Nonfiction November (Week 3): Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert

This week Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction is taking us through the Expert prompt:

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

I’ve been thinking about this one for days (hence the late post) and I finally decided on a theme based on the book I’ve just started, What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About, a collection of essays from fifteen different writers: motherhood and mother-child relationships.

I’ve done some reading on this topic, very casually. I’d have these books on my list and while reading I’d wonder what other books tackled this most central relationship but it’s never been something I’ve searched out. Until now.

The books about motherhood and mothers and children (specifically daughters) that I’ve read:

Motherhood So White: A Memoir of Race, Gender, and Parenting in America by Nefertiti Austin. This was an eye-opening memoir about adoption, specifically the experience of adopting as a single Black woman, specifically looking to adopt a Black boy. Austin reflects on the relationship she had with her own mother, someone who was more like an older sister or aunt, her grandmother who stepped into that mothering role and that when one thinks of motherhood in America, it’s almost always white motherhood.

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. This one was also about adoption, but from the perspective of the adoptee. Nicole Chung was adopted from Korea by white parents. Her memoir is about her experience being Othered in her own family and her search for her birth family. She’s very candid about the complicated dynamics of her relationship with both mothers.

The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey (and Michaela Angela Davis). This one probably surprises many of you being on this list. BUT Mariah Carey is so open about her relationship with her mother and my mouth was honestly on the ground reading some of what she had to say. Their dynamics were also complicated by race, her mother holding onto her whiteness, asserting that privilege in some really fraught interactions with her biracial daughter.

In Triumph’s Wake: Royal Mothers, Tragic Daughters and the Price They Paid for Glory by Julia P. Gelardi. This one looks at the lives and relationships between Isabella of Castille and her daughter Katherine of Aragon, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria Hungary and her daughter Marie Antoinette and Queen Victoria and poor Princess Vicky. The mothers were all august figures, at the height of their empires, and their daughters all ended up in really sad, horrible situations. I’ve said it 1000 times on this blog but Julia P. Gelardi remains one of my very favourite royal biographers. Her work is well worth your time.

So now you have an idea of what I’ve read, do you have any books for me that might fit the bill?

20 thoughts on “Nonfiction November (Week 3): Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert

  1. What an interesting theme! I love when we can find patterns in our reading that are completely unintentional! Monsoon Mansion by Cinelle Barnes and Good Talk by Mira Jacob are other nonfiction books that touch on mother-child relationships. I read them both last year and really enjoyed them!

  2. What a great topic. All You Can Ever Know sounds especially good. I’m sure I must have read something I could suggest to you, but I mostly read fiction (as you know!). I’m guessing you want to stick with nonfiction? One I would like to read is Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson.

    • Have you read Gelardi’s other work? She writes exclusively about royals and mostly royal women. Her book about the five granddaughters of Queen Victoria who all became Queens is one of my all time favourites. The one about the Romanovs from 1848-1928 is also excellent.
      Thanks for the recommendation, will have to see if I can find that one!

  3. What an interesting topic! I’m so surprised to hear that Mariah’s book covers that kind of ground. I didn’t know that she had to go through that with her mother, unbelievable.

    Actually one of my favorite novels is White Oleander, which looks at very messed-up mother/daughter relationships. I’m not sure that’s exactly what you’re looking for here but it’s the first one that came to mind. Those kind of fraught dynamics often have a lot to tell us about what’s normal or how we view our own experience, I think. Mary Karr’s memoir The Liars’ Club also has a really interesting (also dysfunctional) mother-daughter story. It’s one of my favorite memoirs and really worth a read even if it doesn’t quite fit with your topic (sorry to only have negative ones to offer!!)

    I still have that Julia Gelardi Romanovs book on my list but it’s not easy to track down! None of my libraries have it and I’ve never come across a copy on any of the used-book sites I order from. Boo!

    • I retweeted a tweet from Brit Bennett’s that said Mariah Carey wrote the best book on racism this year. The depth of that “celebrity memoir” definitely caught me off guard. She delivered on many levels.

      I had a copy of White Oleander for years and never read it. Maybe I’ll look for it at the library.

      I had no idea Gelardi’s books were so hard to find! I just looked on bookdepository.com and they have some of her books! Feel like I should order one or two of her new ones…

  4. I haven’t really read any books on mother-daughter relationships but they often catch my attention.It’s a topic I would like to do some reading on, so I appreciate the recommendations!

  5. This is such a great compilation of parenting relationships. Now I really want to read Mariah Carey’s book! Oddly, most of the children / parent books I have read involve Mothers and Sons. I found myself slightly obsessed with FDR’s relationship with his Mother for some time (his massive biography was VERY dry though). Wonderful post!

    • You should totally read Mariah Carey’s book. A complete delight, honest and clear-eyed. I loved it.
      Mothers and sons are a whole different ballgame aren’t they? I recall something about FDR and his mother…did you watch the Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelts? It was like 12 hours but complete perfection.

      • Oooh – I need to check out that documentary! I’m decently obsessed with FDR. His mother went away to college with him! As soon as I finish A Woman of No Importance I am picking up Mariah’s book!

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