The Longest Shortest Time

EPISODE #192: The Political Power of Black Motherhood

There are a lot of books out there these days about motherhood. They’ll often focus on the personalstories about how parenthood can interfere with your sex life or career track. These are real parts of parenting. But parenting is about something bigger, too.

Our guest Dani McClain just wrote a book about how race and power can shape one’s experience of motherhood. It’s called We Live for the We: The Political Power of Black Motherhood.

Tune in to hear Dani’s stories from growing up with a single mom and tennis-loving aunt, navigating her pregnancy as a reporter on reproductive health, and how her ideals inform how she raises her own young daughter.

Aunt Pam with Dani and her cousins

Aunt Pam taking Dani skiing with the National Brotherhood Of Skiers

The Politics of Mothering Reading List

If you’re feeling inspired by our conversation with Dani, we can’t say enough nice things about her book. But where can you keep your education into political mothering going? As a special treat for LST listeners, Dani has compiled this list of authors who inspired her as a mother and as a writer.

Five Books That Inspire Me as a Mother
from Dani McClain

Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines
This anthology is filled with perspectives that are often absent from the motherhood literature. I was moved by essays and poems about what it’s like to parent with chronic pain, the experiences of teenagers who are also parents, and how the verb “mothering” can upend our assumptions about parenting and gender.

Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America
Stacey Patton gives historical context to black families’ relationship to spanking. Reading this book clarified my thinking on how I want to address my daughter’s tantrums and reminded me that using non-violent approaches to discipline takes a lot more time and patience on the part of adults.

Something Like Beautiful: One Single Mother’s Story by asha bandeleBaby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence by Rebecca Walker
I devoured these memoirs, which was a reminder that if I wanted to read black women writing honestly about their experiences of parenting, others do as well. bandele and Walker showed me that intimate, personal books on black motherhood are necessary.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
A quotation from this book serves as my book’s epigraph: “Raising Black children — female and male — in the mouth of a racist, sexist, suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy. If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they will probably not survive.” I’m on a quest to learn how to teach my daughter how to love and resist at the same time. Also, Audre Lorde’s essay “Man Child” is a beautiful guide to how to reject patriarchal power relations in our homes.

Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman
I remember reading Michele Wallace in college and feeling like I finally understood why black women and families like mine were so often devalued and scapegoated in mainstream culture. This book helps explain why matriarchal family structures have been considered such a threat throughout American history.

Dani’s mom holding baby Isobel

All photos courtesy Dani McClain. Top photograph features Dani’s mom Andrea and her aunt Pam.