20 Canadian books that represent motherhood for Mother’s Day 2024

A mother’s journey as a parent is often shaped by their culture, their circumstances and their own relationships with their parents.

This Mother’s Day (May 12), check out 20 Canadian books that give insight to the varied experiences of being a mom or mother-like figure.

Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr is the author of I Am Because We Are. (chidiogo.org, House of Anansi Press)

I Am Because We Are documents how Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr’s late mother, Dora Akunyili, faced down misogyny and corruption in Nigeria. The nonfiction book is a look at how Dora Akunyili took on fraudulent drug manufacturers after their products killed millions, including her sister. And when Akunyili becomes an elected official, she faced death threats and an assassination attempt. Akunyili-Parr’s mother suffered for her beliefs, as did her marriage and six children.

I Am Because We Are explores the importance of community over the individual and the power of kinship.

Chidiogo Akunyili-Parr is a Nigerian Canadian writer, speaker and the founder of She ROARs, a global community empowering women. She was included in The Guardian’s list of the 100 most inspiring women in Nigeria. I Am Because We Are is her first book. 

A Black woman with curly hair smiles at the camera. A yellow book cover with pink and orange-toned writing.
We Rip the World Apart is a book by Charlene Carr. (HarperCollins)

We Rip the World Apart tells the layered story of Kareela, a 24-year-old, biracial woman, who finds out she’s pregnant and is struggling to find herself; her mother, Evelyn, who fled to Canada from Jamaica in the 1980s; and her paternal grandmother, Violet, who moved into their house after Kareela’s brother was killed by the police. 

Charlene Carr is a Toronto-raised writer and author based in Nova Scotia. She is the author of several independently published novels and a novella. Her first novel with a major publisher is Hold My Girl. She was named a writer to watch in 2023 by CBC Books.

LISTEN | Charlene Carr on The Next Chapter with Ryan B. Patrick:

The Next Chapter12:55The cost of keeping silent in We Rip the World Apart

Moving from the diverse streets of Toronto to rural Atlantic Canada at a young age is something both Charlene Carr and the protagonist of her latest novel share in common. The Nova Scotia writer discusses race, politics and grief in her latest book We Rip the World Apart.

The book's author, a woman with long dark hair wearing glasses and the book cover featuring a drawing of a long haired woman running towards dandelions.
Dandelion is a book by Jamie Chai Yun Liew. (Kenya-Jade Pinto, Arsenal Pulp Press)

When Lily was a child, her mother, Swee Hua, walked away from the family and was never heard from again. After becoming a new mother herself, Lily is obsessed with discovering what happened to Swee Hua. She recalls growing up in a British Columbia mining town where there were only a handful of Asian families and how Swee Hua longed to return to Brunei. Eventually, a clue leads Lily to southeast Asia to find out the truth about her mother.

Dandelion is a novel about family secrets, migration, isolation, motherhood and mental illness. 

Jamie Chai Yun Liew is a lawyer and law professor based in Ottawa. Dandelion is her first novel and won her the Jim Wong-Chu Emerging Writers Award from the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop. 

A composite image of an Indigenous woman with dark brown hair, red lipstick and trees behind her looking at the camera beside an illustrated book cover with a girl's face obstructed by tree branches and leaves and the words And Then She Fell by Alicia Elliott written on it.
Alicia Elliott is the author of the novel And Then She Fell. (Submitted by Alicia Elliott, Doubleday Canada)

And Then She Fell is a horror novel which follows a young woman named Alice struggling to navigate the early days of motherhood and live up to the unrealistic expectations of those around her.

Alicia Elliott is a Mohawk writer currently based in Brantford, Ont. Her writing has been published most recently in Room, Grain and The New Quarterly. She is the only author living in Canada to make this year’s longlist.

