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The Female Gaze Project: Mothers and Daughters

Hello lovelies! How are you? I hope you’ve had a lovely Easter! I spent mine with my whole family at our mountain cabin, mostly skiing and reading, which was a lovely little break from social media. But I’m really excited to get back into blogging and catch up with everyone! I’m also really excited about today’s post, cause it’s part of something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I’ve been calling it the female gaze project in my head and basically, the plan is to engage with and highlight stories about women, created by women in a series of blog posts.

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If you’re not familiar with the term the male gaze, this is what Wikipedia has to say:

“In feminist theory, the male gaze is the act of depicting women and the world, in the visual arts and in literature, from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer”

So in these post I’m going to be talking about stories (books, shows, movies etc.) that do the opposite of that. Stories written or created by women. Stories that explore a variety of themes from a female perspective. The first theme is mothers and daughters, because that seemed like very natural place to start.

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BOOKS

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway

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Far From the Tree is the story of three biological siblings, Gracie, Maya and Juaquin, who were all given up for adoption by their birth mother and only reconnect as teens.
Gracie’s story is the most relevant to this theme, since she has just become a mother herself and chosen to give her daughter up for adoption.The emotional aftermath of that decision is shown with a lot of honesty and feeling.
But the theme of motherhood is also explored through the three siblings’ complicated relationships with their respective adopted/foster moms, and their shifting feelings towards the biological mother who gave them up.

I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This by Nadja Spiegelman

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When I’m pushing this book on people I like to call it an “edgy, real life Gilmore Girls set in Paris” and I’m not wrong.
Nadja Spiegelman is the daughter of Maus-author Art Spiegelman and The New Yorker editor Françoise Mouly. Her debut book is a memoir about mothers and daughters, which is extra interesting considering her father most famous work Maus is centered around his relationship with his father. The opening lines give you a great glimpse at Nadja’s relationship with her mother: 

When I was a child, I knew that my mother was a fairy. Not the kind of fairy with gauzy wings and a magic wand, but one with a thrift-store fur coat and ink-stained fingers. There was nothing she couldn’t do.

Spiegelman also explores her mother and grandmother’s fraught relationship and chronicles her own attempts at navigating their conflicting stories with so much honesty and empathy. I’m not a big reader of memoirs, but I found this one enthralling. I was completely immersed in the lives of these formidable women. 

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

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Ingrid and Astrid are one of the most fascinating mother-daughter duo’s in fiction. Ingrid, the mother, is a poet who’s incarcerated for killing her lover, and Astrid, the daughter, is coming of age while being sent from foster home to foster home. Their relationship is very manipulative. It’s built on lies and myths, passed down from Ingrid to Astrid, but also conjured in Astrid’s mind where her mother becomes at times an unstoppable, untamable force – a viking goddess of death and beauty. There’s nothing healthy about their dynamic, but that’s what makes it so compelling to read about.
I’ve rarely, if ever, read a book with such a wide range of female characters. There’s Ingrid and Astrid of course, but there’s also all the different maternal figures Astrid meet in her different foster homes. Some more nurturing than others. It’s a breath of fresh air to read a book that centers the female experience and women’s relationships with each other so completely.


Here We Are Now
by Jasmine Warga

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At first glance you might think this is a book about fathers and daughters and you wouldn’t be wrong. It does follows the protagonist, Taliah, as she goes on a trip with the rockstar father she’s never known, to meet her paternal grandfather before he passes away. But while Taliah’s spending her time reconnecting with her father, the reader gets to spend an equal amount of time connecting with her mother. The story’s split into two separate narratives and timelines, one follows Taliah on her roadtrip, the other follows her mother on an even bigger journey, as she emigrates from Jordan to the US to study and meets Talliah’s father for the first time. I absolutely loved the way this story was told, it was so interesting to see Taliah’s parents meet and fall in love, knowing how their story turned out and seeing the parallels between mother and daughter at similar moments in their lives was lovely.

The Invisible Mountain by Carolina De Robertis

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This beautiful and heartbreaking family saga from Uruguay is the real definition of a hidden gem.
It follows three generations of wonderful women from one fascinating family during pivotal moments in their lives. We see them grow up, find their voices, fall in love and make the choices that will shape their destinies and change their lives. Each woman has her own section, which all have their uniquely distinct flavors: there’s the almost mythical tale of the mysterious Pajarita; her daughter Eva’s passionate pursuit of love and poetry and the thrilling tale of her granddaughter Salomé’s political involvement amid the violent turmoil of the late 1960s. I have a hard time getting invested in family sagas, cause I get too attached to characters and struggle with the shifts between generations. But in this book? I love all three women equally and found their stories equally engaging.

TV & MOVIES

Gilmore Girls

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Name a more iconic mother-daughter duo. I’ll wait… Gilmore Girls means a lot to me, for a lot of reasons. I grew up watching (and rewatching) it with my mom and our love for the show has become a natural part of our relationship. We quote the show (Oy, with the poodles already), text each other gifs, discuss our favorite boyfriends and rewatch our favorite episodes all the time. Since my mom’s always been my best friend and we do pretty much everything together – I find Lorelai and Rory’s super strong bond very relatable.

Ladybird

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Miles from the idyllic symbiosis of the Gilmore Girls, Ladybird is a nuanced and realistic exploration of a conflicted mother-daughter relationship. Ladybird and her mother mean well, most of the time, and seem to genuinely love and care about each other. Their inability to express their love in a tangible way, which is captures in the movies most poignant moments, creates a barrier they can’t seem to break through.

