Valenti doesn't claim to have all the answers, but she provides the right analytical tools for mothers seeking answers that...

WHY HAVE KIDS?

A NEW MOM EXPLORES THE TRUTH ABOUT PARENTING AND HAPPINESS

A leading feminist digs into questions about parenting—why we have children, what we're told about the parenting experience, and what happens when the reality doesn't mesh with the fairy tale.

With a rise in the number of women choosing to remain childless (married or not), Valenti's (The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women, 2009, etc.) book is certainly timely, and she addresses her topic from cultural, personal and historical perspectives. The author, a new mom herself, wades deeply into the moral and logistical problems facing mothers, with interviews, research and her own anecdotal experiences. As mommy blogs and websites have become havens for those seeking support and answers, they have simultaneously given rise to information overload, and parents can often feel as inadequate as they do vindicated. The impression people have of motherhood often doesn't match up with the realities that face new parents. Ideals and stereotypes leave new mothers feeling badly if they don’t feel love and warmth all the time. However, the inverse is also true. Oprah Winfrey famously stated that "moms have the toughest job in the world if you're doing it right," and that attitude too often translates to mothers pushing their children too hard to be successful. Valenti's writing occasionally falls prey to bluster and hyperbole—if you question the exactitude of others' pronouncements on pregnancy, it weakens the argument when your own pronouncements suffer the same shortcoming—but she states early on that her book is meant to anger people and incite discussions.

Valenti doesn't claim to have all the answers, but she provides the right analytical tools for mothers seeking answers that are right for them.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-547-89261-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Amazon/New Harvest

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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