March 2024 Book Tour

No Perfect Mothers [A Novel] 

by Karen Spears Zacharias 

March 2024 — Historical Fiction 

9780881469196 • $25.00 • Hardback • MUP/H1042 • 256 pages • 5.5 x 8.5 

9780881469226 • $20.00 • e-book 

Macon, Georgia—”From a century-old knot of injustice, Karen Spears Zacharias pulls a thread of story that speaks to injustice  now,” says Kim Stafford, author of As the Sky Begins to Change. “No Perfect Mothers joins a true story richly imagined  to both local kin and the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that dealt misery to thousands. But it is the immediate tale of Carrie’s  struggle for dignity that will catch you. How can a girl child, judged and wronged, deprived of all she loves, ultimately prevail? She  can wait for this book, as this book now waits for you.” 

There is much about her hometown that Carrie Buck loves: Venable Elementary where she first learned to read; Starr Hill  because that’s where Miss Mora lives; Chancellor’s Drugstore where she sometimes gets a free cola; and Anderson’s Bookstore  where a girl can look through all the books she likes.  

While 1920s Charlottesville, Virginia, is a charming place to grow up, there’s one thing Carrie doesn’t like about her  hometown—her home. Abandoned by her father and taken from her mother, Carrie is put up for fostering as a toddler. A silent  child, her foster parents regard her as slow. She feels no obligation to correct them. At age ten, Carrie is forced to leave school to  work as a domestic. Carrie’s lone ally, Miss Mora, a Scottish immigrant, is hindered by racial barriers from being the helper Carrie  so desperately needs. But when Carrie turns up pregnant at seventeen, it is Miss Mora, Charlottesville’s most competent midwife,  who she turns to.  

Fearing their nephew’s assault of Carrie will be discovered, Carrie’s foster parents fraudulently commit her to the Virginia  Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. They claim custody of her infant daughter. Dr. Priddy, the colony’s superintendent,  deceptively labels Carrie an imbecile, unfit to bear children. In pursuit of a legal argument granting states the right to forcibly  sterilize individuals, he exploits her.  

No Perfect Mothers explores characters, historical and imagined, who over the late 1800s to the 1920s were parties to the  infamous Buck v. Bell U.S. Supreme Court case of 1927. Here, Carrie is given back what was denied her by the Court and by  society some 100 years ago—her own voice and personhood.  

Mercer University Press, established in 1979, has published more than 1,700 books in the genres of  Southern Studies, Biography & Memoir, Fiction, Poetry, History, Civil War History, African American  Studies, Appalachian Studies, Religion, Biblical Studies, and Philosophy. Publishing authors from  across the United States and abroad, Mercer University Press focuses on topics related to the culture  of the South. The reputation of the Press significantly enhances the academic environment of Mercer  University and carries the name of Mercer and Macon, Georgia, throughout the world.

Advance Praise

“In No Perfect Mothers, Karen Spears Zacharias makes sure that the story of Carrie Buck doesn’t disappear behind the details of  the evil forces that converged to bring about her wrongful sterilization, a procedure some called the ‘Mississippi appendectomy.’ In  heartfelt and carefully rendered prose, Zacharias imagines the life a woman whose name is often only thought of within the confines  of a famous legal case related to the eugenics movement. This is a book for our times, since it is hard to read No Perfect Mothers 

and not think of the hard choices women are being forced to make today.” 

—W. Ralph Eubanks, author of A Place Like Mississippi: A Journey Through a Real and Imagined Literary Landscape 

“This story is important because it is history that isn’t history—women still don’t have sovereignty of their reproductive rights. This  story is propulsive because it gives us a character to root for. This story is memorable because of Zacharias’s command of language  and insight into human nature. No Perfect Mothers is a book that provides all the pleasures of a great novel and then some.” —Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs 

No Perfect Mothers brings to life the tragically true story of Carrie Buck, a young woman victimized by the eugenics movement  of the 1920s. With deft narrative skill and careful attention to historic detail, Karen Spears Zacharias takes us back to a place and time  when the voices of poverty-stricken, helpless women were silenced by those in power, their freedom of reproductive choice forever  denied. Carrie Buck’s story is as important in today’s world as it was then—and will haunt you long after the final page.” 

—Cassandra King, author of Tell Me a Story: My Life with Pat Conroy 

“From a century-old knot of injustice, Karen Spears Zacharias pulls a thread of story that speaks to injustice now. No Perfect  Mothers joins a true story richly imagined to both local kin and the U.S. Supreme Court in a case that dealt misery to thousands.  But it is the immediate tale of Carrie’s struggle for dignity that will catch you. How can a girl child, judged and wronged, deprived  of all she loves, ultimately prevail? She can wait for this book, as this book now waits for you.” 

—Kim Stafford, author of As the Sky Begins to Change 

On front cover— 

“Seventeen-year-old Carrie Buck changed American cultural history; she’s the 1920s girl you’ve never heard of but will never forget.” —Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Book of Flora Lea 

1501 Mercer University Drive • Macon GA 31207 • (478) 301-2880 • www.mupress.org 

Karen Spears Zacharias is an American writer whose work focuses on women and justice. She holds  an MA in Appalachian Studies from Shepherd University and an MA in Creative Media Practice from  the University of West Scotland. She lives at the foot of the Cascade Mountains in Deschutes County,  Oregon. Zacharias taught First-Amendment Rights at Central Washington University and continues to  teach at writing workshops around the country. Learn more about her at www.karenzach.com. 

Check out her other books: