The global landscape is dotted with border crossings that can be particularly perilous for displaced women with children in tow. These mothers are often described by their various legal statuses like refugee, migrant, immigrant, forced, or voluntary, but their lived experiences are more complex than a single label. Reclaiming Migrant Motherhood looks at literature, film, and original ethnographic research about the lived experiences of displaced mothers. This volume considers the context of the global refugee crisis, forced migration, and resettlement as backdrops for the representations and identity development of displaced women who mother.
Situated within motherhood studies, this book is at the interdisciplinary intersection of literature, life writing, gender, (im)migration, refugee, and cultural studies. Contributors examine literary fiction, memoirs, and children’s literature by Ocean Vuong, Nadifa Mohamed, Laila Halaby, Susan Muaddi Darraj, Terry Farish, Thannha Lai, Bich Minh Nguyen, Julie Otsuka, V. V. Ganeshananthan, Shankari Chandran, and Mary Anne Mohanraj. The book also explores ethnographic research, creative writing, and film related to refugee studies. The border-crossings discussed in the volume are often physical, with stories from Afghanistan, Syria, Vietnam, Japan, Iraq, Canada, Greece, Somalia, Palestine, Sri Lanka, and America. The borders that displaced mothers face are examined through frameworks of postcolonialism, nationalism, feminism, and diaspora studies.
Maria D. Lombard is assistant professor in residence at Northwestern University in Qatar.
Introduction: Displaced Mothers and the Borders They Must Cross, Maria D. Lombard
Part One: Representations of Displacement
Chapter One: “We were born from beauty”: Motherly Aesthetics and Poetics of Displacement in Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Quynh H. Vo
Chapter Two: Domesticating Displacement, Encounters with Refugee Mothers, Adrianne Kalfopoulou
Chapter Three: Tracing the Impacts of War in Nadifa Mohamed’s The Orchard of Lost Souls, Alison Graham Bertolini
Chapter Four: Writing about My Mother: Representations of Alliances between Mothers and Daughters in Young Adult (YA) Refugee Literature, Stella Mililli
Chapter Five: The Ghost Mother in Two Vietnamese American Refugee Novels: A Critical Refugee Analysis, Janet J. Graham
Part Two: Constructions of Identity and Belonging
Chapter Six: Embroidering Intergenerational Threads of a Roza: Stitching Together Women’s Stories and Solidarity in the Fabric of Diasporic Arab American Fiction, Leila Moayeri Pazargadi
Chapter Seven: Mothering on Enemy Land: An Analysis of Japanese Picture Brides’ Motherhood in Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic, Kaori Mori Want
Chapter Eight: Guiding, Shaping and Resisting: Refugee Mothers’ Educational Strategies as They Navigate ‘Unsettlement’, Lucy Hunt
Chapter Nine: Iraqi Mothers, Diasporic Sons: Narrative Patterns of Identity and Belonging in Baghdad Twist, Lamees Al Ethari
Chapter Ten: (Un)Inhabitable ‘Homes’ for Mothers and Daughters: The Transmission of Memories of ‘Home’ in Sri Lankan Tamil Diasporic Women’s Writing, Sabreena Niles
This interdisciplinary collection offers timely insight into migrant mothers’ community practices, identity construction, and savvy intergenerational care work. Its ethnographic, narrative, and critical approaches reframe migrant mothers’ decisions as agentive processes that are as complex as they are a pleasure to read.