A Mother’s Day reading list for 2024

A collection of modern Mother’s Day reads

Mother’s Day can mean many different things to many different people. This year to celebrate Mother’s Day we’ve gathered a collection of books that speak to the various sides of what it means to be a modern mother or parent. Read on to explore these books from the Press, and sign up for our newsletter to hear more updates.

Supervision: On Motherhood and Surveillance edited by Sophie Hamacher and Jessica Hankey

The tracking of our personal information, activities, and medical data through our digital devices is an increasingly recognizable field in which the lines between caretaking and control have blurred. In this age of surveillance, mothers’ behaviors and bodies are observed, made public, exposed, scrutinized, and policed like never before. Supervision: On Motherhood and Surveillance gathers together the work of fifty contributors from diverse disciplines that include the visual arts, legal scholarship, ethnic studies, sociology, gender studies, poetry, and activism to ask what the relationship is between how we watch and how we are watched, and how the attention that mothers pay to their children might foster a kind of counterattention to the many ways in which mothers are scrutinized.

Optimal Motherhood and Other Lies Facebook Told Us: Assembling the Networked Ethos of Contemporary Maternity Advice by Jessica Clements and Kari Nixon

Many mothers today turn to social media for parenting advice, joining online mothers’ groups on Facebook and elsewhere. But the communities they find in these supposed safe havens can be rife with aggression, peer pressure, and groupthink—insisting that only certain practices are “best,” “healthiest,” “safest” (and mandatory). In this book, Jessica Clements and Kari Nixon debunk the myth of “optimal motherhood”—the idea that there is only one right answer to parenting dilemmas, and that optimal mothers must pursue perfection. In fact, Clements and Nixon write, parenting choices are not binaries, and the scientific findings touted by mommy groups are neither clear-cut nor prescriptive.

Designing Motherhood: Things that Make and Break Our Births by Michelle Millar Fisher and Amber Winick

While birth often brings great joy, making babies is a knotty enterprise. The designed objects that surround us when it comes to menstruation, birth control, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood vary as oddly, messily, and dramatically as the stereotypes suggest. This smart, image-rich, fashion-forward, and design-driven book explores more than eighty designs—iconic, conceptual, archaic, titillating, emotionally charged, or just plain strange—that have defined the relationships between people and babies during the past century.

Parenting on Earth: A Philosopher’s Guide to Doing Right by Your Kids—and Everyone Else by Elizabeth Cripps

Environmental catastrophes, pandemics, antibiotic resistance, institutionalized injustice, and war: in a world so out of balance, what does it take—or even mean—to be a good parent? This book is one woman’s search for an answer, as a moral philosopher, activist, and mother. Drawing on the insights of philosophy and the experience of parent activists, Elizabeth Cripps calls for parents to think radically about exactly what we owe our children—and everyone else. She shows how our children’s needs are inseparable from the fate of the earth and the fortunes of others and how much is at stake in parenting today. And she asks the hardest question: should we have kids at all?

Fertility Technology by Donna J. Drucker

In the late 1850s, a physician in New York City used a syringe and glass tube to inject half a drop of sperm into a woman’s uterus, marking the first recorded instance of artificial insemination. From that day forward, doctors and scientists have turned to technology in ever more innovative ways to facilitate conception. Fertility Technology surveys this history in all its medical, practical, and ethical complexity, and offers a look at state-of-the-art fertility technology in various social and political contexts around the world.

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