|Whether she was Mrs. March or Medea, everybody had a mom, and no matter what her strengths or foibles were, she had a huge part in shaping who you are. The relationship between mother and child is one of the most challenging to dissect that there is, but some writers manage to do just that. For this mother’s day, we’ve put together a list of some great books by mothers and about mothers that explore the challenges of being–and loving–a mom.|
|Bydlowska’s harrowing description of the tug of war between maternal love and alcohol addiction she experiences after giving birth to her first child is both a grim page-turner and a lesson in frank self-examination.|
|Fitch’s Ingrid, a brilliant but dangerously unstable poet imprisoned for murdering her lover, looms large in the mind of her daughter, Astrid, as she struggles through a girlhood in the foster system, and in the memory of anyone who’s read this book.|
|Knocked Up: Confessions of a Hip Mother-to-be|
|Eckler pulls off a candid but unflaggingly stylish account of her unplanned pregnancy, and the glamorous career and high-living lifestyle where new motherhood finds an unlikely place.|
|Love You Forever|
|Robert Munch’s masterpiece illustrates the lifelong relationship of a mother and son with the deceptive simplicity and emotional power of a favourite lullaby.|
|The Still Point of the Turning World|
|This deeply touching and insightful memoir of raising a terminally ill child raises questions about what being a good mother and living a meaningful life is.|
|The Light Between Oceans|
|M. L. Stedman|
|Not for the faint of heart, Stedman’s heartbreaking novel pits a mother’s love for her child against her sense of right and wrong to fantastic result.|
|Mom & Me & Mom|
|One of the greatest memoirists alive tells the story of her and her mother’s complex, imperfect, but deeply loving relationship.|
By Samantha Stroh Bailey
I write chick lit. Okay, are you still reading or have you screwed up your face in distaste? Well, before you judge, do you actually know what chick lit is? For some reason, after the pink explosion of chick lit in the late 90s, it seems to have gotten a misconstrued reputation for fluff and froth. Now, don’t get me wrong, the covers are delicious and flirty, the female protagonists do imbibe some fruity cocktails and there may even be some shopping. But, this is not what chick lit is all about.
Chick lit, a sub-genre of women’s fiction, is usually about the journey of a strong, independent and sassy female main character. She may be searching for a new career, moving to a new place, getting married, divorced or looking for love, and she often has an amazing group of friends that you might wish you had. The chick lit heroine is smart, funny and headstrong. She screws up repeatedly but doesn’t let it stop her from finding whatever it is she wants. In my debut novel, Finding Lucas, Jamie Ross is looking for a way out of her five-years-long toxic relationship with maniacal metrosexual, Derek. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, she ends up on a frenzied hunt to track down Lucas, the “friends with benefits” she hasn’t seen or spoken to in ten years. Crazy? Yes. Hysterically funny? Yup. Smart and edgy? Absolutely.
Chick lit is a wonderful escape from the trials and chores of daily life. Got laundry? Relationship woes? Family struggles? Download a pastel-covered book and lose yourself in someone’s life that is only slightly crazier than your own. Reading a book with a high heel or purse on its cover doesn’t make you less intelligent. In fact, you might find a main character you instantly connect with and have a friend who just gets you when you most need it.
Perhaps the word “chick” is the issue. It is a word that can seem derogatory, pejorative and demeaning. Yet, since it is the authors themselves who dub their books chick lit, maybe it is actually a post-feminist view of what it is to be a woman, be it single, married, divorced or widowed, in today’s society. The evolution of chick lit follows women from their late teens until after retirement and it gives voice to those issues we deal with on a daily basis.
So, before you assume that chick lit is a genre you would be embarrassed to read, check out a few of our brightly-covered books. They will make you laugh, cry and call your best friend, all while reaching for a chocolate martini.
Samantha Stroh Bailey is a published author and former English teacher with over 15 years of writing and editing experience. Her website, Perfect Pen Communications, offers full service writing, proofreading and editing.
Check out Samantha’s book, Finding Lucas, on Kobo!
