Required reading for anyone concerned about reproductive justice.

THE TURNAWAY STUDY

TEN YEARS, A THOUSAND WOMEN, AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF HAVING—OF BEING DENIED—AN ABORTION

A compelling examination of “the state of abortion access in our country and the people whose lives are affected by it.”

Foster, a professor and researcher in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, synthesizes the findings of The Turnaway Study, a 10-year longitudinal project, involving 40 researchers, comparing the emotional, physical, and economic effects to women of having an abortion or being denied one due to a clinic’s deadline for when an abortion could be performed—a cutoff date that varied depending on the location of the clinic. The study excluded women seeking abortions because of fetal anomaly or severe health risk, which affect the timing of the decision. With much hearsay, unfounded assumptions, and strident rhetoric fueling public policy, the UCSF researchers aimed to provide scientific evidence about abortion “in the context of real women’s lives.” Beginning in 2007, the study included more than 1,000 women from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds, recruited from 30 facilities in 21 states. From in-depth interviews conducted every six months, Foster has selected 10 women whose stories are related in their own words: white, Latina, and African American; rural and urban; some with strong family support, some facing their decision alone; women enmeshed in abusive relationships; some already mothers and some who went on to have children later; all with hopes for the future. Their candid stories are riveting, sometimes surprising, and always illuminating—as are the study’s findings. There is “no evidence that abortion hurts women,” the study concludes. “For every outcome we analyzed, women who received an abortion were either the same or, more frequently, better off than women who were denied an abortion.” To those who assume women make the decision to abort rashly, the researchers found thoughtful deliberation.

Required reading for anyone concerned about reproductive justice.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982141-56-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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