When writer and editor Sherisa de Groot was pregnant with her first child, she couldn’t find blogs or stories in literary magazines written by or for Black mothers. She couldn’t find stories that reflected her situation, either; she’s from Brooklyn, living in Amsterdam in an interracial marriage with multiracial kids.
“I was looking for my voice, and it wasn’t there in the ways I needed it to be,” she says. “I’m an immigrant. My mother is an immigrant, and my grandmother was an immigrant. That’s common to me, but I couldn’t find it in literature.”
Six years ago, she launched a Patreon account and founded Raising Mothers – a digital literary magazine for Black, Indigenous, and Brown mothers and nonbinary parents of color. “We share these stories, and we center ourselves in those stories to make them normalized because we don’t solely exist as a primer for trauma consumption,” de Groot says.
Tone, editorial content
De Groot sees Raising Mothers, and herself by extension, as a disruptor of literary spaces for parents of color. “We define who has a voice without conforming. We claim our space as sacred,” she says. “Raising Mothers is a living archive of our experiences existing and thriving as Black, Indigenous, and Brown parents.”
Becoming a parent is a time of redefinition, De Groot notes. She and her fellow editors look for pieces that represent every stage of parenting from marginalized authors and artists around the world. Some work explores writers’ relationships with their own mothers, as in Black British poet Danielle Ncube’s “When I Think of my Mother.” Other pieces examine the challenges of parenting, such as multi-genre writer Tonya Abari’s “Backscatter,” which begins:
“Ooooooh, girl. I don’t know how y’all parents of small children are managing all this right now. Work. Home-schooling. Loving on your boo. All your creative endeavors. There isn’t enough time in the day! Hell, I’m super stressed juggling the full-time job and two side hustles I’ve got going.”
Afro-Latina poet and writer Lisa Ventura has another pandemic-related piece titled “By 11 am” on Raising Mothers – an essay that particularly resonated with readers. It begins:
“By 11 am, I am on the verge of collapse. On any given day. I didn’t know exhaustion until I was forced to become invincible, one day to the next. “Please, give me a minute. I am not an octopus,” I yell to my eight and five-year old boys when they hurl commands at me. Attempting to catch my breath like a first-time swimmer flapping her arms, struggling to stay afloat, struggling not to drown – this is what parenting during the pandemic feels like.”
The essay speaks to parents’ experiences of exhaustion while juggling work and child care in the midst of a frightening time, de Groot explains. “She has to keep going because she has to work, and she has to somehow manage everything else, seemingly unscathed. We all deeply resonated with the urgency and the desperation in her essay.”
Asian American writer Namrata Poddar has a prose poem titled “New Motherhood, a Dictionary” at Raising Mothers. It’s a piece that de Groot describes as “incredibly beautiful. She’s defining motherhood as a spiritual, empowering, and relentlessly yielding act simultaneously, and it’s captivating.”
Colombian American writer Connie Pertuz-Meza has an essay titled “The Other Way,” a reflection on her children’s dislike of reading but their love of words. She describes learning about the types of podcasts and memes they liked and coming up with a list of movies they wanted to watch. “I discovered my son’s love of documentaries,” she writes. “Greater was his love of conversations, often talking for hours about nature and religion, he soon began to ask questions about his ancestors and the history of Colombia.”
Advice for potential contributors
De Groot and other editors would like to see more comic submissions and photojournalism pieces, as well as experimental work. “I’d love to see more flash fiction and hybrid work,” she adds. “I’d also love to hear from more communities of color; Indigenous, multiracial, adoptee and adopted, and culture essays as well.”
She suggests that potential contributors read several pieces on Raising Mothers to get a sense of tone and content. “See what work we typically lean towards and whether your work complements that,” she says. “We’re interested in reading accessible and evocative work that is on-theme or theme-adjacent written by BIPOC writers.”
She urges writers, whether they’ve been published on Raising Mothers or not, to become part of the community on the website and Instagram. “I really try to foster a sense of family,” she explains. “I was once referred to as a literary activist, and I really try to incorporate that into everything I do. Even if we didn’t accept your work, get to know us and become part of the fabric because you see yourself reflected here. Our main objective is to build a thriving literary and parenting community.”
Raising Mothers at a glance
“Celebrates and centers the experiences of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) parents.”
Reading period: Year-round; check website for themes.
Length: 750-4,000 words; 3-5 poems.
Genres: Experimental and traditional fiction, flash fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, interviews, book reviews, photo essays, novel excerpts, comic and graphic narratives.
Submission format: Online, via the publication’s website.
—Melissa Hart is the author of Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens (Sasquatch, 2019). Instagram: @writermelissahart.