This month, MAR explores the theme of Reproductive Justice. As mothers, caregivers, or birthing people, it’s our responsibility to examine the narratives around our reproductive rights and body autonomy and to lean into our intuitive knowledge of our bodies. We must teach our children these topics in a way that empowers them to love, protect, and honour their bodies. Learning our collective reproductive rights is important as is assessing our differing personal experiences in pregnancy, birth, IVF, postpartum care, and the many other ways the most intimate healthcare is withheld or granted depending on privilege.
This month’s book list has been compiled as a group effort by our MAR volunteers and addresses themes of Reproductive Justice, body autonomy, consent, abortion, IVF, birth and birthing, family composition, and feminism (not just white feminism). Here are 25+ titles ranging from children's board books to Adult non-fiction relating to Reproductive Justice that you can add to your library today.
"...as a birth worker focused on anti-racism and de-colonized modes of practice, it is necessary for her and everyone in her industry to be radical advocates. Her job is to guide her clients to a sovereign experience in a system that is designed to subordinate."
MAR Recommends: 25 Books on Reproductive Justice.
This intro is written as a takeover for the wonderful MAR blogger and teacher-librarian, Catilin Baker, as she takes a short leave to welcome her third child. I, Becky Leyva, MAR Blogger, write this post as a white woman who experienced a safe and carefree path to the birth of my children. As with most experiences as a cis white woman; my voice was heard, my body autonomy respected, and I had choice and power in the decisions that I made in my pregnancy and birth. In learning about the vastly different and often dangerous experiences of many marginalized birthing people, I began to consider what reproductive justice means through the lens of anti-racism and how vulnerable populations are affected by systemically racist and patriarchal systems, and white supremacist ideology when it comes to reproductive rights.
To learn a little more about modern birth work as it relates to reproductive justice, I spoke to my friend and full-spectrum doula, Carissa Reed. Carissa helped me to understand some issues that are affecting birthing people, especially Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour. Carissa shared that as a birth worker focused on anti-racism and de-colonized modes of practice, it is necessary for her and everyone in her industry to be radical advocates. Her job is to guide her clients to a sovereign experience in a system that is designed to subordinate.
She shared some history on Black midwives in the 1800s who expertly birthed not only babies in their enslaved communities but also those of their white slave owners. When the medical institution became a profitable one, there was a smear campaign enacted against them, decimating their livelihoods. We also discussed the coercion, abuse, and sterilization that takes place today in Canada against Indigenous mothers and the colonial mindset around making Indigenous birthing practices illegal and enforcing medical systems that are biased and dangerous.
As with most of the topics I research in order to blog on, this one has me steeped in realizations of the depth of my privilege and the ways in which colonization, industry, and capitalism affect us. One actionable conclusion I always return to is teaching ourselves in order to teach our kids. Learning about the myriad of ways in which reproductive rights are withheld will help us to fight for equity on a more focused scale. I encourage you to challenge the systems that are designed to give inequitable care and look at the ways in which reproductive issues are still following a colonized and white supremacist structure. Please use some of these books on this month’s list to teach your children about their own body autonomy and rights and learn about the ways in which other cultures approach pregnancy, birth and all that reproduction encompass.
*This month's list includes several titles by white authors. These books are denoted with an asterisk (*) in the title.
**We always recommend pre-reading books prior to reading them with, or giving them to, your children. This month, due to the sensitive and sometimes traumatic content of the books - especially at the middle grade and young adult level - we strongly suggest you review them first to ensure they are appropriate for your child and that you are prepared for the discussions that could follow.
