I Read a Lot of Parenting Books, Apparently

Amanda Nelson here, back again with your Behind the Scenes shenanigans. As all of you know because I probably never shut up about it, I have a lot of kids. My twin boys are seven and my foster daughter is 17, and because kids are weird aliens taking over my space who I don’t know how to interact with, really, I’ve read a lot of books about it. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Maggie Nelson is a brilliant poet and nonfiction writer, and this is a book about her romance with her gender-fluid partner, and her experience with pregnancy. It’s heavy on the literary theory and queer theory, and light on the “miracle of life” stuff that many (most?) nonfiction reads about motherhood are full of.


The Blue Jay’s Dance by Louise Erdrich

Again, this is a book about motherhood that isn’t about developmental milestones or play dates or even really about the baby at all. This is a slow-moving, introspective look at the life of a working artist who also happens to have a newborn. It’s thoughtful and lush, and affirms both the joys and difficulties of having an infant.

Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison

Harrison has three biological sons, two adopted daughters, and has fostered dozens and dozens (sometimes at one time, seemingly) of children in a New England foster system. I’m deeply critical of a lot of her choices as a foster parent (mostly of how she took in more children than she could handle because she felt guilty, which resulted in actual harm more than once to already traumatized kids), but it’s undeniable that she cares. I’m the only foster parent in my family or friend group, so this book satisfies both my voyeuristic need to see how other FPs do it, and also my need to know I’m not the only person out there who cares about these kids.

Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

Nia Vardalos (of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame) and her husband adopted their three year old daughter out of the California foster care system after 13 rounds of failed IVF treatments and several years of not being matched with a private adoption agency, domestic or international. No one even told her adopting out of foster care was an option (it is!) and that it’s free (it is!), and that there are over 100,000 kids across the country in foster care who already have had parental rights terminated and are just waiting for a home. Vardalos signed up to be a foster parent, got the call one night, and found herself suddenly the mother of a three year old daughter. Vardalos is (unsurprisingly) hilarious, and tells stories about her kid that are just charming and lovely. I recommend this audiobook-she reads it herself and you can feel her frustration, love, and happiness coming out of the speaker.

Hit me with your faves, if you’ve got them! I’m especially interested in memoirs of single parents, queer families, foster parents, parents of color, and dudes! Dudes need to write more parenting books.