The best books on being a Black mother

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for this topic because I grew up in Harlem, New York under segregation. Black is beautiful is in my DNA. As a former Black student activist, former Black Beauty queen, Miss Black New York State, and one of the first natural hair models in the 1960s this topic is who I am and who I am becoming. When I grew up in the 1950s, Harlem was a community of open hearts and open doors that loved its children. There was also a strong narrative "Black is Beautiful", "Black is Powerful" countering general societal views of Black inferiority. I developed the Positive Affirmation NiteBabyNite picture book series in remembrance of those times. 


I wrote...

An Affirmation: NiteBabyNite

By Irene Smalls,

Book cover of An Affirmation: NiteBabyNite

What is my book about?

The NiteBabyNite book and series illustrated in full-color stories are designed for parents to speak poetic words of "Black is Beautiful" and "I Love You” each night to their baby of color in words and pictures. NiteBabyNite gives babies important pre-reading skills. It also builds their imagination and relationship with the natural world. The American Association of Pediatricians recommends reading before bed as part of a baby’s calming preparation for sleep routine. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Irene Smalls Why did I love this book?

I never, never, never want to meet this author. This book had me crying on every page and at 520 pages it is a really long book. How dare she expose my soul warts and all to the world? That book set my soul free in a way that few other books have. If you want to face yourself and be yourself! Read this book.

By Clarissa Pinkola Estés,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Women Who Run with the Wolves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published three years before the print edition of Women Who Run With the Wolves made publishing history, this original audio edition quickly became an underground bestseller. For its insights into the inner life of women, it established Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes as one of the most important voices of our time in the fields of Jungian psychology, myth, and women's mysteries.

Drawing from her work as a psychoanalyst and cantadora ("keeper of the old stories"), Dr. Estes uses myths and folktales to illustrate how societies systematically strip away the feminine spirit. Through an exploration into the nature of the…


Book cover of Good-Enough Mother: The Perfectly Imperfect Book of Parenting

Irene Smalls Why did I love this book?

Having raised three children as a single parent, there have been complaints from said children post-childhood. This book saved my sanity. I got all three of them intact physically, two arms, two legs, working eyes, and brains. Hence the critiques. But, I digress. As a mother you give it your best shot, sacrifice, and work like a demon. Then you must let it go. As I said two arms, two legs, etc. 

By René Syler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Good-Enough Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In an ideal world, mothers would have time to hand-sew their kids' costumes for the school play, prepare all-organic meals, and volunteer in the classroom at the drop of a hat. In reality, most moms have to settle for plopping their little ones in front of SpongeBob so that they can prepare yet another chicken nugget-based dinner, guiltily convinced they're falling down on the job.

In Good-Enough Mother, René Syler pulls back the curtain to reveal the truth about modern mothering and reassure time-stressed moms that even if their children are strangers to made-from-scratch cookies, they can emerge as happy,…


Book cover of Just as I Am: A Memoir

Irene Smalls Why did I love this book?

Was an honor to read. To realize that this great woman had struggles, failures, missteps, and triumphs large and small as the rest of us spoke to her true greatness. She made it look easy. Her lifelong love of Miles Davis despite his many transgressions shows a real woman’s love. She modeled sacrifice and being true to yourself as a mother.

By Cicely Tyson, Michelle Burford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Just as I Am as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history." -President Barack Obama, 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony

"Just as I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn…


Book cover of Finding Me

Irene Smalls Why did I love this book?

To come from where Viola came and to be where she is now is so inspirational. From a snotty-nosed kid to a superstar is quite the leap. Filled with self-doubt for much of her career Viola Davis persevered and won. Despite the racist views of her, there was no denying her great talent. Viola showed me the value of believing in yourself no matter how small that initial kernel.

By Viola Davis,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Finding Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE INSTANT SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

'A breathtaking memoir...I was so moved by this book.' Oprah

'It is startlingly honest and, at times, a jaw-dropping read, charting her rise from poverty and abuse to becoming the first African-American to win the triple crown of an Oscar, Emmy and Tony for acting.' BBC News

THE DEEPLY PERSONAL, BRUTALLY HONEST ACCOUNT OF VIOLA'S INSPIRING LIFE

In my book, you will meet a little girl named Viola who ran from her past until she made a life changing decision to stop running forever.
This is my story, from a crumbling apartment in Central Falls,…


Book cover of The Legs Are the Last to Go: Aging, Acting, Marrying, and Other Things I Learned the Hard Way

Irene Smalls Why did I love this book?

To read about the life of Diahann Carroll, a true diva, sets the record straight on her beauty and humanity. Her many marriages, a tribute to her daddy issues, and her support of civil rights show the true sides of a diva. She was political, she was insecure, she failed, and she succeeded. That is a life well lived. Diahann as a mother, by her own account, had a mixed track record. But, she clearly was a good enough mother and grandmother. 

By Diahann Carroll,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Legs Are the Last to Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's conventional wisdom that Hollywood has no use for a woman over forty. So it's a good thing that Diahann Carroll—whose winning, sometimes controversial career breached racial barriers—is anything but conventional.

Here she shares her life story with an admirable candidness of someone who has seen and done it all. With wisdom that only aging gracefully can bestow, she talks frankly about her four marriages as well as the other significant relationships in her life, including her courtship with Sidney Poitier; racial politics in Hollywood and on Broadway; and the personal cost, particularly to her family, of being a pioneer.…


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The Birthright of Sons: Stories

By Jefferey Spivey,

Book cover of The Birthright of Sons: Stories

Jefferey Spivey Author Of The Birthright of Sons: Stories

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an avid reader of queer literary fiction not only because I write it but because I’m looking to see my life experience captured on the page. As a gay man, a father of two young boys, and one-half of an interracial married couple, I know the complexity of modern queer living firsthand. In recent years, I’ve been astounded by the breadth of great LGBTQ+ books that examine queerness fully and empathetically. I seek out these books, I read them feverishly, and I become a champion for the best ones. In an era of intense book banning, it’s so important to me to elevate these books and their authors.

Jefferey's book list on capturing the complexity of the queer experience

What is my book about?

The Birthright of Sons is a collection of stories centered around the experiences of marginalized people, namely Black and LGBTQ+ men. Although the stories borrow elements from various genres (horror, suspense, romance, magical realism, etc.), they are linked by an exploration of identity and the ways personhood is shaped through interactions with the people, places, and belief systems around us.

In each of these stories, the protagonists grapple with their understanding of who they are, who and how they love, and what is ultimately most important to them. In almost every case, however, the quest to know or protect oneself is challenged by an external force, resulting in violence, crisis, or confusion, among other outcomes.

The Birthright of Sons: Stories

By Jefferey Spivey,

What is this book about?

The Birthright of Sons is a collection of stories centered around the experiences of marginalized people, namely Black and LGBTQ+ men. Though the stories borrow elements from various genres (horror, suspense, romance, magical realism, etc.), they're linked by an exploration of identity and the ways personhood is shaped through interactions with the people, places, and belief systems around us.

Underpinning the project is a core belief - self-definition is fluid, but conflict arises because society often fails to keep pace with personal evolution. In each of these stories, the protagonists grapple with their understanding of who they are, who and…


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