Board Books, Babies, Preschool
Global Babies by Global Fund for Children
"Appealing photos of babies from seventeen cultures around the globe are woven together by simple narration. Global Babies presents children in cultural context. Diverse settings highlight specific differences in clothing, daily life, and traditions, as well as demonstrate that babies around the world are nurtured by the love, caring, and joy that surround them." -Goodreads Review
Kiss by Kiss / Ocêtôwina A Counting Book for Families by Richard Van Camp
"One kiss, two kiss, three kiss, four! So many kisses and so many more. From bestselling author Richard Van Camp comes a delightful counting book that honors families and can be used to praise your little ones as they learn to count. Ten kisses from your sweet baby might not be enough to get you through this adorable book, so you'll just have to read it over and over!" - Strong Nation Review
Hug? by Charlene Chua
"How many hugs is too many? This girl's had enough! This humorous picture book explores compassion and the importance of setting boundaries. After coughing up a hairball, a girl's cat doesn't feel well. So the girl offers to give her cat a hug, which makes the cat --- and the girl --- feel better. A dog notices and asks for a hug, too. Then some ducks come along asking for hugs. And a skunk . . . and a bear --- and a porcupine! One animal after another comes asking the girl for a hug until she's simply had enough. How much more of this can she take? With spare text and wonderfully expressive illustrations, Charlene Chua has created a playful, funny picture book with an original premise...” -Goodreads Review
*Tell Me Again About the Night I was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis
“...Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born is a special celebration of the love and joy an adopted child creates for a family.
In asking her parents to tell her again about the night of her birth, a young girl relives a cherished tale she knows by heart. Focusing on the significance of family and love, this a unique and beautiful story about adoption and the importance of a loving family.
A beautiful adoption story, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born also speaks to the universal childhood desire to know more about the excitement, awe, love, and sleeplessness that a new baby brings to a family.
Tell me again about the night I was born.
Tell me again how you would adopt me and be my parents.
Tell me again about the first time you held me in your arms.” - Goodreads Review
* Love Makes A Family by Sophie Beer
This minimally worded and vibrantly illustrated board book depicts a diverse range of loving families spending time enjoying each other’s company. We see two mothers tucking their children up for the night, a dad playing tea parties with his daughter in a tree house, and two fathers bathing their kids. An older carer (possibly a grandparent) celebrates alongside the children at a birthday party. Dual-heritage families are also featured, as well as a variety of different races and nationalities. -Little Parachutes Review
"For decades, “scooping up” (taking) Indigenous children from their families for placement in foster homes or adoption, was commonplace. This is the story of one of those 20,000 children." -Goodreads Review
Your Mama by NoNieqa Ramos
"Using a vibrant tattoo motif, colorful, joy-infused artwork, and playful, melodic words, Ramos and Alcántara’s winning picture book celebrates motherhood at its most inspirational. A child and a mother—both with brown skin, long, wavy black hair, and long, bold limbs—spend their days baking and playing, picnicking and protesting, going to the library and taking road trips. It starts with a honeyed bang: “Your Mama So Sweet, She Could Be a Bakery,” spelled out on a ribbon that could adorn a sailor’s arm as narration in regular type expands on this. Each subsequent double-page spread echoes these words (“Your Mama…”), highlighting how this mom’s “so strong,” “so forgiving,” and “so woke.” Notably, readers see a mom that stands alone, strong and defiant, as she walks into her child’s Parent Night at school and strolls through a neighborhood full of friends and passersby. Ramos conjures jubilant scene after scene with deft language and sprinkles of Spanish, and this tale’s more sublime moments (“Your Mama a Brainiac—mo’ betta than any app”) simply shine. Similarly, Alcántara’s art represents motherhood as a model of ideals and mind spun for modern times, both indebted to and limited by the specific type of mother of color depicted here. Overall, it’s a celebration that’s invaluable and needed." - Kirkus Review
Don't Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller
Aria is an African-American girl who’s proud of her show stopping hair “that grows up toward the sun like a flower.” But people keep confusing admiration with acquiescence: strangers, she laments, “are so curious about my hair that they try to touch it without even asking for permission!” It feels like the entire universe has lost its sense of boundaries. In a series of wonderfully expressive, humorous cartoons that mix full-page and spot art, Aria imagines encountering underwater creatures, forest animals, and even aliens who reach for her curls while cooing, “How do you get it so big?” She contemplates hiding; she loses her temper (“That’s it. That’s enough. DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR!”). Then she resolves to set limits, and, in speaking up for herself, she begins to feel free, respected, and in charge of her own body again. Storytelling by Miller (Princess Hair) is frank, funny, and revelatory, with a beleaguered but never beaten protagonist with whom readers will instantly connect. And her book embraces audiences of all backgrounds, nudging them, in different ways, to a new level of understanding. - Publishers Weekly
*When Aidan Became A Brother by Kyle Lukoff
"When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl's room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of life that didn't fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life. Then Mom and Dad announce that they're going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning--from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does "making things right" actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.