LISTEN | Alicia Elliott talks about her debut novel on The Sunday Magazine:

The Sunday Magazine22:11Alicia Elliott on fiction, motherhood and mental illness

Following her acclaimed essay collection A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, Mohawk writer Alicia Elliott is back with a new novel that draws on her own deeply personal experiences to tell a story of motherhood, mental illness and intergenerational trauma. And Then She Fell follows Alice, a young Haudenosaunee mother who goes through a kind of looking glass, as she deals with postpartum depression and married life away from her family and traditions. It’s a story of difficult truths, told with humour, horror and a bit of surrealism. Elliott joins Rebecca Zandbergen to talk about the novel, the personal experiences that inspired it, and best practices for sharing difficult stories – both in fiction and beyond.

A composite photo of pale blue book cover with orange and purple graphic treatment and the book's author, smiling with a short black bob hairstyle.
The Story of Us is a novel by Catherine Hernandez. (Audible.ca, HarperCollins Canada)

The Story of Us follows Mary Grace Concepcion, a Filipino worker who has left her family behind to build a new life in Canada. In Toronto, Mary Grace lands a job as a personal support worker for Liz, an elderly woman living with dementia. Through their relationship, Mary Garce’s beliefs are challenged and they grow to have an unlikely friendship. Told through the perspective of Mary Grace’s infant daughter, The Story of Us represents the heartfelt experiences of migrant Filipino workers.

Catherine Hernandez is a Canadian writer and playwright. She is the author of several books, including the novels Scarborough and Crosshairs and the children’s books I Promise, M is for Mustache and Where Do Your Feelings Live?. She is also the creator and star of the Audible Original sketch comedy podcast Imminent Disaster. Scarborough was championed by actor Malia Baker on Canada Reads 2022. It was also adapted into a feature film that premiered at TIFF in 2021 and won eight awards at the Canadian Screen Awards in 2022, including Best Adapted Screenplay for Hernandez.

LISTEN | Catherine Hernandez discusses The Story of Us on Q with Tom Power:

Q22:49Catherine Hernandez on writing a book that feels like love

Award-winning author Catherine Hernandez (Scarborough) on writing a book that feels like love, being a conduit for her ancestors and the eye-opening research that went into her latest novel, The Story of Us.

A blue book cover featuring a close-up photo of a hand with confetti flying from it in the wind.
Natural Order is a novel by Brian Francis (Anchor Canada, James Heaslip)

In the novel Natural Order, Joyce Sparks is 86 years old and living in a nursing home in her small Ontario town. She knows the end is near, so she is reflecting on her life, her lost loves, her biggest mistakes and her relationship with her son.

Brian Francis is the author of novels Fruit, Natural Order and Break in Case of Emergency and the memoir Missed Connections. He is a writer and columnist for The Next Chapter on CBC Radio and lives in Toronto.

LISTEN | Brian Francis recommends three books on The Next Chapter:

The Next Chapter15:58Celebrating the art of doing nothing with Brian Francis

Tired of hustle culture? Writer and The Next Chapter columnist Brian Francis recommends three books to help slow things down and smell the roses: Solitude by Michael Harris Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee and Bread Therapy by Pauline Beaumont.

Mother Muse by Lorna Goodison. Illustrated book cover of the profile of a Black woman in shadows and colourful flowers below.
Mother Muse is a book by Lorna Goodison. (Véhicule Press, Hugh Wright)

In her first poetry collection in over nine years, Lorna Goodison highlights two “mothers” in Jamaican music in Mother Muse. Sister Mary Ignatius, who nurtured many of Jamaica’s most gifted musicians, and dancer Anita “Margarita” Mahfood are the figures at the centre of this collection.

Lorna Goodison is one of Canada’s most renowned writers. She was Jamaica’s poet laureate from 2017 to 2020. Over the past 40 years, Goodison has written 14 books of poetry, including Collected Poems, and an award-winning memoir From Harvey River, which won the 2008 B.C. National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction and was a finalist for both the Trillium Book Award and the Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction. She was awarded the 2019 Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry for her body of work.

LISTEN | Lorna Goodison discusses Mother Muse:

The Next Chapter20:19Lorna Goodison on Mother Muse

Lorna Goodison on her book of poetry, Mother Muse.

Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto. Illustrated book cover of an elderly Asian woman holding a vaccuum.
Shadow Life is a comic by Hiromi Goto. (First Second Press)

In the graphic novel Shadow Life, 76-year-old Kumiko is placed in a long-term care home by her daughters. It’s not what Kumiko wants so she breaks out and takes refuge in an apartment she keeps secret from her children. She finds pleasure in simple, daily life, but Death’s shadow haunts her. Kumiko is ready to fight for the life she’s built herself, but how long can she fight back?

Hiromi Goto is a writer and editor from British Columbia. Her novels include Chorus of Mushrooms, Half World and Darkest Light. Shadow Life is her first graphic novel.

Ann Xu is an American illustrator.

A composite image of a woman with grey hair smiling at the camera beside a book cover with two women on top and a black and white photo of two men at the bottom separated by a banner with the words Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons by Charlotte Gray written on it.
Charlotte Gray is the author of Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons. (Michelle Valberg, Simon & Schuster)

Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons, is a dual biography of Jennie Jerome Churchill and Sara Delano Roosevelt, the mothers of Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The book looks at the lives of these two women in the mid-19th century and the essential role they played in shaping their influential sons.

Charlotte Gray is a noted historian and a member of the Order of Canada. She has written nearly a dozen books on Canadian history, covering everything from the Massey Murder to the Klondike Gold Rush. Her books include The Massey Murder, which won the Toronto Book Award and the Toronto Heritage Book Award, The Promise of Canada, Gold Diggers and Murdered Midas

The book cover: an illustration of a pink tree with a teal door in the trunk and the author photo: A woman with short sandy blonde hair and pink glasses with a piercing under her mouth and wearing a blue tanktop, she is smiling and looking straight at the camera
Monsters, Martyrs, and Marionettes is a collection of essays by Adrienne Gruber. (Book*hug, Quintana Roo Gruber-Hill)

In Monsters, Martyrs, and Marionettes, Adrienne Gruber explores the theme of motherhood through a collection of essays. It celebrates bodies, maternal bonds, beauty — but also the uglier side of parenthood, the chaos and even how close we are to death at any given moment.

Gruber is a poet and essayist originally from Saskatoon. She is the author of three books of poetry, most recently Q & A, and five chapbooks. She placed third in Event’s creative nonfiction contest in 2020 and was the runner up in SubTerrain’s creative nonfiction contest in 2023.

Gruber was longlisted for the 2023 CBC Nonfiction Prize for Clocks. In 2020, she made the CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for Our Feedback Loop, Our Fractal, Our Never-Ending Pattern. Gruber was also on the longlist for the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize for Better Birthing Through Chemistry

Motherhood by Sheila Heti. Illustrated book cover shows one big splotch of black watercolour paint and a smaller splotch underneath.
Sheila Heti’s new book Motherhood is out now. (Knopf Canada, Leah Walker)

The unnamed narrator of Sheila Heti‘s Motherhood spends the novel preoccupied with a single question: should she have children? Searching for a satisfying answer, whether it ultimately be ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ the narrator consults her partner, her family and her body, breaking down the philosophical underpinnings of motherhood. Heti has written eight books of fiction and nonfiction, including How Should a Person Be?, and lives in Toronto.

Sheila Heti is a noted Canadian playwright and author of fiction and nonfiction whose work has been translated in over a dozen languages. Her novel Motherhood was on the shortlist for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Her other books include Pure Colour and Alphabetical Diaries.

Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth. Illustrated book cover shows a scared woman grasping her face, a pink hand with a ring and a plate of jello. Portrait of the author.
Motherthing is a novel by Ainslie Hogarth. (Christina De Melo, Strange Light)

Motherthing takes the horrors of the evil mother-in-law into new depths as Laura comes back to haunt her son Ralph and his wife Abby as a ghost. As Abby attempts to build a new life for her family and move beyond her own complicated childhood, her mother-in-law terrorizes her every step, leaving Abby to question motherhood and the sacrifices she may have to make. 

