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11 Powerful Mother–Daughter Memoirs

By Kaitlyn Johnston
Three poignant memoirs displayed against a red backdrop, each offering a personal and profound glimpse into the authors' lives.

Relationships between mothers and daughters are never one-dimensional, as evidenced by the complex memoirs below. From love and grief to heartbreak and reconciliation, the following candid narratives explore every facet of the mother–daughter dynamic.

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

When Susan Lieu’s family immigrated from Vietnam to California in the 1980s, they looked to Lieu’s mother for stability and direction. Charming, savvy, and more than up to the challenge, Lieu’s mother opened two successful nail salons to support her family. When Lieu was 11 years old, however, her mother died from complications after a botched cosmetic surgery. For years, Lieu grappled with difficult questions about her mother: Why did she feel the need to change her body? Why were family members so reluctant to talk about her mother’s former life in Vietnam? And how could the surgeon who performed the surgery possibly still be working? Determined to find the truth, Lieu set out in search of answers and uncovered startling revelations about her mother and their relationship. The Manicurist’s Daughter is a fiercely honest memoir about grief, beauty, the fragility of the American Dream, and an unbreakable motherdaughter bond.

Exploring complex emotions: 'are you my mother?' by alison bechdel, a new york times bestseller comic drama.

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama

By Alison Bechdel

Are You My Mother? by bestselling author Alison Bechdel is a stunning graphic memoir that explores the complicated relationship between an artist daughter and her artist mother. Bechdel’s mom was a lover of the arts and a deeply creative soul. She was also unhappy, someone who struggled to connect with her daughter and shared a marriage with a closeted gay man. Subtitled A Comic Drama, this New York Times bestseller is Bechdel’s quest for understanding, an attempt to bridge the gap in her relationship with her mother through psychoanalytic insights, vivid illustrations, and unflinching examinations of her own love life. A moving story enhanced by striking imagery, Are You My Mother? is for every mother’s child, but especially for the grown children of artists.

An ornate book cover for "the good daughter" by jasmin darznik, featuring floral motifs and a vintage photograph of a woman holding a child within a decorative medallion frame.

The Good Daughter: A Memoir of My Mother’s Hidden Life

By Jasmin Darznik

At three years old, Jasmin Darznik and her family immigrated from Iran to America, but it wasn’t until the author was in her 20s that she learned surprising truths about her family’s history. While helping her mother move after her father’s passing, Darznik found an old photo. It was of her mother, young and wearing a veil, with an unfamiliar man. A few months later, Darznik received a cassette tape from her mother — the first of many — telling the story of her former life in Iran: a teen bride, abuse, and a daughter she left behind. A sweeping memoir, The Good Daughter is a stirring story of three generations of women, a search for liberation, and the resilient connection between mother and daughter.

Two individuals seated side by side on a bench, overlooking a landscape, with the title "what we carry" by maya shanbhag lang – a tale of introspection and the silent stories we hold within.

What We Carry

By Maya Shanbhag Lang

Growing up, Maya Shanbhag Lang always looked to her mother for guidance. In later years, however, her mother’s mental acuity faded and Alzheimer’s took hold. An adult Maya stepped in as a caregiver, but she was soon forced to reconcile the family history she thought she knew with the secrets her mother divulged in her altered state. In her stunning memoir, the author fondly remembers the mother she grew up with — a brilliant doctor who immigrated from India in pursuit of a better life — and examines the shifting shape of their relationship as truths about the past complicate her understanding of the present.

A book cover design for "the glass castle" by jeannette walls, touted as a memoir and a #1 new york times bestseller, with accolades from 'people' and frank mccourt featured at the bottom. the title is overlaid on a monochrome photographic silhouette of a woman's profile.

The Glass Castle

By Jeannette Walls

In her #1 New York Times bestseller, Jeannette Walls chronicles the vibrant chaos of her childhood and the complex relationship she shared with her brilliant but troubled father and her wild-hearted mother. With neither parent ready to take on the responsibility of parenting, the Walls siblings had to take care of themselves. They looked out for each other, kept each other company, and eventually made their way to New York. And though their parents followed, they chose to be homeless while their children began to thrive. Deeply moving and shot through with dark humor, The Glass Castle is a story of how family love frays and endures in the face of dysfunction.

