Powerful, provocative, necessary reading.

UNWELL WOMEN

MISDIAGNOSIS AND MYTH IN A MAN-MADE WORLD

A feminist historian and cultural critic explores how age-old myths about gender roles and behaviors have shaped the history of medicine.

Medical science is notorious for misunderstanding the ailments of female bodies. Throughout this illuminating and disturbing survey, Cleghorn argues convincingly that this is because medicine is a patriarchal science. Hippocrates believed that the uterus controlled women's health. Following in his footsteps, later Greek physicians blamed female illness on "wandering womb[s].” The author suggests that Hippocrates’ ideas aligned with the prevailing view that women existed solely for the purposes of childbearing/rearing. Hippocratic misogyny became entrenched in later European cultural and medical thinking, as suggested by how more "enlightened" doctors from the 18th century still blamed (White) women's physical and emotional pains on reproductive malfunctions. Enslaved women of color fared far worse: At best, they were the objects of cruel experiments because White patriarchy had deemed them unable to feel pain. By the mid-1800s, early suffragists like Harriet Taylor Mill, whom doctors diagnosed with "nervous disorders,” began to more openly question the patriarchal status quo. But the patriarchal establishment used the old argument of hysteria to discredit them and their political activities. As White women became more socially empowered in the 20th century, medicine became another tool of patriarchy to control them. In the 1920s and ’30s, the American medical establishment sanctioned forced sterilization of thousands of Black Southern women "in the name of social improvement.” A decade later in Britain, the British government controlled White female reproduction with welfare programs designed to "encourage women to produce and nurture citizens of the future.” Thoughtful and often disturbing, this exhaustively researched book shows why women—including minority women and Cleghorn herself, who has lupus—must fight to be heard in a system that not only ignores them, but often makes them sicker.

Powerful, provocative, necessary reading.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18295-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

SO HELP ME GOD

The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

PIRATE ENLIGHTENMENT, OR THE REAL LIBERTALIA

The final book from the longtime activist anthropologist.

In a lively display of up-to-date anthropology, Graeber (1961-2020) offers a behind-the-scenes view of how a skilled researcher extracts knowledge from the slimmest evidence about a long-ago multiethnic society composed of pirates and settled members of existing communities. In this posthumous book, the author turns to 17th- and 18th-century Madagascar and examines hard-to-credit sources to tease out some plausible facts about the creation and early life of a distinctive Indian Ocean society, some of whose Malagasy descendants (“the Zana-Malata”) are alive today. Exhibiting his characteristic politically tinged sympathies, Graeber describes the pirates who plied the seas and settled on Madagascar as an ethno-racially integrated proletariat “spearheading the development of new forms of democratic governance.” He also argues that many of the pirates and others displayed European Enlightenment ideas even though they inhabited “a very unlikely home for Enlightenment political experiments.” Malagasies were “Madagascar’s most stubbornly egalitarian peoples,” and, as the author shows, women played significant roles in the society, which reflected Jewish, Muslin, Ismaili, and Gnostic origins as well as native Malagasy and Christian ones. All of this information gives Graeber the chance to wonder, in his most provocative conjecture, whether Enlightenment ideals might have emerged as much beyond Western lands as within them. His argument that pirates, women traders, and community leaders in early 18th-century Madagascar were “global political actors in the fullest sense of the term” is overstated, but even with such excesses taken into account, the text is a tour de force of anthropological scholarship and an important addition to Malagasy history. It’s also a work written with a pleasingly light touch. The principal audience will be anthropologists, but those who love pirate lore or who seek evidence that mixed populations were long capable of establishing proto-democratic societies will also find enlightenment in these pages.

Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-374-61019-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

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