About Reading Motherhood
Reading Motherhood was founded by two Georgetown University professors who were inspired by a class they co-teach of the same name. After hearing countless teachers and students remark that they wished they could have taken a class that focused on motherhood and its social/political contexts in literature, we decided to create a website that would make the course's concepts accessible to all those who were interested.
Reading Motherhood aims to spark and contribute to discussions about motherhood, reproductive rights, and feminism and their intersections with gender expression, sexuality, race, and class. Its founders are two White women of different generations who have raised children of color--one via childbirth, one via transnational adoption. This site offers a space between the ubiquitous lifestyle “Mommy Influencers” and websites focused strictly on mothers in academia. But we do aspire to be influencers of another sort: using our teaching and research skills to bridge the generational divide between all types of women by interrogating conventional models and myths about motherhood and reproductive justice more broadly. Our approach is introducing--rather than dictating--ideas about representations of diverse mothers in literature, media, and popular culture. Here, you will find critiques of movies and books, compilations of notable news stories, and opinion pieces commenting on these topics. Along with commentary by site contributors, interviews with authors, students, educators, and parents will highlight the social disparities within and contradictions inherent to mothering and attempts to teach or write about it. Keeping true to Reading Motherhood's classroom origins, the site also looks to provide community and resources for teachers hoping to emphasize mothering and feminist themes in their own classrooms.
Reading Motherhood seeks to be a collaborative platform, hoping to integrate forum discussions into the broader mission of the site, making the blog part of a larger 'conversation' rather than a one-sided posting.
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Welcome! I am a feminist scholar of literary/cultural studies at Georgetown University whose research and teaching encompass the fields of Feminist Studies, Working-Class Studies, Critical Race Studies, Motherhood Studies, Adoption Studies, and Popular Music Studies. I grew up amidst the steel mills and oil refineries of Upper Northwest Indiana and was a first generation college student. That history informs much of the work that I do.
My ‘mother’ identity: I didn’t want to have children until my later thirties, and after a brief and demoralizing whirl with low-level reproductive therapy, I and my husband decided, after considerable research, to adopt a baby from China during the heyday of transnational adoptions (late 1990s). That daughter is now 22, and the three of us over the years have explored the complexities of adoption as a family-making opportunity as well as an exploitative practice. She is now making her own contribution by organizing adoptee support groups and events. I’m fortunate to have this chosen family who provide daily love, laughter, and community. Our twelve-year-old dog Jackie is still as neurotic as ever in her advanced years but keeps us highly amused.
If you’d like to see some of my writing, here are book titles and links:
Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (https://www.press.umich.edu/277898/natural_acts)
Old Roots, New Routes: The Cultural Politics of Alt.Country Music, co-edited with Barbara Ching (https://www.press.umich.edu/344030/old_roots_new_routes)
Class Fictions: Shame and Resistance in the British Working-Class Novel, 1890-1945 (https://www.dukeupress.edu/class-fictions)
I think of myself as a writer, journalist, feminist and occasional poet—but primarily I describe myself as a teacher. I have been at Georgetown for more than thirty years, serving as the academic director of the Community Scholars Program
(an academic program focused on critical writing and reading for first-generation
students). As the head instructor in that program for many years, teaching writing
was my primary academic interest. I also teach (and am passionate about)
motherhood studies, feminist theory, sixties cultural history, and poetry.
I have co-written and edited four volumes of poetry as “literary therapy.”
When my publisher asked me for a bio for my first book, it seemed important to
include only my work and professional life. As a woman, I did not want to talk about being a mother—only very recently have male authors begun to include the fact that they have x number of children, whom they adore, in their bios. I am so relieved and delighted to talk briefly about my life as a mother on this site. I have two sons, 37 and 49. (The age gap is explained by the epiphany I had when my oldest was born—I could not have another child until I understood and began my work in the world.)
Raising feminist sons was my goal in addition to all of the other work that goes into mothering. My husband is Chicano (self-described), so that meant raising feminist boys of color. I also have two grandsons (Jewish, Mexican, Russian, Polish, British, Irish, German, and Swedish). They have relatives who died in the Holocaust and they study pre-Columbian history. All of us want them to learn that survival itself can be a privilege and that gender is never destiny.
We are delighted to welcome you to this site and offer both past and present cultural and literary standpoints on motherhood. We hope that you will share your
own experiences and points of view as well.
If you’d like to take a look at my latest book, you can see it here.
And a brief description:
"This is the book I didn't even know I needed-until I found myself crying within the first few pages. 'Growing up' and 'growing older' can feel lonely-thinking no one else feels the same way or experiences the same losses and hopes and fears. In these poems, and in the hilarious, touching commentary accompanying them, I found solace and joy. How Did This Happen is not your mother's anthology. It is a fierce, funny, guided meditation, set in poetry, through the insult, grit and grace of aging; a thinking woman's guide to growing older. This is a book to love, now and for the months and years to come."―Andrea Seabrook, NPR
Hello! I’m a senior at Georgetown studying English and Government, and I took Prof. Fox and Prof. Velez’s Reading Motherhood course in the spring of 2020. I loved having the opportunity to examine themes that hadn’t been brought to the forefront in other literature classes. I deeply appreciated the class’s multimedia approach--looking at film, television, books, and poetry, as well as the way the course incorporated intersectional theory into each discussion. The course encouraged me to broaden my definition of mothering and reproductive justice and pushed me to incorporate these themes into my critical analysis of pop culture and current events. I hope to help bring the same inclusive approach and unapologetically feminist criticism that I experienced in the classroom to Reading Motherhood’s online counterpart!
Reading Motherhood at Georgetown
Motherhood is deemed one of the most ‘natural’ experiences binding women together across time and space. But as feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich famously argued in her landmark work Of Woman Born, it is also a social institution with its own history and ideology.
Our course examines this institution as a shifting, historically and culturally specific phenomenon given particularly potent life in cultural representations: that is, the literature, film, television, advertising, video, comics, etc. that surround us in everyday life. We explore how differing notions of motherhood are constructed, contested, negotiated.
A central premise of the course is that motherhood cannot be universalized as an experience or as a right (not all women are urged or even permitted to mother); it is not innate or necessarily a biological relation.