Freaky Friday

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Freaky Friday offers another conflicted mother-daughter relationship, but in a much more light hearted and fun filled packaging. Tess and Anna are arguing during a family dinner at a Chinese restaurant, then they eat a magical fortune cookie and switch bodies for a day, as one does. Having to juggle each others busy lives leads to lots of awkward moments and of course, new found understanding and insight. It’s cheesy and silly, but so fun. Plus, it’s peak Lindsay Lohan. So much nostalgia!

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What’s your favorite stories about mothers and daughters?

If any of you guys want to participate, whether it’s by reading books or watching movies created by women, sharing your recommendations in the comments or writing your own post – you’re more than welcome to. It would be lovely if this little celebration of female voices to be bigger than just me and I’d love to hear your thoughts and perspectives!

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44 thoughts on “The Female Gaze Project: Mothers and Daughters

  1. What a great idea for a series! I haven’t read any of these books but I added The Invisible Mountain to my TBR after you mentioned it to me recently, and I’d really like to pick that one up soon. I’m trying to think of other mother/daughter books… I’d also add The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See and maybe The Madonna of the Mountains by Elise Valmorbida.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I realized when I was writing this post how few mother/daughter books I’ve actually read, so I’ll definitley add both of those to my TBR. Thanks for the recommendations! And I hope you’ll enjoy The Invisible Mountain!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahh I love this so much! I keep meaning to try White Oleander and The Invisible Mountain sounds wonderful.

    When I was younger I really enjoyed Elizabeth Noble’s Things I Want My Daughters to Know, about a woman with four daughters who passes away and the letters she leaves them to help them with the problems in their lives. I think my favourite depiction of motherhood, and a mother/daughter relationship, is in N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. It’s a post-apocalyptic fantasy series and it’s so dark, but the character work and Jemisin’s exploration of motherhood and how parents accidentally pass their traumas on to their children is fantastic.

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    1. Thank you so much! I can’t recommend those two enough.

      Oh, that sounds so fascinating! I’m really interested in reading more SFF books that explores motherhood, so I’ll definitley make that one a priority. Thanks for the recommendation!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this idea!
    I liked the mother-daughter relationships in Far From the Tree too – it was so refreshing to read a book in which the heart was about family relationships and how complex and varied they can be. Other books I loved that featured a developed mother-daughter relationship were Dear Haiti, Love Alaine (it was my favorite part in that book) and In the Vanishers’ Palace (multiple mother-daughter relationships, and a variety of PoVs on that!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!
      That’s so true, we need more YA books where family relationships are the main focus. I’m so, so excited to read Dear Haiti, Love Alaine (mostly because of the mother-daughter dynamic and setting) and this makes me want to pick up Vainsher’s Palace sooner. It seems to feature a lot of my favorite themes!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ahh what a wonderful post, I love it so much ❤ I loved Far From The Tree so much, such an underrated book deserving so much love, the siblings and mother daughter relationship were amazing ❤ ❤ and Gilmore Girls! I love this show SO much, I want to re-watch it right now 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh wow, I love this new project and I loved this post! I’ve only read Far From the Tree out of the books you talked about and it was such an amazing read that made me feel all the feels.
    I love that you chose mothers and daughters as the first topic. One recent book I read that had an atypical relationship (or non-relationship) between mother and daughter is The Weight of the Stars. It gave me lots to think about and me wonder why my first reaction was to call the mother selfish, whether she actually is, or whether she’s simply a much different person than I am.
    Now I really want to check out some of the books and shows/movies you talked about!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thank you so much! I’m so happy you enjoyed reading this post!
      I loved The Wicker King, so I was already really looking forward to reading The Weight of the Stars and you just made me even more excited to pick it up. I love any book that explores relationships between women, especially complicated ones – so this mother-daughter dynamic sounds super interesting to me!
      I hope you’ll enjoy! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this new feature! I’m definitely checking out I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This. I also love that you included Freaky Friday. It’s easy to forget, being a teen movie, but it really is a poignant story about a mother/daughter relationship. I can’t wait for the next installment of this series!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love this idea, and I can’t wait to see what else you post surrounding it! It’s so rare, too, to see parents in any kind of story nowadays, so I’m definitely checking out a bunch of these.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ah lovely project and lovely topic Aurora! I’ve always wanted to read White Oleander and need to get round to that still. Worryingly I can’t think of any books that come to mind with mother/ daughter relationships – well I can but it’s Little Women so it’s a classic rather than contemporary. I can’t think of any contemporary or anything I’ve read recently and that worries me actually that there are so few mother/ daughter relationships explored in fiction.

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  9. I love the idea of Female Gaze ❤ And I can't wait for more of these posts from you!!

    I haven't read any of the books you mentioned but I absolutely LOVE Gilmore girls ❤ ❤

    For the life of me I can't think of a strong mother daughter relationship in a book. 😦 I think that goes to show we need a lot more of them!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thank you so much! That makes me so happy 😊

      I had a really hard time coming up with books for this post, so I definitley agree! We need more mother-daughter relationships in books. The Gilmore Girls are the best ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  10. This is such a good idea, I’m looking forward to the other posts! Really curious about some of the books listed here.

    Lady Bird is wonderful! And Freaky Friday, omg, I watched that movie SO MUCH as a kid.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I really love the idea behind The Female Gaze Project!! ❤ All the recommendations sound super interesting; I'm especially excited for Ladybird and I'm Supposed To Protect You From This. They sound very realistic, complicated and heartfelt. The theme of mothers & daughters is incredibly fascinating and complex and I'm so glad that you choose to talk about that topic! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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