Find the Perfect Gift for the Thinking Woman’s Mother’s Day

Looking for a book to gift to mom on mother’s day? Here at Northwestern University Press we’ve got a number of titles that will make the perfect gift for the thinking woman in your life. Here’s a list of staff favorites and bestsellers that celebrate and explore the complexities of motherhood, parenting, and family.

Mothers and Daughters: Women of the Intelligentsia in Nineteenth-Century Russia

Barbara Alpern Engel


The first psychosocial study of the female intelligentsia in Russia, Mothers and Daughters explains how and why women radicals of the nineteenth century diverged from their male counterparts, describes the forces that led women to rebel, and discusses their legacy to future generations. Throughout, Engel brings nineteenth-century women to life, humanizing history as she presents a case study of how the personal became political in a time and place different from our own.

The Distance Between Us

Valerie Sayers


Franny Starkey is a married mother of three that  no longer turns heads the way she used to. Sayers creates an engaging novel that follows Franny’s path from her early, poverty-ridden days to her hedonistic college life to her longings for an artistic career while changing diapers in a Brooklyn apartment. The constant in her life is Steward Morehouse, a well-to-do nerd from Due East, South Carolina who loves Franny. When Stewart and Michael, Michael, her drug-dependent playwright husband, collaborate on a play, the lives of these three become more complicated than Franny could have imagined.

Watercolor Women / Opaque Men: A Novel in Verse

Ana Castillo


Watercolor Women / Opaque Men is a wild and raucous narrative of a single, working mother, the daughter of Chicano migrant workers, and her struggles for upward mobility. Watercolor Women / Opaque Men contains episodes that range from the Mexican Revolution to modern-day Chicago and reflects a deep pride in Chicano culture and the hardships immigrants had to endure. With a remarkable combination of tenderness, wicked humor, and biting satire, the main character, Ella-or “She”-moves toward establishing her sexual identity (she has affairs with both men and women) and finding her rightful place in the world while simultaneously raising her son to be independent and self-sufficient.


Ellen Hagan


The poems in Hemisphere explore what it means to be a daughter and what it means to bear new life. Ellen Hagan investigates the world historical hemispheres of a family legacy from around the globe and moves down to the most intimate hemisphere of im¬pending motherhood. Her poems reclaim the female body from the violence, both literal and literary, done to it over the years.

Women with a Thirst for Destruction: The Bad Mother in Russian Culture

Jenny Kaminer


In Women with a Thirst for Destruction Jenny Kaminer examines how the typically noble and self-sacrificing image of Russian motherhood  is destabilized during periods of dramatic rupture in Russian society. Kaminer investigates the aftermath of three key moments in the country’s history: the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, the Russian Revolution of 1917, and the fall of the Communist regime in 1991. She explores works both familiar and relatively unexamined: Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The Golovlev Family, Fyodor Gladkov’s Cement, and Liudmila Petrushevskaia’s The Time: Night, as well as a late Soviet film (Vyacheslav Krishtofovich’s Adam’s Rib, 1990) and media coverage of the Chechen conflict. Kaminer’s book speaks broadly to the mutability of seemingly established cultural norms in the face of political and social upheaval.

The Gift

Florence Noiville


In this novel, Florence Noiville draws the portrait of a grand and unforgettable lady, loving and unable to love at once. As the narrator heads home after a meeting regarding her inheritance her mother looms large in her psyche. Labeled “eccentric” or “Italian,” her mother in fact suffered from what was later found to be manic depression. Without understanding the disease, the fam­ily treated the unpredictable ups and downs of her condition as they struck. During periods of paralyzing depression she was hospitalized, and the family felt abandoned. During periods of manic productivity and overdrive, she was a dedicated pharmacist, an exemplary home­maker, and an unusually knowledgeable gardener.

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