First-time moms might be likely to hit ’80s bestseller What to expect when you expect, but the literature of women of color offers new perspectives on the diversity of motherhood. The stories in these books are often led by mothers, while some take a feminist perspective, speaking directly to readers struggling to find their identity.
As these black and Latino writers honor their culture through recovery and lived experiences of femininity, they also focus on uncompromising resilience. Spanning the generations, the individuality of our favorite authors reminds us that femininity is not monolithic, but affirms to readers their existence. Pushing aside stereotypical narratives about black and Latin cultures, these books encourage readers to contextualize their true selves and find their place in a world where trauma and societal barriers are endemic.
Through cultural synergy, authors like Sandra Cisneros, Aja Monet and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie interweave portraits of feminism, gender roles and healing with the strength of motherhood and girls’ education. Here are seven headlines that remind young mothers to validate their own goal.
“One of the good” by Maika Moulite & Maritza Moulite
Published early 2021, One of the good ones, written by Haitian sisters Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite combine tragedy and social activism, following the death of history buff Kezi Smith at a rally for social justice. With unbearable grief, Kezi’s sisters Happi and Genny set out to immortalize Kezi by embarking on a road trip, finding multigenerational revelations about their family. A year after the United States faced social unrest over the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans at the hands of law enforcement, The Moulite Sisters authentically render homage to brotherhood in an unjust world.
“My mother was a freedom fighter” by Aja Monet
With a complex balance of wisdom and sincerity, Cuban-Jamacian poet Aja Monet pays homage to her Brooklyn origins and to the women who are radically changing social movements. Give a voice to marginalized people, My mother was a freedom fighter makes room for poems about grief, spirituality, conflict, and the tenacity of being a woman.
“Women and Salt” by Gabriela Garcia
Posted in March, Women and salt by a Cuban-Mexican author Gabriela Garcia meets 1866 during Cuba’s first war of independence with 2018, where the protagonist Carmen fights against the drug addiction of her daughter, Jeanette. As Carmen reveals family secrets and deals with a difficult relationship with Jeanette and her own mother, Garcia captures the trials of ancestral trauma and reshape the future.
“Dear Ijeawele, or a feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In 2013, Nigerian feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was sampled on Beyoncé’s flawless track “Flawless”; in the 2017 book Dear Ijeawele, Adichie, the author remains fearless. A powerful statement on new age feminism, Dear Ijeawele is an intimate guide for girls of all walks of life filled with compassion, humor and empowerment.
“Side by side” by Marilisa Jiménez García
For mothers with education in mind, studying literature Side by Side: The American Empire, Puerto Rico, and the Roots of American Youth Literature and Culture critically studies Latin children’s literature and the consequences of cultural erasure in various forms of media. Written by Marilisa Jiménez Garcia, Assistant professor of English and Latinx studies at Lehigh University, the book is a timely approach to contemporary debates on texts about Puerto Rican children, especially written by white authors.
“The house in Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros
The 1984 debut novel by Mexican author Sandra Cisneros, Mango Street House is a coming-of-age story that follows a 12-year-old Esperanza Cordero based in Chicago, Cisneros’ hometown. As Cordero realizes his sexuality, the women of Mango Street experience patriarchal oppression within a tight-knit Chicano community. As a Cordero observer tries to escape the neighborhood, Mango Street House is a poignant novel that frames moral responsibility with self-discovery.
“Applaud when you land” by Elizabeth Acevedo
Written with young adults in mind, 2020 novel Applaud when you land, written by author Elizabeth Acevedo, finds delicate ground between alternative perspectives, brutally uncovering explorations of separate worlds. Dominican characters Camino and Yahaira discover that they are sisters after their father’s tragic death as their lives intertwine through cultural identity, grief and understanding.