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MOMFLUENCED

INSIDE THE MADDENING, PICTURE-PERFECT WORLD OF MOMMY INFLUENCER CULTURE

With an investigative eye and a sense of humor, Petersen sheds needed light on a key part of the social media landscape.

A deep dive into the ever growing “momfluencer” culture.

Being a mother has always been an extremely difficult job, but it has become even more so in the age of social media. Petersen, a journalist who has been studying and writing about mommy blogging since the early days, introduces us to the more recent phenomenon of momfluencers, who present their role as mothers on various sites—mainly Instagram—to sell sponsored products or sometimes their own product lines. Their mothering lives look perfect: clean and stylish houses, cute and well-behaved children, handsome and affluent husbands. The images and the accompanying stories set standards that few women can achieve, though many women want to. Petersen admits to being of two minds about momfluencers. As a mother of three, she finds it hard to resist the allure of domestic perfection, but she readily acknowledges that the picture has more to do with marketing than reality. Within the burgeoning industry, there are numerous types of momfluencers, such as the “trad mom,” the “cool mom,” and the “minimalist mom.” As the author notes, “the single feature that unites most of them is a celebration of the nuclear family and traditional gender roles.” The industry is also predominantly White, which has led to a backlash. Petersen looks at several sites developed by women of color aimed at presenting a more realistic picture as well as sites for women to share snarky comments about momfluencers. In the final pages of the book, Petersen stumbles upon the best way to escape from the momfluencers and their envy-generating performances. On a holiday with her happily imperfect family, she deleted the Instagram app. She did not want to know, “and the not knowing was bliss.”

With an investigative eye and a sense of humor, Petersen sheds needed light on a key part of the social media landscape.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780807006634

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2023

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POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

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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