When Aidan Became a Brother is a heartwarming book that will resonate with transgender children, reassure any child concerned about becoming an older sibling, and celebrate the many transitions a family can experience." -Goodreads Review
*We Listen to Our Bodies by Lydia Bowers
"Body awareness is a key foundation of consent. We Listen to Our Bodies gives children a vocabulary to understand and communicate their feelings, develop personal boundaries, and build their social and emotional skills.
Through body awareness and recognizing how emotions physically manifest, young children can listen to their bodies for clues about how they’re feeling. Their bodies might feel shaky when worried or like one big sigh when calm and relaxed. By recognizing that physical sensations are trying to communicate something, children can understand when they feel unsafe, calm, or in need of healthy touch.
We Listen to Our Bodies follows Deja and her preschool classmates as they learn to build emotional self-awareness by listening to the physical cues of their bodies. Using the book as a read-aloud, educators and families can model the language Deja’s teachers use to support children as they learn body awareness. The author, who hosts workshops and trainings on teaching consent for families and early childhood educators around the country, offers additional activities in the back of the book." - Goodreads Review.
by Sonya Renee Taylor
"Puberty comes with a lot of changes. Celebrate Your Body (And Its Changes, Too!) will help girls understand (and love) their bodies now and as they continue to grow.
For many girls, puberty can be an uncertain time. Celebrate Your Body (And Its Changes, Too!) includes everything girls need to know about breasts and bras, their period, hair here and there, feelings and friends, and so much more. This book will guide them as they learn about (and celebrate) their amazing, changing, one-of-a-kind bodies—during puberty and beyond!
Among puberty books for girls, Celebrate Your Body offers encouraging support while answering real questions that girls have about puberty. Positive, judgment-free, and medically accurate, this book discusses puberty in a way to which young girls can relate.
Celebrate Your Body offers essential insight such as:
An overview of puberty that explains what happens, when it happens, and how she’ll know Explanations of changes in body, mood, and relationships—and how to confidently approach these changes that occur in puberty Practical advice for navigating new situations during puberty—from understanding growth spurts to managing overwhelming emotions to staying safe on social media.
Complete with current, accessible medical information, Celebrate Your Body offers a fresh take on this whole “puberty” thing that will leave girls feeling informed, empowered, and ready for the changes that lie ahead." - Goodreads review
The Moon Within by Aida Salazar
"Eleven-year-old Celi, mixed black–Puerto Rican–Mexican, dreads the imminent arrival of her period, less because of the menstruation itself and more because her mother insists that Celi have a “moon ceremony,” in which the members of her mother’s “women’s circle” will mark the transition from childhood to womanhood. Meanwhile, her best friend is going through a different transition—from girl to xochihuah, “neither / female nor male but both.” While Celi is initially shocked by the adjustment, she loves Mar, as her best friend now prefers to be known, no less. But when other kids, including her crush, Iván, say cruel things about Mar, Celi is torn between the possibility of a first kiss and loyalty to her friend. Salazar’s verse novel is sensitive and fresh, featuring modern interpretations of pre-Columbian coming-of-age traditions that arise organically from the characters. Mar’s heritage is Mexican, and Iván is mixed, black and Mexican; Celi and Mar’s participation in a Puerto Rican performance group and their mothers’ shared, deeply felt Xicana identity allow Salazar to naturally explore cultural nuances not often seen in middle-grade fiction. Genderfluid Mar takes both that name and the masculine pronoun midway through the book, and Celi’s narration adjusts accordingly even if some of their peers’ attitudes do not." - Kirkus Reviews