1st Edition

An Autoethnography of African American Motherhood Things I Tell My Daughter

By Renata Harden Ferdinand Copyright 2022
    164 Pages
    by Routledge

    164 Pages
    by Routledge

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    This is the first full-length explicitly identified autoethnographic text on African American motherhood. It shows the lived experiences of Black motherhood, when mothering is shaped by race, gender, and class, and mothers must navigate not only their own, but also their children's positions in society.

    Ferdinand takes an intimate look at her mothering strategies spanning ten years (from 2007 to 2017), preparing her daughter to traverse a racist and sexist society. It is a multi-generational text that blends the author’s experience with that of her own mother, grandmother, and her daughter, to engage in a larger discussion of African American/Black mother/womanhood. It is grounded within Black Feminist Theory, which centers the experiences of Black women within the domains of intersecting oppressions. It is from a very personal position that Ferdinand provides a glimpse into the minutiae of mothering that reveal the everyday intricacies of Black women as mothers. It highlights specific strategies Black mothers use to combat discrimination and oppression, from teaching their children about the n-word to choosing positive representations of Black identity in movies, books, dolls, daycares, elementary schools, and even extra-curricular activities. It shows the impact that stereotypical manifestations of Black femininity have on Black women’s experience of motherhood, and how this affects Black women and girls' understanding of themselves, especially their skin color, body shape, and hair texture.

    As an interdisciplinary text, this book will be reading for academics and students in a broad range of fields, including Education, African American Studies, Communication Studies, Women Studies, Psychology and Health Studies. It is also a handbook of lived experience for Black mothers, grandmothers, and daughters, and for all mothers, grandmothers, and daughters irrespective of color.


    1. Introduction
    2. Black Girl Expectations
    3. Book Learnings
    4. Strikethrough
    5. Who’s Your Mother?
    6. Crazy Aunts
    7. Puberty and Other Struggles
    8. Reflections


    Renata Harden Ferdinand is currently Acting Chair of the Department of African American Studies at New York City College of Technology, USA. She is the recipient of the 2018 Ellis-Bochner Autoethnography and Personal Narrative Research Award from The Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (SSSI), affiliate of the National Communication Association, for best published essay.

    "The very crux of the matter—the bone, the breadth, the soul of Ferdinand’s book— is that every Black woman is part of the great tapestry of stories that existed before her. That we must, without question, learn and relearn ourselves by having a simultaneous, multi-generational conversation with the Black women who raised us, those who inspired us, those who have hurt us, and those we seek to love and nurture. Renata Ferdinand’s Things I Tell My Daughter is a brilliantly written, joyful and humorous endeavor—one that reimagines, unapologetically, the power of having a "dangerous Black body" that knows its worth. It is masterfully done. Quite simply, it is the book that we need right now."

    Monique Ferrell is an award-winning writer, whose work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and received honors from the Black Caucus of The American Library Association (BCALA).