7 Texas Novels About Mother-Daughter Relationships

From Electric Lit:

I’m going to admit something to all y’all: the best thing that has ever happened to me—becoming a mother—is also the absolute worst. When my daughter was born, I was unprepared for the overwhelming scope of motherhood, the endless fulfilling of needs, the simultaneous busy-ness and boredom, the crushing psychic pressure of being responsible for a new human being, and the stretch-marks that blessed my ever-expanding heart. I resented her and I adored her. My precious girl.

Undoubtedly, mother-daughter relationships are as varied in the Lone Star state as anywhere else on the planet, but in my experience, Texas moms are tough. Maybe because we have to be; a recent survey ranked Texas as one of the worst states for women in terms of economy and well-being, which is certainly nothing new. 

Texas mothers—like the land itself—can be flinty and intense, tempestuous and severe, even as we protect, nurture, and defend our babies. I’m fascinated by the varied ways the women in my life have approached motherhood, and how rarely they match the idealized depictions we grew up with on TV. Perhaps that’s why I prefer to write—and read—about strong women and their complicated, imperfect familial relationships. My latest, The Young of Other Animals, tells the story of Mayree and her daughter, Paula, whose tense proximity has grown more fraught following the death of Mayree’s husband. When Paula narrowly survives a violent assault, the two confront the shared traumas of their pasts, and attempt to save the relationship they hadn’t realized they’d lost.

Here are seven books about mothers and daughters in Texas that illuminate how we’re more likely to be one person’s shot of whiskey than everybody’s cup of tea.

. . . .

Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry

This 1975 novel set in Houston is full of crisp prose and fascinatingly flawed characters. The story is centered on Aurora Greenway, an acerbic, eccentric Houstonian widow navigating life and a complicated relationship with her imminently practical daughter, Emma. For those readers who need their characters to be likable, this one—like most of the books on this list—might not be for you. Aurora is indeed often unlikeable, but at least she isn’t uninteresting. She is the sun of her own solar system, around which other characters—her daughter, her housekeeper, her string of male suitors—orbit. But it is her daughter who understands her the best, which seems to contrast the way Aurora feels about Emma, until at the most crucial moment, it doesn’t. 

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

This light-hearted Bildungsroman tackles some heavy themes: inhabiting a human body that a mother is compelled to criticize, wanting to love and be loved, and living unabashedly alongside profound insecurities. Willowdean is a plus-sized, 16-year-old, Dolly Parton-loving Texan living with her former beauty queen mother who calls her, not insignificantly, Dumplin’. This is a positive coming-of-self story that taps right into one of Dolly’s famous quotes: “Find out who you are. And do it on purpose.”

Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird

Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, this historical fiction is absolutely spellbinding. It tells the fictionalized story of the real Cathy Williams, a former slave and the only woman to ever serve with the legendary Buffalo Soldiers. Though she was born into servitude in America, her maternal grandmother had been an African warrior queen, and, in her words, “my mama never let me forget it.” When Cathy is taken from her plantation—and her mother—by Philip Sheridan of the Union Army and recruited to work as a cook’s assistant, she recalls what her mother told her: that she was never a slave but a captive whose warrior blood destined her escape from the enemy. To survive, Cathy poses as a man, becoming an outspoken, hardworking, unbreakable soldier posted at Fort Davis in West Texas. Although Cathy and her mother are separated for most of the book, I was compelled by the strength Cathy draws from her maternal heritage and her unwavering determination to someday be reunited with her mother.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit