Thoroughly documented and often trenchant insights on how medicine combined with business to effect a moral revolution. (32...

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DEVICES AND DESIRES

A HISTORY OF CONTRACEPTIVES IN AMERICA

An informative, colorful history that depicts the clash of lawyers, businessmen, doctors, and clergy over the development of artificial birth control.

In this broad canvass, Tone (The Business of Benevolence, not reviewed) ranges from 1873 (when federal anti-obscenity legislation classified contraceptives as illegal) to the 1970s (when the Dalkon Shield’s problems as an intrauterine device created an epic legal battle). Her panorama is filled with the disreputable and the desperate, the penny-pinching and the puritanical. Foremost among the latter was eminent Victorian Anthony Comstock, an anti-vice crusader of such zeal that George Bernard Shaw coined the term “Comstockery” to denote prudery. Other major figures fare better, notably birth-control pioneers Margaret Sanger, John Rock, Katherine McCormick, and Gregory Pincus. But it’s the producers and the users of birth control who are the real focus of Tone’s work. Before it became a multimillion-dollar industry, the contraceptive business operated out of thousands of small shops and homes, run by people like Julius Schmidt (a paralyzed German immigrant who parlayed a job in a sausage factory into fame and fortune as a “condom king”). For years unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, they often exhibited little concern about consumers’ comfort, safety, or lives. Advances, when they came, followed compromise or setbacks: Sanger’s dream of making contraception available to the poor clashed with her need to make it respectable, for example, and condoms became widely available in the military only after nearly 400,000 soldiers contracted venereal disease in WWI. Despite clear sympathies toward feminism and contraception, the author also does not hesitate to criticize her heroes and heroines for moral blindness in developing products (Pincus, for example, experimented on mental patients in testing the pill).

Thoroughly documented and often trenchant insights on how medicine combined with business to effect a moral revolution. (32 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: June 7, 2001

ISBN: 0-8090-3817-X

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

THREE WOMEN

Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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