Ainslie Hogarth is a Canadian YA and speculative fiction writer. Her other books include The Lonely and The Boy Meets Girl Massacre (Annotated). Her mystery novel, Normal Women is set to release later this year. 

Composite image of a red book cover and a woman with dark hair and glasses standing in front of a blue wall and looking to the side
Bad Cree is a novel by Jessica Johns. (HarperCollins Canada, Loretta Johns)

Bad Cree is a horror-infused novel that centres around a young woman named Mackenzie, who is haunted by terrifying nightmares and wracked with guilt about her sister Sabrina’s untimely death. The lines between her dreams and reality start to blur when she begins seeing a murder of crows following her around the city. Looking to escape, Mackenzie heads back to her hometown in rural Alberta where she finds her mom, aunties and other sister still entrenched in their grief. With her dreams intensifying and getting more dangerous, Mackenzie must confront a violent family legacy and reconcile with the land and her community.

Jessica Johns is a queer nehiyaw aunty with English-Irish ancestry and a member of Sucker Creek First Nation. Johns won the 2020 Writers’ Trust Journey Prize for the short story Bad Cree, which evolved into the novel of the same name. Bad Cree also won the MacEwan Book of the Year prize. Johns is currently based in Edmonton.

LISTEN | Dallas Soonias and Jessica Johns discuss Bad Cree:

The Next Chapter19:53Canada Reads Panellist Dallas Soonias and Bad Cree author Jessica Johns meet for the first time

Former professional volleyball player and filmmaker Dallas Soonias explore why he chose the novel Bad Cree by Jessica Johns as Canada’s must-read book. The Indigenous author gives us a glimpse into the tense and often terrifying world of her novel.

On the left a woman with long hair and wearing glasses smiles, looking off camera. On the left a picture book cover shows an illustration of a mother fox trying to carry eight baby foxes in her hood.
My Hood’s Not Big Enough is a bilingual picture book by Aija Aiofe Komangapik. (Arvaaq Press)

My Hood’s Not Big Enough is the story of Mother Fox who is trying to carry her eight babies all by herself. Fortunately her family is there to help — that’s what family’s all about! My Hood’s Not Big Enough is a bilingual picture book, with the story told in both Inuktitut and English. 

Aija Aiofe Komangapik is a visual artist, writer and illustrator born and raised in Iqaluit. She won the 2019 Indigenous Arts and Stories contest from Historica Canada for her piece, Drum Dancer. Komangapik lives in Quebec. 

A book cover featuring artwork of a pregnant figure, with bird sand twigs overlaying the body.
Motherlike is a book by Katherine Leyton. (Second Story Press, katherineleyton.com)

In her feminist memoir Motherlike, Katherine Leyton blends her personal experiences as a new mother with cultural commentary and historical research. From the challenges of labour and the objectification of women’s bodies to the history of the birth control pill, she looks at motherhood as an essential part of human life that is often dismissed in society.

Leyton is a nonfiction writer, poet and screenwriter from Toronto. Her first book of poetry All the Gold Hurts My Mouth won the 2018 ReLit Award for poetry.

On the left is a headshot photo of a woman with medium length brown hair who is the author and is leaning against a wall and smiling at the camera. On the right is a book cover with blue, orange, and red marble design, with white and yellow text overlay that is the book's title and author's name.
Scar Tissue is a book by Sara Danièle Michaud, left, and translated by Katia Grubisic. (Linda Leith Publishing)

Sara Danièle Michaud considers what makes a mother in the book Scar Tissue. Mothers are created by their children and expanded and abbreviated by maternity as a social category. Motherhood is both organic and constructed. Scar Tissue explores this most primal human relationship from a personal and universal point of view. 

Michaud is a writer and philosopher. Her research and publications focus on the intersection of philosophy and literature. She teaches at the Cégep de Saint-Laurent. Scar Tissue is her first book to be translated into English. 

Katia Grubisic is a writer, editor and translator. Her translation of Brothers by David Clerson was a finalist for the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award for French-to-English translation.

