Compelling childbirth narratives told from fresh perspectives.

LABOR DAY

BIRTH STORIES FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: THIRTY ARTFUL, UNVARNISHED, HILARIOUS, HARROWING, TOTALLY TRUE TALES

Thirty-one female writers (including the editors) narrate their highly personal experiences of giving birth, beginning with the choices they made in advance, and how the reality compared with their expectations.

Henderson (Fiction Writing/Ithaca Coll.; Ten Thousand Saints, 2011) and Solomon (English/Brown Univ.; The Little Bride, 2011) first met in 2005 at the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference in Vermont. They remained friends and kept in touch, and the genesis of this book was an email from a very pregnant Henderson to Solomon asking for details about the birth of her first child. She felt overwhelmed with the wide range of choices to be made: Should she opt for natural childbirth and a midwife or an obstetrician? What about epidurals, and when is surgical intervention required? After their discussions, Henderson and Solomon realized that there was a book’s worth of material to share. Despite the wealth of how-to books on pregnancy and parenting, what was missing from bookshelves was the kind of highly personal account that Solomon shared with Henderson. They wanted “artful, entertaining, unvarnished accounts of labor and delivery.” They pitched the idea to writer friends who were mothers, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The contributors chronicle their expectations and the nitty-gritty of the process from the onset of contractions to the moment of birth. As many of the stories illustrate, the feminist ideal of natural childbirth is appealing but not necessarily realistic. Unforeseen medical emergencies are part of the territory; both infants and mothers may be at the point of collapse during extended labor, requiring surgical intervention. Gina Zucker writes exuberantly, “In spite of the pain, or in part because of it, having a natural childbirth had been incredibly empowering.” The editors also include sadder stories, accounts that deal with birth defects that might have been avoided with quicker medical intervention. Other contributors include Cheryl Strayed, Lauren Groff, Ann Hood, Dani Shapiro, Heidi Julavits, Jennifer Gilmore and Sarah Shun-lien Bynum.

Compelling childbirth narratives told from fresh perspectives.

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-23932-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

DAD'S MAYBE BOOK

Ruminations and reminiscences of an author—now in his 70s—about fatherhood, writing, and death.

O’Brien (July, July, 2002, etc.), who achieved considerable literary fame with both Going After Cacciato (1978) and The Things They Carried (1990), returns with an eclectic assembly of pieces that grow increasingly valedictory as the idea of mortality creeps in. (The title comes from the author’s uncertainty about his ability to assemble these pieces in a single volume.) He begins and ends with a letter: The initial one is to his first son (from 2003); the terminal one, to his two sons, both of whom are now teens (the present). Throughout the book, there are a number of recurring sections: “Home School” (lessons for his sons to accomplish), “The Magic Show” (about his long interest in magic), and “Pride” (about his feelings for his sons’ accomplishments). O’Brien also writes often about his own father. One literary figure emerges as almost a member of the family: Ernest Hemingway. The author loves Hemingway’s work (except when he doesn’t) and often gives his sons some of Papa’s most celebrated stories to read and think and write about. Near the end is a kind of stand-alone essay about Hemingway’s writings about war and death, which O’Brien realizes is Hemingway’s real subject. Other celebrated literary figures pop up in the text, including Elizabeth Bishop, Andrew Marvell, George Orwell, and Flannery O’Connor. Although O’Brien’s strong anti-war feelings are prominent throughout, his principal interest is fatherhood—specifically, at becoming a father later in his life and realizing that he will miss so much of his sons’ lives. He includes touching and amusing stories about his toddler sons, about the sadness he felt when his older son became a teen and began to distance himself, and about his anguish when his sons failed at something.

A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-618-03970-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Mostly conservative in its stance and choices but common-sensical and current.

HOW TO RAISE A READER

Savvy counsel and starter lists for fretting parents.

New York Times Book Review editor Paul (My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues, 2017, etc.) and Russo, the children’s book editor for that publication, provide standard-issue but deftly noninvasive strategies for making books and reading integral elements in children’s lives. Some of it is easier said than done, but all is intended to promote “the natural, timeless, time-stopping joys of reading” for pleasure. Mediumwise, print reigns supreme, with mild approval for audio and video books but discouraging words about reading apps and the hazards of children becoming “slaves to the screen.” In a series of chapters keyed to stages of childhood, infancy to the teen years, the authors supplement their advice with short lists of developmentally appropriate titles—by their lights, anyway: Ellen Raskin’s Westing Game on a list for teens?—all kitted out with enticing annotations. The authors enlarge their offerings with thematic lists, from “Books That Made Us Laugh” to “Historical Fiction.” In each set, the authors go for a mix of recent and perennially popular favorites, leaving off mention of publication dates so that hoary classics like Janice May Udry’s A Tree Is Nice seem as fresh as David Wiesner’s Flotsam and Carson Ellis’ Du Iz Tak? and sidestepping controversial titles and themes in the sections for younger and middle-grade readers—with a few exceptions, such as a cautionary note that some grown-ups see “relentless overparenting” in Margaret Wise Brown’s Runaway Bunny. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series doesn’t make the cut except for a passing reference to its “troubling treatment of Indians.” The teen lists tend to be edgier, salted with the provocative likes of Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, and a nod to current demands for more LGBTQ and other #ownvoices books casts at least a glance beyond the mainstream. Yaccarino leads a quartet of illustrators who supplement the occasional book cover thumbnails with vignettes and larger views of children happily absorbed in reading.

Mostly conservative in its stance and choices but common-sensical and current.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5235-0530-2

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Workman

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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