A young child stands on a sandy beach, holding a large, colorful beach ball, with the ocean in the background. the book cover also includes the intriguing title "why be happy when you could be normal?" and compliments the image with quotes praising the work. the author's name, jeanette winterson, is prominently displayed at the bottom.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

By Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson delivers a sharp, open, and exuberant mother–daughter memoir with Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? From her fraught childhood with her adoptive religious zealot mother to her bouts with madness brought on by her painful past and her eventual search for her biological mother, Winterson has spent a lifetime looking — for a home, for herself, for happiness, for a mother. “A tour de force of literature and love” (Vogue), Winterson’s memoir is a magnificent account of mother–daughter relationships in all their complexity.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

By Lucy Knisley

A New York Times bestseller, Relish by Lucy Knisley is a delectable graphic novel that delves into a young woman’s passion for food — something she inherited from her mom and dad. With a chef mother and gourmand father, Knisley’s childhood revolved around the kitchen, and so her life experiences are sweetened by tasty meals and delicious flavors. In Relish, Knisley comes of age in cartoon vignettes and shares the dishes and recipes that defined her upbringing.

A woman holding a pink urn gives a coy smile against a yellow background with text that reads "i'm glad my mom died" by jennette mccurdy, stating it's a #1 new york times bestseller and includes pricing and isbn information.

I’m Glad My Mom Died

By Jennette McCurdy

Jennette McCurdy’s mother was determined to make her daughter a star. In McCurdy’s unflinching and uproarious memoir I’m Glad My Mom Died, the author recounts the trauma and abuses of her child-star upbringing, from “calorie restrictions” and multiple daily weigh-ins to being showered by her mother well into her teens and having no control of her career, finances, or social life. Overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy, McCurdy tumbled into addiction and toxic relationships. And then her mom died. I’m Glad My Mom Died is a riveting look into the glamour-less side of child stardom and an inspirational story of reclaiming your life.

Book cover for 'motherland: a memoir of love, loathing, and longing' by elissa altman - a poignant and touching journey through family dynamics and self-discovery.

Motherland: A Memoir of Love, Loathing, and Longing

By Elissa Altman

Motherland by Elissa Altman is a story of the love that exists between a mother and daughter who don’t always see eye to eye. Altman’s adult existence is a world away from the trying childhood years she spent in the shadow of her beauty-obsessed TV singer mother, Rita. But when Rita suffers a debilitating fall and needs her daughter’s care, Altman’s quiet life in Connecticut is upended by the obligation to care for her mother and confront the complications of their relationship. A bighearted story radiating honesty and wit, Motherland is “an eloquent, poignant memoir” (Kirkus Reviews).

A monochromatic book cover showing a woman casually reclined against a wall, donning a wide-brimmed hat and tailored clothing, with the title "diane keaton then again a memoir" prominently displayed.

Then Again

By Diane Keaton

In her acclaimed memoir, Diane Keaton offers a delightful glimpse into her life and the relationship she shared with her mother, Dorothy. Dorothy Hall was an indomitable intellectual and creative force: She kept more than 80 journals that documented memorable moments from her marriage, her relationship with her children, and her rich interior life. In Then Again, Keaton pores over these journals, combing through thousands of pages to produce an endlessly charming portrait of her mother, herself, and the relationship that defined them both.

A bold and colorful book cover for the memoir "somebody's daughter" by ashley c. ford, acclaimed as a new york times bestseller with a praising quote from glennon doyle, author of "untamed.

Somebody's Daughter

By Ashley C. Ford

In her New York Times bestselling memoir, Ashley C. Ford chronicles the isolation and trauma of her childhood and her impassioned fight for understanding as an adult. At the core of Ford’s acclaimed coming-of-age narrative is her relationship with her mother and grandmother, twin maternal figures who throughout her upbringing compensated for and contrasted with the absence of her incarcerated father. Gripping, complex, and powerful, Somebody’s Daughter is “truly a classic in the making” (John Green, New York Times bestselling author).

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