by Chelsea Conaboy ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 13, 2022
Useful, well-informed encouragement for new and prospective parents.
How parenting affects body and mind.
Conaboy, a journalist specializing in health issues, makes an engaging book debut with an informative, well-researched look at the physical and psychological changes caused by engaging in “the life-supporting practice of mothering.” Drawing on interviews with parents, scientists, and medical practitioners; examining abundant research; and reflecting on her own experiences as the mother of two sons, the author depicts motherhood as “a distinct developmental stage with long-lasting effects, in which each of the body’s systems thought to regulate social behavior, emotion, and immune responses” are dramatically affected. Noting the dearth of scientific studies about parents who are not “straight, cisgender people who share DNA with their child,” Conaboy focuses largely on birth mothers while also reporting on the experiences of fathers and other relatives involved in caregiving. In a historical and cultural overview of assumptions about motherhood, she underscores the social, political, and religious forces that gave rise to “the fallacy of the maternal instinct,” which has left some women feeling inadequate and guilty. She roundly debunks this notion, taken as scientific fact by lawmakers who want to limit reproductive rights and maternity benefits by arguing that motherhood is women’s destiny and that mothers are innately constituted as caregivers. Conaboy shares research in neurobiology and endocrinology that has revealed complex ways that pregnancy, birth, and caregiving reorganize the brain, “altering the neural feedback loops that dictate how we react to the world around us, how we read and respond to other people, and how we regulate our own emotions.” These changes occur, in varying degrees, in both men and women. The author deftly translates scientific studies—by neurobiologists, anthropologists, primatologists, psychologists, and endocrinologists, among others—into accessible prose that speaks to needs and anxieties that many parents share. Adapting to motherhood, she asserts, is “a bodily challenge and a logistical challenge” that lasts a lifetime.Useful, well-informed encouragement for new and prospective parents.
Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online: June 20, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022
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by Matthew Desmond ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.
“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
Pub Date: March 21, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023
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by Paul Kalanithi ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 19, 2016
A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2016
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.
Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.
Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016
Page Count: 248
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015
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