Everyone has a life, and maybe everyone has a compelling life story. Here’s how to turn memories into memoir:
|Writing Life Stories, Bill Roorbach. From drawing a map of a remembered neighborhood to signing a form releasing yourself to take risks in your work, Roorbach offers innovative techniques that will trigger ideas for all writers.|
|How to Write your Life Story, Ralph Fletcher. Although written for young people, this little book is packed with great instructions on everything needed to start writing.|
|Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, Judith Barrington. A practical guide to the craft, the personal challenges, and ethical dilemmas of writing your true stories.|
| Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, William Zinsser. Zinsser is author of the inspiring writers’ bible, On Writing Well. Here he digs into the craft of telling your own story.
| Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir, by Lisa Dale Norton. A compact little book that shows how to use “shimmering images”–those memory pictures we can’t get out of our heads–as a starting point.
Memoir has become one of the hottest genres in books, and within that genre there are genres. Here’s a brief list of some notable examples of the various ways to tell a life story.
The Misery Memoir
The start of the flood of these woeful yet utterly compelling tales that demonstrate mother was right “it could always be worse” can likely be traced to Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt and Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs.
The Addiction Memoir
The most famous of these isn’t actually a memoir as it turns out, but a great fraud on readers. We mention A Million Little Pieces by James Frey anyway.
As for a real memoir of this type, we suggest Drinking, A Love Story by Caroline Knapp, Dry by Augusten Burroughs, and More, Now, Again by Elizabeth Wurtzel who also wrote Prozac Nation, a game changer in itself.
The Rock Star Memoir
Closely related to the addiction memoir is the rock star memoir. There’s Life, by the amazingly-not-dead-given-the-drugs-he’s-taken Keith Richards; the surprise hit Does the Noise in My Head Bother You by Steven Tyler, and of course Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace.
The one we love and the one that really got the ball rolling by giving the rock memoir a gravitas we might have missed is Patti Smith’s Just Kids. And, while not a rock star but a star nonetheless, there is the utterly compelling Open by Andre Agassi.
The Crazy Childhood Memoir
People who grew up where most of us didn’t have great stories to tell. Check out The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (growing up in extreme poverty, seeing your mom dumpster-diving as you’re driving by in a cab on 5th Avenue) or Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, both by Alexandra Fuller, stories of growing up with eccentric parents in tumultuous Africa.
The Crazy Memoir
The nerd in a cool world memoir
While David Sedaris’ hilarious books could fall into a number of these categories, at the end of the day he’s a fish out of water and so are the rest of the writers in these examples. Try absolutely anything by Sedaris for a good laugh and a good read, but maybe begin with Me Talk Pretty One Day. Then there is Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess and her wonderful Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, or Tina Fey’s Bossypants.
The realign, readjust, rediscover memoir
Maybe the short form is “middle age crazy” – the memoir about realizing that your life is living you and it’s time to get it back on track. The triple whammy of this genre includes the mega hit Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert; Wild by Cheryl Strayed, also known and loved as Dear Sugar, and Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood by Melissa Hart.
Brain Pickings is a fabulous compendium of what’s out there and related to creativity, thinking, culture and art. We highly recommend checking it out – in the meantime, here’s the list on how to read and write better:
The Elements of Style Illustrated - marries Maira Kalman’s signature whimsy with Strunk and White’s indispensable style guide to create an instant classic.
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott – the 1994 classic is as much a practical guide to the writer’s life as it is a profound wisdom-trove on the life of the heart and mind.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King – part master-blueprint, part memoir, part meditation on the writer’s life.
Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You, Ray Bradbury - Bradbury shares not only his wisdom and experience in writing, but also his contagious excitement for the craft.
The War of Art: Break Through the Block and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield — a personal defense system of sorts against our greatest forms of resistance. “Resistance” with a capital R, that is.
Advice to Writers, Jon Winokur – From how to find a good agent to what makes characters compelling, it spans the entire spectrum from the aspirational to the utilitarian.
How to Write a Sentence, And How to Read One, Stanley Fish – an insightful, rigorous manual on the art of language that may just be one of the best such tools since The Elements of Style.
Ernest Hemingway on Writing, Larry W. Phillips – a collection of the finest, wittiest, most profound of Hemingway’s reflections on writing, the nature of the writer, and the elements of the writer’s life.
How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler & Charles van Doren – from basic reading to systematic skimming and inspectional reading to speed reading, the how-to’s apply as efficiently to practical textbooks and science books as they do to poetry and fiction.