WANTING A CHILD

TWENTY-TWO LITERARY WRITERS ON THEIR DIFFICULT BUT MOSTLY SUCCESSFUL QUESTS FOR PARENTHOOD

Yet another well-crafted single-subject essay collection, this one about the difficulties of becoming parents. Poet Bialosky and novelist Schulman (Out of Time, 1991, etc.) have assembled the works of 22 writers that reveal how for them, like many who have the natural desire for children, “things don’t come as easily or as quickly as we once imagined they would.” They show that the obstacles touch families of all kinds, including straight, gay, step-families, and single parents, and spring from several sources—postponement of pregnancy, a late marriage, no marriage, adoption agency horrors. For Bob Shacochis, the issue is in the couple’s inability to conceive; for Steve Byrnes, it’s surrogacy for a same-sex family; for Tama Janowitz, it’s an adoption in China; for Phillip Lopate, it’s a young daughter’s chronic illness; for Bialosky, it’s honoring two infant deaths. Some tales are harrowing, some joyful; but none are simple. And all, no matter the situation, incorporate Barbara Jones’s observation about parental obsession—that “once you have thought of her as yours . . . nothing will stop you from wanting her. And only some terrible force outside of your control will prevent you from having her.” Yet despite the diversity in experience and notion of family, there are similarities of age and outlook that readers may find either reassuring or redundant. These works hold the views of a reflective middle age. Just as similar are the narrators: Articulate, analytical, they often live hand-to-mouth and keep odd schedules—why, they’re writers! Anyone looking for the experiences of a lawyer or sales clerk will have to wait for an oral history or an afternoon talk show. For those in prime parenting years who have faced such trials, these are voices of comfort and wonder.

Pub Date: May 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-28634-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1998

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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