Related: Goings On, The Collection, Women's History

Mother’s Day


Happy Mother’s Day from the Sr. Helen Sheehan Library! Whether you are a mother, father, sister, son, cousin, aunt, or friend — we hope you’ll spend some time today reflecting on the roles of women in our families and our communities. From biological mothers to adoptive mothers to symbolic or surrogate mothers, maternal figures are all around us.

For more in-depth reflections, check out a few of these resources from our collection: books and movies on mothers, motherhood, and family bonds.



  • Between ourselves: Letters between mothers and daughters, 1750-1982. More than two centuries of mother-daughter relationships, all in their own words. See Western history through a unique lens in this thoughtfully curated volume “rich with words to warm the soul and stir the heart” (Boston Herald).

  • Color of water: A Black man’s tribute to his white mother / James McBride. The story of a Polish immigrant, her struggles with racism and poverty, and her twelve African-American children. Written by one of her sons, this book is “a testament to one woman’s true heart, solid values, and indomitable will” (

  • Family values: Two moms and their son / Phyllis Burke. A “colorful, funny and fearless memoir” about one woman’s battle to co-parent — and adopt — her partner’s biological son (Publisher’s Weekly). Set in San Francisco in the 1980s and ‘90s, this is an honest glimpse at the many meanings of motherhood.

  • Mommy brain: How motherhood makes us smarter / Katherine Ellison. Frustrated by the assumption that raising kids makes women frazzled and ditzy, Ellison set out to prove otherwise. In this “often humorous and always thorough” exploration of motherhood (Publishers Weekly), Ellison uses personal anecdotes, psychology, and neurobiology to show how the challenges of childrearing push women to develop new kinds of intelligence.

  • My mother/my self: The daughter’s search for identity / Nancy Friday. Groundbreaking when it was written, this book has become a classic of feminist studies. Friday argues that for women to be fulfilled they must first separate themselves from their mothers — and that mothers must accept their daughters in order for both women to thrive.

  • Portrait of American mothers & daughters: Photographs / Raisa Fastman. A coffee-table-style book of photographs of mothers and daughters from across the U.S. Fastman includes diverse subjects — living and dead — in this simple, inspiring, and heartwarming volume.

  • We are our mothers’ daughters / Cokie Roberts. Roberts examines women’s roles in society in the past, the present, and the future. A fitting tribute to our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, this book is “a fine vehicle for discussion or individual contemplation, giving both mothers and daughters new perspectives for viewing one another” (School Library Journal).



  • Good Bye, Lenin! Alex’s mother believes in the East German communist cause. So when she has a heart attack and lapses into an eight-month coma — during which the Berlin Wall comes down — doctors worry the shock will kill her. It’s up to Alex to protect his mother, rewrite history, and bring her gently into a unified world. A smart, funny look at how far a young man will go to take care of the woman who raised him.

  • The Joy Luck Club This movie adaptation of Amy Tan’s bestselling novel tells the intertwined stories of four Chinese women and their mothers. Uplifting, moving, and “a delight” to watch (, this movie captures the complexity of mother-daughter bonds against a beautiful, cinematic backdrop.

  • mothersdayfictiondvd

    Night, mother The tense, emotional story of a widowed mother trying to keep her daughter — an epileptic with a failed marriage and a good-for-nothing son — from committing suicide. Adapted from a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, this movie “brings to the surface all the love, resentment and understanding that exists between every parent and child” (


  • Divine secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: A novel / Rebecca Wells. Siddalee Walker and her mother, Vivi, have a rocky relationship. But when Vivi sends her daughter a scrapbook detailing her youthful exploits with a group of friends known as the “Ya-Yas,” everything changes. As Sidda leafs through the pages, she learns about her mother, the meaning of friendship, and the secrets of the Ya-Ya sisterhood. Described as “fresh and uplifting” as well as “poignant, funny, outrageous, and wise” (, this novel is an exploration of female relationships, biological and otherwise.

  • The Joy Luck Club / Amy Tan. This best-selling novel tells the stories of four Chinese women in San Francisco; their mothers; and the complex, intertwined bonds of family. Tan’s work is “intensely poetic, startlingly imaginative and moving” (Publishers Weekly). An intricate exploration of mother-daughter themes that will “speak to many women.”

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