story that had rendered their relationship disconnected and fraught. The 2000 edition broke new ground in memoir form and uncharted storytelling. The 2020 edition includes a new …

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Maame (Mother)

Maame (Mother)

Mother
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Maame is a collection of linked stories about women in a small community in Ghana. Life in the village is a constant rotation between the real and the supernatural. For girls there exists a short window between childhood and adulthood, in which they must learn to navigate a stringent code of conduct, if they are to succeed. But what is success? What makes a good mother? What happens when they have eventually had enough?

Ahu is a young woman married at fifteen and widowed with two children at eigh …

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Small Courage

Small Courage

A Queer Memoir of Finding Love and Conceiving Family
edition:Paperback

Rarely do we know what life will hold. When starting the adoption process, Jane Byers and her wife could not have predicted the illuminating and challenging experience of living for two weeks with the Evangelical Christian foster parents of their soon-to-be adopted twins. Parenthood becomes even more daunting when homophobia threatens their beginnings as a family, seeping in from places both unexpected and familiar. But Jane and Amy are up for the challenge. In this moving and poetic memoir, Bye …

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This One Wild Life

This One Wild Life

A Mother-Daughter Wilderness Memoir
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Audiobook

 

“Through the story of facing her fears, Abdou shows us that we are much stronger than we think.” — Jowita Bydlowska, author of Drunk Mom

This personal memoir of self-discovery tackles the problems of modern parenting in a digital age

Disillusioned with overly competitive organized sports and concerned about her lively daughter’s growing shyness, author Angie Abdou sets herself a challenge: to hike a peak a week over the summer holidays with Katie. They will bond in nature and discover the …

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Excerpt

 

As the trail gets more exposed, Katie’s enthusiasm bubbles. She’s still silent, but the determination and excitement vibrate in the set of her shoulders, the intensity in her eyes. She keeps her strides long and strong, her pace vigorous.

“Do not fall,” I warn her. “If you fall, you will die.” I look at the steep drop-off to our left and imagine her losing her footing, careening down the mountainside. Would she really die? Maybe not. Still. Falling here is not an option. “Keep your eyes on the trail. One careful step at a time.”

Seeing her approach the peak, measured and calculated but also daring and bold, I recognize the limitations of these dualities we depend upon, the ease with which we fall into them, pretending they make sense of our lives and our people. We draw on simple binaries like good/bad, shy/brave, happy/sad in an impossible attempt to impose order on chaos, to beat the ever-shifting complexity of life into manageable containers. I do it with almost everything. Katie: shy versus brave. Our marriage: the dark years before versus the happy years now. My relationship with Gyllie: the wise elder friend versus the younger hopeless friend. Ollie and Katie: sound versus silence. I do take comfort in the tidiness of these sharp distinctions, all of us controlled and in our places, but that fixed clarity has little to do with our real lives, a series of stand-alone, unique moments.

 

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