"Mama knew love like the back roads, used to fall asleep daily in her work clothes."
I love that line from Anthony Hamilton's song, "Mama Knew Love," because it's dead-on in describing the extraordinary strength of mothers. But as I continue into my own adulthood, I also realize that the line hints to the extreme pressures that mothers also face, that often times they are narrowly defined by that strength. We applaud their ability to keep it all together, but sometimes we neglect to fully appreciate their humanity-their thoughts, their decisions, their joys, their pains, their souls.
With Mother's Day around the corner, I wanted to remember the sacrifices of mothers by giving them space to share what's on their minds and hearts.
Who's Your Mama? The Unsung Voices of Women and Mothers (Soft Skull Press, April 2009), a new anthology edited by Yvonne Bynoe does just that. Bynoe, mother, author, and founder of WorkingMomsMentor.com, points out that collections about motherhood usually feature one type of mother, one who is well-off, married, and white. "I was inspired to develop the anthology after reading numerous motherhood books that didn't resonate with me," she said. "I wanted to create a book that discussed authentic motherhood as one aspect of the female identity. Authentic motherhood is expressed in the numerous choices that each mother makes daily, monthly and yearly in relation to themselves and their children."
Even in well-intentioned reverence of mothers, there can be an unintentional diminishing of the fullness of their person. "Too often motherhood books marginalize women's lives aside from their role as mother," Bynoe added. "However it is the woman, her background, her relationships and her experiences that inform her mothering and the type of family that she creates. The women I know, my Gen-X/Hip Hop generation peers had fulfilling lives before they became mothers."
Who's Your Mama? features personal narratives from a wide-ranging body of contributors, including a writer who talks about raising biracial children, a gay woman who details her road to adoption, and a childless woman who discusses her decision not to have children. Rebecca Walker, contributor to The Root, and author of Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood after a Lifetime of Ambivalence, penned the book's foreword. The collection, as Bynoe notes, aims to broaden the traditional notion of motherhood and make visible those stories that are so often left out of the conversation.
Thankfully so, mothers deserve it.
While we're at it, here are a few book picks for Mother's Day and beyond:
Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother's Story
By asha bandele
Collins, January 2009
A follow-up to her incredible memoir, “The Prisoner's Wife”, bandele finds hope in a role she never expected she'd play: single mother.
This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First Woman President
By Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
HarperCollins, April 2009
In her memoir, the first female president of Liberia recounts the personal and political events that led to her remarkable achievements and her lasting loyalty to her country.
By Paule Marshall
Basic Civitas, March 2009
Marshall tells her story, one that all artists could benefit from knowing. She explores her early years as a writer, including the role of Langston Hughes in her artistic life, and how she's grown into the respected novelist that she is today. Check out the scholar Farah Jasmine Griffin's flattering review of the book.
Urban Soul Warrior: Self-Mastery in the Midst of the Metropolis
By Lalania Simone
Soft Skull, January 2009
Searching for an inner quiet in a hectic life? This interactive, manual-like book aims to help you unleash a life of power.
Dear Success Seeker: Wisdom from Outstanding Women
By Michele R. Wright, PhD
Atria, April 2009
Remarkable women-including Billie Jean King, Rosa Parks, and Patti Labelle-provide inspiring words to help anyone find and stay on their path. Camille Cosby provides the book's foreword.
is a writer, speaker, author of books for adults and youth, and the book columnist for The Root. Her most recent book is \"The Message: 100 Life Lessons from Hip-Hop’s Greatest Songs.\" Visit her at feliciapride.com.