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While liberal sexuality has been integrated into contemporary discursive understandings of female possibilities, barriers remain to representing mothers as sexual beings. This essay explores maternal representations in Choi’s My Education (2013) and Sohn’s Prospect Park West (2009) that challenge cultural ideals of good motherhood and invite scrutiny of normative paths and goals of female development. These 21st-century American novels confront and even embrace active maternal sexuality but retreat at the boundary of the maternal/sexual breast to allow protagonists in contemporary alterations of female stories of development to achieve maturity through acceptance of the ideal of good motherhood .Each novel presents narratives of female development for young women of fluid desires that culminate in motherhood and heterosexual pairings, thus relegating variable sexuality and “improper” desires to phases of youth to be outgrown. Yet, implausible, rushed resolutions and lingering questions at the conclusions of each novel keep alive the challenge of imagining the possibility of alternative maternal identities and sexualities. Reading the novels in this way recognizes a potential queering of the female story of development and of the attendant normative ideological structures it maintains.


This is the author's accepted manuscript of an article originally published in Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, available at



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