10 Empowering Books About Mothers

By Jessica Dukes
Four friends with their arms around each other, enjoying a moment of closeness in a green park setting.

These moving reads celebrate motherhood in every form.

Motherhood is a life-changing event that makes women feel fearless and vulnerable — often in the same breath. We love the following books about mothers, from moving nonfiction narratives to powerful works of fiction. They celebrate the many challenges, victories, and loving moments that come with being a mother.

Neon lights form an eye-catching sign with the words "the manicurist" encircling an illustration of a hand cradling a flower, all highlighted by an atmospheric glow, followed by "susan lieu" at the bottom.

The Manicurist's Daughter

By Susan Lieu

Susan Lieu’s mother was “the general of the house and the center of our livelihood,” as she puts it in her striking debut memoir. After ushering her family out of Vietnam in the 1980s and resettling in California, Lieu’s mother established two successful nail salons that allowed her loved ones to thrive. But tragedy struck when the author was just 11 years old: Má died after a botched tummy tuck. In the wake of her passing, and for the next 20 years, Lieu was left searching for answers that no one seemed ready to provide: Who was her mother? What was she like in Vietnam? What compelled her to undergo cosmetic surgery? And how could the surgeon who performed the botched operation possibly still be working? The Manicurist’s Daughter is the culmination of Lieu’s search, a searing narrative that “braids together family history, grief, body image, food, class, race, and resilience for insight that must not be missed” (Elle).

Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story Remaking a Life from Scratch

By Erin French

In her youth, Erin French fell in love with food on her family’s 25-acre farm. These days she’s a professional chef and the owner of The Lost Kitchen, an award-winning restaurant in Maine. It’s what happened in between these two stages that makes French’s life story so remarkable. After a failed relationship, French found herself struggling with anxiety and addiction as she faced the challenges of single motherhood. The road to recovery was difficult. Throughout, one person motivated her to persevere: her son. This is the true story of how a mother’s love and the guiding light of her child led to freedom and renewal.

A vibrant book cover of "the soul of a woman" by isabel allende, featuring a warm color palette of red and orange tones with floral patterns.

The Soul of a Woman

By Isabel Allende

A self-described feminist since kindergarten, Isabel Allende grew up watching her single mother do whatever it took to provide for her three children. As a young woman in the late 1960s, Allende dedicated herself to journalism and writing, determined to carve out a life for herself. Now the highly influential author looks back on her journey, examining the moments that defined her as a woman and as a mother, and asking what her work will mean to future generations of women.

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

By Anna Malaika Tubbs

History has a lot to say about Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. In this moving new biography, Anna Malaika Tubbs honors the women who raised them: Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin. Hailed as a crucial missing chapter in the Civil Rights era and the fight for equality in America, Tubbs’s book shows how these three mothers protected their family through the Jim Crow years and planted the seeds of activism in their sons.

Crying in H Mart

By Michelle Zauner

Crucial to Michelle Zauner’s identity as a Korean-American is the influence of her mother. Of course, Zauner doesn’t fully realize this fact until her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Crying in H Mart is the story of that revelation. The pressures of being the only Korean kid in town, the cherished time Zauner spent with her grandmother in Seoul, and the struggles and tender moments she shared with her mother — all of these memories of family and identity come flooding back when Zauner is forced to reckon with her mother’s death and forge her own identity.

A woman in a relaxed pose with a backdrop of a countryside farm scene on the cover of a book titled "the rural diaries" by hilarie burton morgan. the book promises stories of love, big life lessons, and mischief from the farm.

The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm

By Hilarie Burton Morgan

Hilarie Burton Morgan (of One Tree Hill and Lethal Weapon fame) does what some Hollywood stars may dream of but few rarely do: She leaves fame behind to live in a small-town community. Becoming a mother radically shifts her priorities, to the point where she and her husband buy a working farm in upstate New York and take over the candy store in their new hometown. Exchanging red carpets for chicken coops, Morgan’s story is an inspiring tale of having a vision for your family and of building a new life without regrets.

A book cover for "the need" by helen phillips, featuring a design with plant leaves and two potential accolades, one of which mentions it is a "national book award longlist.

The Need

By Helen Phillips

Let’s be honest: Motherhood is fraught with fear. That’s why it makes excellent fodder for a thriller like this one. Molly is at home with her two young children when danger strikes. Someone is in her house, and they know a bit too much about her family. Motherly instinct to protect her babies kicks in, but so does something else — and it’s a side of her personality that Molly isn’t ready to face.

Two silhouetted figures, possibly depicting a mother and daughter based on their size and the act of holding hands, stand against a dark background with text above and below them, including the title "crooked hallelujah" by the author kelli jo ford.

Crooked Hallelujah

By Kelli Jo Ford

Justine grew up in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, surrounded by her community’s strong, complicated mothers and women. Now a mother herself, Justine makes the difficult decision to leave the reservation behind in hopes of building a new life for her daughter in one of Texas’s many oil towns. Nothing goes as planned, however, not even the weather. Soon Justine wonders whether leaving the protection of the matriarchs back home, no matter their flaws, was the right move.

The cover of "of women and salt" by gabriela garcia, featuring a watercolor illustration of a vibrant flower over a seascape background with the title and author's name prominently displayed.

Of Women and Salt

By Gabriela Garcia

Carmen has trouble building a new life in America, in part because her mother insists on staying behind in their home country of Cuba. A generation later, Carmen’s daughter, Jeanette, is a recovering addict; Jeanette finds purpose in taking in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. The challenges these women face are connected by the fact that they’re trying their best at being mothers. While their choices may vary, the shared strength of their family’s legacy holds them together.

A captivating book cover with vibrant colors, featuring the title "afterland" by lauren beukes, with a graphic of a green leaf and a deep pink flower placed asymmetrically against a bright pink and blue background.


By Lauren Beukes

Imagine a world run by women, but only because a plague has killed almost all of the men. Now imagine that your child is one of the few remaining boys on Earth. Cole’s challenge, as she travels across the U.S. with her son disguised as a daughter, is to outrun government agencies, corporations, and cults that all want to get their hands on her son. A safe haven for her child — it’s the promise every mother makes from day one, and Cole is determined to fulfill it.

A woman with tiger stripes and a tail stands at the center of the image, which is the cover for the book "bestiary" by k-ming chang, featuring elements of magical realism as indicated by the fantastical fusion of human and animal characteristics. red feathers flutter around her, adding a dynamic and enigmatic quality to the design.


By K-Ming Chang

At the heart of this mesmerizing narrative are three generations of Taiwanese women and the myths of their homeland that they embody. A daughter wakes up one day with a tiger tail and pangs of ravenous hunger. A grandmother’s letters seem to grow out of the ground. Love blossoms in unexpected forms. As the daughter of the family works to decipher these strange events, she realizes that she must face her family’s secrets if she hopes to create a new reality that prior generations only dreamed of — the freedom to love whom you want.

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