10 Memoirs About Terrible Mothers


Mother’s Day is this weekend, and what better way to celebrate our moms than by thanking our lucky stars they aren’t abusive, psychotic, or addicted to drugs? In an effort to gain some perspective on how bad our childhoods could have been, here’s a list of ten memoirs about bad moms who, despite their occasional saving graces, probably didn’t get a lot of flowers on Mother’s Day.

A Child Called “It”: One Child’s Courage to Survive, Dave Pelzer

As you can tell from the cover, this one is a bit heavy-handed, but Pelzer’s sensational and inspirational (and, well, treacly) memoir features perhaps the worst mom of all time.

Drunk Mom, Jowita Bydlowska

Bydlowska’s memoir is about her own failings as a mother as a result of her alcoholism — a self-aware look at motherhood from a parent’s perspective rather than a tell-all from the point of view of a spurned child.

The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls

Let’s give Walls’ mom credit: her husband was also terrible. This is really a memoir about a terrible dad and a terrible mom working in tandem to screw up their kids.

The Liars Club, Mary Karr

Mary Karr’s award-winning memoir chronicles her manic childhood and her relationship with her mother, seven times married, who nearly destroyed the family.

Mommie Dearest, Christina Crawford

Christina Crawford’s memoir and the movie that was based on it set the gold standard for terrible moms — even if it’s possible she exaggerated how awful Joan Crawford really was.

Oh the Glory of It All, Sean Wilsey

Sean Wilsey wrote a memoir about his wacky mom, and she proved her wackiness by publishing her own memoir as a rebuttal!

Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs

Sure, this book is mostly about how Burroughs was raised by an insane psychotherapist, but his mother did leave the kid with him.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson

Winterson’s mom, a religious zealot who did not quite accept her daughter’s sexuality, became a spectre who haunted her throughout her adult life.

Will There Really Be a Morning?, Frances Farmer

The complicated relationship between actress Frances Farmer and her mother, who both refused to accept her mental illness as well as having her committed, is the subject of this now out-of-print memoir.

With or Without You, Domenica Ruta

Ruta’s mother, while encouraging her to read great books and watch interesting films, probably could have done so over the weekend rather than keeping her daughter home from school to watch The Godfather. But, she was a drug addict and dealer, so…