Womanhood and Motherhood

Celebrate Women's History Month with this list of books focusing on what it means to be a woman, mother, and daughter.

“When I got hurt, she felt it so deeply, it was as though it were her own affliction. She was guilty only of caring too much. I realize this now, only in retrospect. No one in this world would ever love me as much as my mother, and she would never let me forget it.”
Michelle Zauner, Crying in H Mart

This selection, shared during Women’s History Month, is about what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a mother. There are many ways to do both and as you will see in this selection there is no way to be a perfect woman or mother. All of these titles have themes of being a woman, being a mother, and being a daughter. These relationships are complex and the identity of these women are complex as well. The women in these books face death, persecution, transphobia, racism, as well as societal and political pressures. These are only a handful of things women and mothers face in our society. Women are judged for having children or not having children, dressing a certain way, loving certain people, and much more. These books are a selection that highlights these issues and describe navigating them as a woman and/or a mother. I hope you enjoy exploring them.

Digital book (DB, DBC, DBG, DBF), braille (BR, BRG), and large print (LT) copies of these titles are available from the Perkins Library or the Worcester Talking Book Library. Please contact the library to order any of these books.

Prepared by Katie Means

Reader’s Advisor

Perkins Library

Anna Karenina

by Leo Tolstoy

DB 72059, BR 12695, Available as BARD Download

In 1870s Russia, Anna disregards convention, preferring an adulterous affair with Count Vrónsky to her stifling marriage. Ostracized by society and separated from her beloved son, Anna gradually unravels. Tolstoy’s classic novel in a 2000 translation by the award-winning team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. 1877.

Download Anna Karenina, DB 72059

Download Braille, Anna Karenina, BR 12695


by Michelle Obama

DB 92627, DB 93194 (Spanish), DBG 18412 (Italian), BR 22497, LT 24957, Available as BARD Download

The first African American First Lady recounts her childhood in Chicago, her years balancing motherhood and her career as an executive, and her eight years in the White House. Some strong language. Bestseller. 2018.

Download Becoming, DB 92627

Download Spanish, Becoming, DB 93194

Download Italian, Becoming, DBG 18412

Download Braille, Becoming, BR 22497


by Toni Morrison

DB 26026, BR 7074, BR 16707, LT 30720, DB available as BARD Download

Related in kaleidoscopic fashion and set in rural Ohio during the period immediately following the Civil War, this chronicle of slavery and its aftermath traces the life of Sethe, a former slave. Sethe has a secret in her past so horrific that it has alienated the community, driven off her two sons, isolated her surviving daughter, and threatened her new, loving relationship with Paul D., also a former slave. Bestseller. 1987. 

Download Beloved, DB 26026

Download Braille, Beloved, BR 16707

Crying in H Mart

by Michelle Zauner

DB 103413, BR 24119, LT 32037, Available as BARD Download

The author reflects on her experiences growing up Korean American, struggling with expectations, meeting her husband, and losing her mother to cancer. She also discusses her journey to forge her own identity and claim the taste, language, and history left to her by her mother. Bestseller. 2021.

Download Crying in H Mart, DB 103413

Download Braille, Crying in H Mart, BR 24119

Detransition, Baby

by Torrey Peters

DB 101806, Available as BARD Download

Trans woman Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. The only thing missing was a child. But when her girlfriend, Amy, detransitions and becomes Ames, everything falls apart. 2021.

Download Detransition, Baby, DB 101806

Diary of A Young Girl

by Anne Frank

DB 40424, DB 57022, DB 68986 (Spanish), DBF 158 (German), DBG 12633 (French), DB 106088 (Mandarin), BR 15076, BR 22588, LT 26169, Available as BARD Download

In a remarkable account begun on her thirteenth birthday in 1942, a Jewish girl in German-occupied Amsterdam records her hopes, fears, and growing pains during two years of close confinement with her family hiding from the Nazis in a secret apartment. Original version edited by her father. For grades 6-9 and older readers. 1947.

Download Diary of A Young Girl, DB 57022

Download Spanish, Diary of A Young Girl, DB 68986

Download German, Diary of A Young Girl, DBF 158

Download French, Diary of A Young Girl, DBG 12633

Download Mandarin, Diary of A Young Girl, DB 106088

Download Braille, Diary of A Young Girl, BR 22588

The Feminine Mystique

by Betty Friedan

DB 53797, Available as BARD Download

1960s feminist discusses problems of American women. Considers a distorted image of femininity to have arrested women’s intellectual growth, hampered their sexual fulfillment, threatened their marriages, and become their major barrier to self-realization. 1963.

Download The Feminine Mystique, DB 53797

Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation

by Cokie Roberts

DB 58361, BR 15555, Available as BARD Download

Political commentator and news analyst examines the role of Abigail Adams, Deborah Read Franklin, Martha Washington, and other prominent colonial women in founding the United States. Discusses their work outside the domestic sphere to manage businesses, run plantations, and defend their homes in the absence of men. Bestseller. 2004.

Download Founding Mothers, DB 58361

Download Braille, Founding Mothers, BR 15555

Girl, Woman, Other

by Bernardine Evaristo

DB 98756, Available as BARD Download

Twelve characters lead vastly different lives in modern Britain. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, they all intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class. Booker Prize. 2019.

Download Girl, Woman, Other, DB 98756

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman

by Nora Ephron

DB 63378, BRG 2207, Available as BARD Download

In a series of humorous vignettes, author Nora Ephron obsesses about being a woman in her sixties. Discusses her expensive regimen to camouflage signs of aging, her purse and its contents, parenting, ex-husbands, and former presidents. In “Serial Monogamy: A Memoir,” Ephron admits her infatuation with famous chefs. Bestseller. 2006.

Download I Feel Bad About My Neck, DB 63378

Download Braille, I Feel Bad About My Neck, BRG 2207

I Miss You When I Blink: Essays

by Mary Laura Philpott

DB 94871, Available as BARD Download

A memoir told through essays examining the conflicting pressures of modern adulthood in the early twenty-first century. Discusses anxiety, personal reinvention, satisfaction, and more. 2019.

Download I Miss You When I Blink, DB 94871

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy

by Jamie Ford

DB 109598 (in process), LT 32119

As Washington’s former poet laureate, Dorothy Moy breaks her own heart for a living, the way she describes channeling her dissociative episodes and mental health struggles into her art. But when her five-year-old daughter exhibits similar behavior and begins remembering things from the lives of their ancestors, Dorothy believes the past has truly come to haunt her. Through an experimental treatment designed to mitigate inherited trauma, Dorothy intimately connects with past generations of women in her family, endeavoring to break the cycle of pain and abandonment, to finally find peace for her daughter, and gain the love that has long been waiting, knowing she may pay the ultimate price. 2022.

A Mother’s Secret

by Amy Clipston

DB 94939, BR 22696, LT 17476, Available as BARD Download

Carolyn Lapp longs for a traditional Amish marriage but doesn’t believe she will find a man who will love both her and Ben, the child she had out of wedlock. When Carolyn meets horse breeder Joshua Glick, they have an instant attraction, but Joshua believes Ben is her nephew. 2014.

Download A Mother’s Secret, DB 94939

Download Braille, A Mother’s Secret, BR 22696


by Sapphire

DB 71038, BR 18590, Available as BARD Download

Illiterate and overweight, sixteen-year-old Claireece Precious Jones is pregnant again by her abusive father. After being suspended from school, Precious finds hope in Ms. Rain’s Pre-GED reading class, where Precious begins keeping a journal. Violence, strong language, and explicit descriptions of sex. BCALA Literary Award. 1996.

Download Push, DB 71038

Download Braille, Push, BR 18590

The School for Good Mothers

by Jessamine Chan

DB 106410, LT 31069, Available as BARD Download

Set in near-future America, the School for Good Mothers is a government-run reform program where bad mothers are retrained using robot children with artificial intelligence. Single-mother Frida Liu is turned in by a neighbor and must spend a year at the newly-created institution to regain custody of her daughter. 2022.

Download The School for Good Mothers, DB 106410

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

by Grady Hendrix

DB 99550, DB 106223 (Spanish), BR 23373, Available as BARD Download

The one thing Patricia Campbell has to look forward to is her book club of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. When James Harris moves into the neighborhood and joins the club, Patricia senses there is something not right about the man. 2020.

Download The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, DB 99550

Download Spanish, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, DB 106223

Download Braille, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, BR 23373

The Testaments

by Margaret Atwood

DB 96649, DB 98269 (Spanish), BR 22855, LT 26776, Available as BARD Download

Fifteen years after the van door slammed on Offred’s future, three women provide testaments on life in Gilead. Sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale (DB 24695, BR 11911). Bestseller. 2019.

Download The Testaments, DB 96649

Download Spanish, The Testaments, DB 98269

Download Braille, The Testaments, BR 22855

The Vanishing Half

by Brit Bennett

DB 99791, DB 104627 (Spanish), BR 23212, LT 28474, Available as BARD Download

Desiree Vignes and her daughter return home to Louisiana in 1968, fourteen years after Desiree and her identical twin sister Stella ran away. The sisters ended up on different paths, and as Desiree struggles with the racial tensions of her hometown, Stella lives her life passing as white. Violence, strong language, and some descriptions of sex. Commercial audiobook. Bestseller. 2020.

Download The Vanishing Half, DB 99791

Download Spanish, The Vanishing Half, DB 104627

Download Braille, The Vanishing Half, BR 23212

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

by Maxine Hong Kingston

DB 10485, DB 50624, Available as BARD Download

Girlhood recollections of a Chinese American in California, where her parents had settled and operated a laundry. Her mother’s “talk-stories” filled the girl’s head with mythic Chinese figures and traditions as she coped with daily life in America. Some strong language. Nationall Book Critics Circle Award. 1976.

Download The Woman Warrior, DB 50624

The Year of Magical Thinking

by Joan Didion

DB 61740, BRG 1758, Available as BARD Download

Writer reflects on her emotional response to the unexpected death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, after a visit to their comatose daughter. Discusses the shock of suddenly facing a crisis, the memory of their time together as a family, and the meaning of marriage. National Book Award. Bestseller. 2005.

Download The Year of Magical Thinking, DB 61740

Download Braille, The Year of Magical Thinking, BRG 1758


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