Nearly two years have passed since the birth of my son and I still find that every day brings something new in my motherhood journey. Some days I feel like I’m still trying to catch up with my new life, almost as if I’m sitting in a lecture where the professor’s moving too fast between slides. (Yes, I’m one of those people who would write everything down in class). Grappling with this emotional, exhausting, tumultuous, and yet indescribably wonderful journey into motherhood has shifted my perspectives and reading tastes. Recently, I’ve found myself seeking out graphic memoirs about mothers and motherhood. I want to submerge into the experiences of other mothers and not feel alone. Despite the company of my lovable little guy, motherhood can feel isolating at times, and this can be hard to talk about.
Discovering that other mothers can relate has been just the balm I need. Just as another Rioter describes finding her mom tribe through comics, I’m discovering mine in graphic memoirs. I think the art in graphic memoirs adds a layer of meaning and emotion that words alone can’t always convey. And let’s be real, as a mother my free time is as precious as the One Ring is to Golem, so graphic novels sometimes feel like more achievable goals for me these days. If you’d like to delve into some graphic memoirs about mothers and motherhood, check out the following books. They pair perfectly with a cup of chocolate chips after a long day.
Graphic Memoirs From The Mother’s Perspective
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations By Mira Jacob
Funny and heartfelt, Mira Jacob’s graphic memoir interweaves her life’s story with vignettes of her 6-year-old son Zakir and the sometimes difficult questions he asks her about race. Her account of the subtle and not-so-subtle racism she faces as an Indian American makes for a heart-wrenching and important story. Mira’s memoir gives me confidence that I can have a conversation with my son when he starts asking me the tough questions. And more importantly, it’s a reminder that it’s never too early to start talking to our kids about race and instilling antiracist values.
After taking us on her journey leading up to and during her pregnancy in her graphic memoir Kid Gloves, Lucy Knisley welcomes us back into her life as a new mother. Go to Sleep (I Miss You) charmingly encapsulates the ups and downs of taking care of a newborn. When my son was born, I probably felt the most tired and frazzled I have ever felt in my life. Sometimes you just need some mom cartoons to laugh through the lolsob moments. Knisley perfectly captures the sheer exhaustion, joy, and all the other feels that come with new motherhood.
Dear Scarlet: The Story of My Postpartum Depression By Teresa Wong
Teresa Wong’s graphic memoir spoke to me on many levels as a mother. For me, transitioning to motherhood was not easy. When my son was born, I balanced taking care of a newborn with finishing grad school, working full time, and job searching for a position in my new career field. On top of this, I struggled with breastfeeding from Day 1 and had to supplement with formula and pumping right away. I felt so much pressure to try and make breastfeeding work, and I felt like a failure when I chose to stop. Teresa Wong’s account of her decision to stop breastfeeding helped me feel understood. Her poignant yet ultimately hopeful journey through postpartum depression reassured me that the most important thing we can do for our children is seek help when we need it and be there for them no matter what.
The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
Thi Bui’s gripping graphic memoir opens as Thi becomes a mother with the birth of her son. Gazing over her newborn baby, Thi reflects, “FAMILY is now something I have created—and not just something I was born into” (p. 21). This same sense of awe washes over me at times when I look at my son. The closest I can come to describing how this feels might be soul-fulfilling. Thi’s story flashes back to her parents’ childhoods during a time of war in Vietnam, the births of Thi and her siblings, and their harrowing journey as refugees immigrating to America. Switching between past and present, Thi explores the complex relationships she has with her parents and how this has shaped who she is as a person and new mother.
Graphic Memoirs From The Child’s Perspective
Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir By Robin Ha
As the only child of a single mom, Robin Ha writes of her mother: “She was my only family. She was my everything” (p. 38). Growing up in Seoul, Korea, Robin describes the stigma she and her mother faced as a single parent household. When her mother announces they’re moving to Alabama and she’s getting married, teenage Robin is devastated. Struggling to fit in with her new life, Robin paints a poignant portrait of the isolation, grief, and racism she experienced as an immigrant and English Language Learner. As someone who was often the new kid in school, and as a single mother now, I felt completely drawn in to Robin’s memoir. Her struggle to find belonging and to stay strong despite other people’s judgments really resonated with me.
Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel
Following her bestselling graphic memoir, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel wrote another graphic memoir with a finer focus on her complex relationship with her mother. Profound and introspective, Alison processes her feelings about her mother through psychoanalytic theory and dream analysis. As she explores her relationship with her mother, who possesses an artistic nature much like her own, Alison leads us on an insightful journey, both about who her mother is as a person and ultimately who she is herself.
Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder
At age 19, Tyler Feder lost her mother to cancer. In her graphic memoir, Dancing at the Pity Party, Tyler shares her journey, from when her mother first got diagnosed to her funeral and its aftermath. As she grapples with this heartbreaking loss, Tyler deftly intermixes humor into her narrative. Her story exemplifies both how much her mother meant to her and how she learns to find her way in the wake of her grief. A powerful and relatable story for anyone facing grief in their lives.
Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
In his graphic memoir, Hey, Kiddo, Krosoczka recounts his difficult childhood growing up with a mother struggling with addiction. At first living with his mother, he later gets adopted by his grandpa and is raised by his grandparents. His mother appears in and out of his life throughout his childhood, often missing out on important events. My heart broke for Jarrett as I read his story. His memoir gives an honest and real account of how addiction can affect a family. With his grandparents’ support, Jarrett’s passion for art becomes a creative outlet through which he can process his feelings and ultimately find hope amidst sorrow.
The wonderment, weariness, and overwhelming love of motherhood can be hard to put into words. Sometimes you just need to read about another mother’s life to feel understood. I hope one of these graphic memoirs about mothers will comfort you as they did for me. If you’d like to delve further into some mom reads, check out these graphic novels and comics or these memoirs about motherhood.