Building a Nest from the Bones of My People by Cara-Lyn Morgan. Illustrated book cover of two yellow hummingbirds surrounded by green leaves and a dark brown colour hand reaching towards the birds. Portrait of a Metis and Trinidadian female writer wearing a black shirt and white cardigan.
Building a Nest from the Bones of My People is a poetry collection by Cara-Lyn Morgan. (Invisible Publishing, Love Bee Photography 2022)

Building a Nest from the Bones of My People begins with the speaker realizing their experience with sexual abuse in their family. In this poetry collection, Cara-Lyn Morgan writes about first-time motherhood, generational trauma and colonization. 

Cara-Lyn Morgan is a Métis and Trinidadian poet and writer from Oskana, or Regina, Sask. Her other poetry collections include What Became My Grieving and Cartograph

A book cover featuring beadwork of a buffalo and a photo of the book's author, a woman with long hair wearing an orange turtleneck.
A Grandmother Begins the Story is a novel by Michelle Porter. (Viking, Bojan Furst)

A Grandmother Begins the Story tells the story of five generations of Métis women as they raise children, reclaim lost heritage, heal past traumas, tell stories that will carry healing forward and make peace in the afterlife. Introducing the women at different life stages, including after death, the book showcases a diversity of voices and personalities. 

A Grandmother Begins the Story was shortlisted for the 2023 Writers’ Trust Atwood Gibson Prize.

Michelle Porter also wrote the memoir Scratching River, the nonfiction book Approaching Fire, which was shortlisted for the Indigenous Voices Award in 2021 and a book of poetry, Inquiries, which was shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. She lives in Newfoundland and Labrador. Porter made the 2019 CBC Nonfiction Prize longlist for her story Fireweed. Before that, she’d also made the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Slicing Lemons in April and the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize longlist for Between you and home

LISTEN | Michelle Porter discusses A Grandmother Begins the Story:

The Next Chapter19:12Michelle Porter on A Grandmother Begins the Story

The Metis author Michelle Porter talks to Shelagh Rogers about her debut novel, A Grandmother Begins the Story, which features a multiplicity of voices, human and otherwise.

Mom Marries Mum! Illustrated book cover of two young girls and their two moms holding hands and dancing in a circle.
Mom Marries Mum! is a picture book written by Ken Setterington and illustrated by Alice Priestley (not pictured). (Second Story Press)

This picture book celebrates the diversity of family. In Mom Marries Mum!, two siblings are over the moon when they learn that their mom and mum have decided to get married. 

Mom Marries Mum! is for ages 0-3.

Ken Setterington is a writer, storyteller, children’s book reviewer and librarian from Toronto. His other children’s books include Mom and Mum are Getting Married and Branded by the Pink Triangle.

Alice Priestley is an artist and illustrator from Toronto. She has illustrated several children’s books, including Rainbows in the Dark by Jan Coates, Winning the Girl of the Sea by Brenda Silsbe and Lights for Gita by Rachna Gilmore. 

A composite photo of a book cover, featuring the word HOTLINE repeated in loud colours and the book's author, a man whit short hair and glasses looking straight at the camera.
Hotline is a novel by Dimitri Nasrallah. (Esplanade Books, Bruno Destombes)

Hotline is a story about the sacrifices and strength of an immigrant mother. When Muna Heddad and her son moved to Montreal in 1986, her goal was to find a job quickly so that she could earn money and raise her family. In the new country, the only work Muna could find is at a weight-loss center as a hotline operator, where she takes calls from different people who share stories about their personal lives.  Even as her daily life in Canada is filled with invisible barriers at every turn, Muna has access to her clients’ deepest secrets at work. 

Hotline was championed by bhangra dancer and educator Gurdeep Pandher on Canada Reads 2023.

Dimitri Nasrallah is an editor and writer from Montreal. He is also the author of the novels The Bleeds, Niko and Blackbodying

LISTEN | Dimitri Nasrallah discusses Hotline:

The Next Chapter17:43Dimitri Nasrallah on Hotline

Ryan B. Patrick interviews Dimitri Nasrallah on his Canada Reads 2023 contender, Hotline.

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