Books by Gay Courter

Released: Feb. 1, 1995

Gripping case histories of children caught in tangled forests of bureaucracy and dark caves of misunderstanding, by a a court-appointed child advocate. Employing the techniques of both fiction and docudrama, novelist Courter (The Midwife's Advice, 1992, etc.) recounts her experiences as a Guardian ad Litem, Florida's appellation for the person—often a volunteer, as she was—designated to represent the child's interests in cases of abuse and neglect. In most instances, the author was able to clear a path through the brambles, but it rarely led to a happily-ever-after ending. Lydia, for instance, was a teenager falsely accused of putting her sister in a microwave oven. Rejected by her mother and stepfather, she bounced from foster home to institution. Using the considerable powers accorded to a guardian, which include access to court, school, and even sealed psychological records, Courter was able to clear Lydia's name and ensure her stay with a foster family who had grown to love and respect her. The sexually abused Stevenson children were not so lucky. Courter put in hundreds of hours helping them prepare to testify against their father, but he went free. The author has changed names and identifying details in her accounts of these and other cases, but she does not disguise her dismay over bureaucratic bungling— often on the part of social service workers with too many cases and not enough resources. As she describes it here, the guardian program can often cut the red tape. Besides their investigative mandate, guardians can promise children confidentiality (unless a threat has been made) and present recommendations directly to presiding judges. Through these advocates, kids in trouble have a voice in court and some control over their lives. Forceful, unashamed recruitment for guardian programs—and powerful enough that it just might swell the ranks of volunteers. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

In The Midwife (1981), Hannah Blau Sokolow, Jewish-Russian midwife, delivered babies in Russia, in America, on the high seas, and detoured into advice on sexual matters. Now established as a midwife at Bellevue Hospital in 1913 Manhattan, Hannah, married to Trotskyite Laser and mother of two, will blossom into a full- fledged sex therapist. One of the first problems tackled by Hannah, encountering a wretched girl-producing patient, is why (as the patient claims) Orthodox Jews seem to produce an inordinate number of boys. Hannah researches both religion and science and produces results (Courter documents this unusual research in her ``Author's Note''). Meanwhile, as Hannah is monitoring birthings, other problems catch her interest: frigid women, impotent men, the nature of sexuality (she felt that, in spite of Dr. Freud, Adam came from Eve and not vice versa), lack of sexual impulses, and even the woes of a cross- dresser. But while Hannah is Dr. Ruth-ing, home problems impinge. Laser is off to Russia with Trotsky (he'll eventually return, disillusioned); there are battles to be fought for women's rights and legalization of birth-control information; and Hannah is into a hopeless love affair with a Bellevue physician. Throughout, we get glimpses of political celebrities of the time—Mabel Dodge, Margaret Sanger, radical Emma Goldman, and even Trotsky himself- -grim and rude. Finally, Hannah will become famous as a sex therapist via a newspaper column and a book. Again, for the Belva Plain audience and for those enthralled by dramas centered on the nether end: a ham-handed treatment of delicate matters—which should fairly fly off the airport bookracks. Read full book review >