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Reading List May 10, 2020

Trans Mothers. Marxist Mothers. Robot Mothers.

—and those who wish they could be mothers. A reading list for Mother’s Day.
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From mail-order robot moms, to trans moms, to poet moms, the archival picks below put the varied lives of mothers front and center, asking whether chestfeeding is “exhausting servitude” (as Simone de Beauvoir put it) and if stay-at-home moms should be given wages.
Today’s reading list also recognizes those women who wish they could be mothers but who have reproductive health issues that prevent them from conceiving. In the lead essay from our summer 2018 forum Once and Future Feminist, Merve Emre traces the history of assisted reproduction from the first artificial womb to contemporary IVF treatments, asking whether everyone with a uterus could be emancipated by such technologies and critiquing our obsession with the “natural.”

—Rosie Gillies


Mother, Grow My Baby
a short story from Sabrina Helen Li

“I sit up in bed to try to see their faces. The mothers move as one body. Shrouded in black, they slink to the corner of the room. This is where the shadows of all mothers go. I see one mother’s face and it is blank, a blurring buzzing orb.”

• • •

All Reproduction Is Assisted
by Merve Emre

“When B miscarried, she was in the middle of a job interview. She knew what was happening to her, but she had no idea how to express it. She spoke and smiled through the pain as women so often do; she got the job.”

• • •

Athena Dreams of a Hollow Body
a short story from JR Fenn

“After the recall the apartment felt empty. No mother removing baklava from the oven. No mother beavering away on her computer. No mother wired into her battery pack, whirring and still in the flickering blue light of the charger.”

• • •

‘Flexible’ Family Leave Is Lousy Feminism
by Gina Schouten

Balancing work-life pressures is often considered the holy grail, but men can still opt out of these policies. To move the needle on gender inequality, the state needs to take more coercive action.

• • •

Every Woman Is a Working Woman
an interview with Silvia Federici

“Domestic work is what makes every other form of work possible, as it produces the workers.” Marxist Silvia Federici argues that even stay-at-home moms are part of capitalist production—and thus should receive wages.

• • •

by Judith Levine

“Trisha, a landscape architect, stayed home and took care of the kids; she says she longed to be their mother. But as time went on, Trisha felt suffocated keeping her gender identity ‘inside’ and began venturing out as a woman.”

• • •

All We Remember Will Be Forgotten
a short story from JR Fenn

“At night when the lab was empty, I brought my daughter out of the cold room. I sat before the aquarium with her in my arms and I rocked her and even sang a little. The bees loved my singing, they grouped and moved in response, and their cousins in my head would stir, too.”

• • •

Smothered to Smithereens: The Poetics of Motherhood
by Stephanie Burt

“There were not enough poems about giving birth to children; reorganizing your life around them; nursing, feeding, or coming to understand them as they turn from infants into toddlers, preschoolers, and second graders.”

• • •

Imagine Every Light Is a Woman Who Came to the City Alone
by Sarah Bruni

“Mothers imagine the bones of boys beginning to calcify in one of the mass graves that everyone knows are waiting to be exhumed on the other side of the mountain range.”

• • •

Natural Woman
by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow

“The philosophical dispute over nursing encapsulates a larger debate about how women should live: Embrace a distinctively female set of values, focused on care and connection? Or strive to join men on their turf?”

• • •

Mothers Who Care Too Much
a forum with Nancy J. Hirschmann

“We hear about the evils of working moms, how they’re too busy or selfish to pay attention to their kids. But we don’t talk about the failures of full-time mothering.”

• • •

Nobody Would Have Heard You
by Domenica Ruta

“‘Motherhood can be a crushing disappointment,’ my mother had once said. Not for me. It was joy.”


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