A reassuring picture of one facet of womanhood.


A writer takes a wide-ranging look at life for women who never have children.

Debut author Kaufmann recalls walking on the beach with a new friend and broaching the title question—one she always dreads hearing. With her years of unsuccessful infertility treatment long behind her, the now-single author wouldn’t want people interpreting this as the defining tragedy of her life. Instead, she characterizes childlessness as a situation that, like any other, has advantages as well as drawbacks. Raising a child costs $250,000 and 10 full-time working years, she reports, and “ambitious women still take career hits for having kids.” When she attends the first-ever “NotMom Summit” in Cleveland in 2015, women tell her that having children would have prevented them from experiencing meandering, exciting career paths. Philosophy professor Jane insisted: “Not having children was probably the best thing that ever happened to me…all my energies would have gone into them.” Bobbi felt free to travel while Chris could accept the low paychecks of nonprofit work. “I wish I’d had older non-moms to confide in and seek guidance from,” Kaufmann writes, and this perceptive and informative book is an attempt to fill that gap in the self-help market with stories and tips from those who’ve been there. The author acknowledges that women wind up in this situation for diverse reasons—it’s 50/50 chosen/forced for those she meets—and that the language problem doesn’t help: There’s no good term for a nonmother apart from the medical nulliparous. “Childless" implies a lack; the blithe "childfree" suggests that women are "giddily free." Whichever word one uses, Kaufmann deftly notes that friendships, aging, and spirituality can pose particular challenges for women who don’t have someone to pass their beliefs or possessions to. But she suggests numerous important roles nonmothers can play in children’s lives, such as stepmother, aunt, nanny, or tutor. Ultimately, this supportive volume serves as a plea to respect the diversity of human experience; “our options and lifestyles do not imperil motherhood….Rather, we represent a complementary dynamic,” the author concludes.

A reassuring picture of one facet of womanhood.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-581-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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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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. 29, 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.


“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. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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