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Candice Brathwaite I Am Not Your Baby Mother

This must-read unpacks life as a black mother in modern-day Britain. I inhaled it like turkey at Christmas.

This was the quickest that I’ve ever read a book. Inhaled like turkey at Christmas, I Am Not Your Baby Mother provided me with an eye-opening experience. Since the weekend that I spent with my head buried in its pages, I cannot stop talking about it.

Candice Brathwaite observes and unpacks life as a black mother in the present day. Back in 2016, she began blogging about motherhood after the realisation that there is a significant absence of black motherhood in the British media. The wealth of magazines packed with mothers-to-be and the stacks of parental advice on blogs about which baby gear to buy blatantly misrepresent our society as a whole.

When you consider the images you do see of black mothers - if any at all - they are certainly not the care-free women, sitting breastfeeding their babies in a vegan cafe. This is where Brathwaite importantly opens up a space for the black British motherhood journey.

Published May, the book encourages mums like her to take their experience into their own hands and push back against ever-present white privilege, micro aggressions and cultural bias.

Whether it’s deciding to leave the big city out of fear that your child will be prematurely taken from you as a result of knife crime, or the conscious decision to name your baby something that won’t be perceived as ‘ghetto’, it’s the lived experience of black mothers and we can all learn from it.

As a white woman growing up in a predominantly white neighbourhood, I was oblivious to the scope of racial bias and discrimination that black people face in all aspects of life - even more so, the experience of black women and mothers.

Bursting the bubble of white privilege in my teenage years and realising my neighbourhood isn’t nearly representative of the whole of the UK, I felt ashamed of the racial naivety that I share with such a huge portion of the population.

This book has been crucial to my ongoing journey of understanding, as it has been to many others. I’ve discovered that black mothers are five times more likely to die during childbirth than their white counterparts; that children from black and ethnic minority groups are almost twice as likely to be in poverty; and that I Am Not Your Baby Mother is currently the only book on black British motherhood.

Whether you’re a black British mother who feels overlooked and unrepresented, or whether you’re doing what you can to take responsibility for your own privilege, this book simply must be read.

Extract from 'I Am Not Your Baby Mother'

Courtesy of Quercus Books

I am not your baby mother, I am the mother of your child!’ I remember hearing a faceless woman spit at an equally faceless man one day.

And now the term ‘baby mother’ isn’t just a succession of piercing words solely cast upon single black mothers, it’s become a label which is used primarily to dismantle and disable the legitimacy of black women’s version of motherhood in general. It’s used in a way to demean and perhaps unintentionally put a red mark through any ideas along the lines of assimilating black motherhood with positivity and success.

And for that reason alone, the fear of becoming a baby mother, I perhaps resisted the idea of having my own children. There are far more layers to my nonchalance towards becoming a mother, which we will unravel within the pages of this book, but as with most appropriated things, it seems that only the ones who feel strangulated by the negative stereotype at hand seem to want to do away with the respective term altogether.

I personally don’t want to reclaim the term baby mother. It can stay on the shelf, thanks. I want black women, black women who happen to be mothers, to be given space to share their multifaceted motherhood journeys irrespective of their family make-up, current financial situation or number of past lovers – with pride. I want black women to know that their version of motherhood is as righteous and as sacred as any other and deserves to be as protected as any other woman’s. I want black mothers to be able to share their worries about pregnancy, their birth stories (be they traumatic, tragic or testimonial) and beyond, because that’s what their white female counterparts have been doing for decades and, I must add, getting paid very well for.

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Candice Brathwaite will be in conversation with Désirée Reynolds on Tuesday 20 October as part of Off The Shelf Festival of Words 2020.

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