A historical and cultural exploration of the devastating consequences of undervaluing those who conduct the “women’s work” of childcare and housekeeping

Product Code: 8935
ISBN: 9780807051184
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Beacon Press
Pages: 280
Published Date: 05/03/2022
Availability:In stock
Price: $26.95

In taking up the mothercoin - the work of mothering, divorced from family and exchanged in a global market - immigrant nannies embody a grave contradiction: while “women’s work” of childcare and housekeeping is relegated to the private sphere and remains largely invisible to the public world, the love and labor required to mother are fundamental to the functioning of that world. Listening to the stories of these workers reveals the devastating consequences of undervaluing this work.

As cleaners and caregivers are exported from poor regions into rich ones, they leave behind a material and emotional absence that is keenly felt by their families. On the other side of these borders, children of wealthier regions are bathed and diapered and cared for in clean homes with folded laundry and sopa de arroz simmering on the stove, while their parents work ever longer hours, and often struggle themselves with these daily separations.

In the US, many of these women’s voices are silenced by language or fear or the habit of powerlessness. But even in the shadows, immigrant nannies live full and complicated lives moved by desire and loss and anger and passion. Mothercoin sets out to tell these stories, recounting the experience of Mexican and Central American women living and working in the private homes of Houston, Texas, while also telling a larger story about global immigration, working motherhood, and the private experience of the public world we have all created.

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Park Benches


1. Motherland
2. Crossing Over


3. The Nature of the Job
4. Pregnant Complications
5. Las Patronas


6. Los Niños
7. Love and Labor
8. Telling Stories

The Brown Mother Beside Me


"Muñoz offers valuable insights on a thorny social issue. Feminists and immigrant rights activists will savor this thought-provoking cultural analysis." - Publishers Weekly

"Muñoz lays bare how essential motherhood is to the functioning global economy. Especially in the wake of the pandemic’s massive disruptions towork and childcare, Mothercoin is an affecting, essential read.” - Booklist (starred)

"Moving narratives from women working in “a largely invisible industry. Muñoz, a scholar of Latin American literature and culture, makes her book debut with a sensitive investigation of the lives and work of immigrant nannies. Identifying herself as “a native Houstonian of European ancestry” who is fluent in Spanish, the author met nannies when she took her children to a local park. Beginning in 2010, she began to interview them, and she also reached out to some of their employers. Those interviews - recorded, transcribed, translated, and edited - form the basis of the text, which Muñoz has interwoven with historical, political, and economic context…. A perceptive look into a hidden world." - Kirkus Reviews

"I found the subject of this book so essential to the understanding of female labor, its social value, and its implications in our everyday lives, that I would recommend Mothercoin as a mandatory reading for every freshman class in College in the U.S. This is an account that affects all of us, and the stories collected by the author bring forward uncomfortable questions that must be raised." - Anadeli Bencomo, Professor, Department of Hispanic Studies, University of Houston

"Beautifully written, a perfect balance between the humanity of the women portrayed in it, and the self-consciousness of the author about her own role in that context. A timely, important work, and I can't wait to see it out there, sparking conversations around one of the most important gears that keep this country running." - Eileen Truax, author of We Built the Wall, Dreamers, and How Does it Feel to be Unwanted

"Elizabeth Cummins Muñoz has taken her time with Mothercoin, a decade-long study, and the result is an artfully woven collection of women’s accounts of life in the US domestic workers’ industry that are vulnerably honest and realistically explore what mothering across class and nation requires in today’s world. The exchange of caregiving for ‘coins’ that must stretch to sustain the giver, family members near and far, and even entire countries’ economies - those that have become dependent on the women’s remittances - is one that comes with inevitable loss, sacrifice, and uncertainty. Mothercoin lyrically captures the depth of these experiences in a moving and richly educative work that is sure to attract popular and academic readers alike. This is the kind of book whose stories remain with you." - Maythee Rojas, author of Women of Color and Feminism

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