Motherhood made its way onto my life path shortly after I turned 25, blessing me with a daughter while bringing on the fear and angst of the new responsibility to nurture and guide this tiny soul into becoming a profound woman. Taking the stride from singlehood to motherhood has consisted of daily revelations, becoming aware of habits I need to get rid of, and creating more habits I hope my daughter will find both admirable and inspiring.
The backbone of a child is their village; it’s that common African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” I have heard it countless times during my life, and it resonates more for me now that I’m serving the roles of daughter and mother. A village is a combination of quality people, love, and resources that I personally rely on everyday to assist me in raising my now two-year-old daughter. Books and storytelling have been a resource since the beginning of time, giving us the ability to exercise our imaginations, instill compassion, discover hard truths, and shape our foundational approach to life.
I’m overjoyed to share my love for literature with my daughter by writing about several books I intend to pass off to her, once she’s of age, to build her up. Each book consists of themes that explore womanhood, the complexities (and beauty) of mother/daughter relationships, and the rebellious choice to love.
It’s impossible for me to speak about motherhood and not speak of my mother, the woman who literally grew my spine. From my adolescence to teenage years, I clung to my mother as a matriarchal figure, — nothing outside of that, just my perfect mom… until I began to struggle with the realization that she has a life outside of her children. It was difficult in my early adult years to watch my mom be free to prioritize herself, redirecting her time to her hobbies and friends. My selfish inner-child felt abandoned, too busy whining to notice the necessary maturation of her and I’s relationship.
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
Once this fallacy revealed itself as what I was struggling with, it became important for me to learn how to bridge my understanding of my mother as an individual before she is a matriarch. This I owe in part to Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou. Whether my daughter has children or not, Maya Angelou’s autobiography of her journey into motherhood and the relationship with her mother, whom she called Lady, is an exceptional portrayal of how drastically different our relationships change with our mother’s through time. There’s a dangerous narrative of “the infallible mom” that lurks in the shadows worldwide that brought on the majority of my fear of failing when I initially entered motherhood, but Maya shreds that narrative to pieces beautifully. Maya and Lady’s parenting styles were different, yet both recognized where womanhood and motherhood collided which shows in the way they raised their children and interacted with one another.
My daughter's future will be her own to forge; I'll simply be here to love, guide, and provide her with a village complete with as much support as I can to strengthen her spine and her bookshelf.
Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm by Laura Warrell
No two mothers are alike, which means no two daughters are alike, and — most importantly — no two women are alike. Womanhood looks different from one woman to the next, which is why I find it necessary to pass along Laura Warrell’s debut novel, Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm. A story full of diverse, passionate women who are connected to one man that effortlessly exploits their loneliness while reminding other women to stand tall and celebrate what makes them special on their own. There may or may not come a time in my daughter’s life where she feels the heaviness of loneliness, but there will definitely come a time where she is trying to find her footing in this world. By being introduced to the relationships of multiple complex characters, Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm will be a compelling story that I hope will invoke my daughter to consider the company that she keeps and to cherish her passions.
Perish by LaToya Watkins
A village has the potential to make or break a person when it’s established half-heartedly. As a mother, I’m often thinking two steps ahead on how I can protect my daughter even when I’m not around to shield her, by being conscious of who – and what – our village is made of. With that, I want to pass along Perish by LaToya Watkins, an emotionally weighted story of combating multi-generational family trauma. The triggers within this story are cumbersome, detailing topics that spark difficult conversations that some people tend to bury out of familial shame and guilt. Perish may be the hardest book to recommend to my daughter because of the flawed characters and heavy content matter; however, all of the intricacies of seeing the darker side of the world challenge compassion versus mercilessness. Compassion can be birthed from the empathy of indirect experiences in other people’s lives that in turn have the power to shape how we choose to extend mercy and address the wrongs in this world.
All About Love by bell hooks
Each of the previously mentioned books are vital in their special ways, but if my daughter were to only read one book in her adult life, I would hope for it to be All About Love by bell hooks. Many readers, like myself, used to “borrow” books from our parents without their consent and if this were the book my daughter snagged without my knowledge beforehand, my eyes would swell with tears of pride. I’ve already read this book four times in my life and I take something new away every time because of the openness in hooks’ delivery as she examines the way we practice loving in all relationships as opposed to the feeling of love as an emotion.
All About Love is a tool that my daughter’s father and I found common ground in well before she was born that shifted our perspective in how we approach loving. Knowing that there’s a sentimental tie to this book from both of her parents leads me to believe that each of us have the capacity to intentionally love her with the philosophy we’ve adopted from All About Love. My daughter’s spine is made up of two parents who love her, so passing this book along is my way of honoring that.
Granted, there is quite some time before my daughter can read these titles, but I’m already working to create the habit of reading to her with picture books like Stacey’s Extraordinary Words by Stacey Abrams that depict young Black girls finding themselves through words. My daughter's future will be her own to forge; I'll simply be here to love, guide, and provide her with a village complete with as much support as I can to strengthen her spine and her bookshelf.