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A historical and cultural exploration of the devastating consequences of undervaluing those who conduct the “women’s work” of childcare and housekeeping
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.
About the Author
Elizabeth Cummins Muñoz holds a doctorate in 20th-century Latin American literature, specializing in Mexican and US Hispanic studies and women’s studies. She is a lecturer at Rice University and lives in Houston, TX, with her family.
“Muñoz lays bare how essential motherhood is to the functioning global economy. Especially in the wake of the pandemic’s massive disruptions to work and childcare, Mothercoin is an affecting, essential read.”
—Booklist, Starred Review
“This is a necessary and long-overdue examination of motherhood, immigration, class, 'women’s work' and who performs it – and the consequences of the lack of value we put upon them all.”
“Muñoz offers valuable insights on a thorny social issue. Feminists and immigrant rights activists will savor this thought-provoking cultural analysis.”
“A sensitive investigation of the lives and work of immigrant nannies . . . A perceptive look into a hidden world.”
“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 US. 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?