Your mother’s feminism, sent back to the front lines with refurbished weapons.



A feminist scholar rallies the troops in the battle against injustices to older women.

Douglas (Communication Studies/Univ. of Michigan; Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work Is Done, 2010, etc.) melds history, advocacy, and media criticism as she calls for a counteroffensive against America’s “war on older women.” With alternately insightful and overfamiliar arguments, the author makes the case for a new wave of feminist activism to challenge the “gendered ageism” that sidelines women of her boomer cohort or implies that they’re all “supposed to go plant peonies and play peekaboo” with grandchildren. In the book’s best sections, Douglas smartly analyzes portrayals of older women in popular culture, including movies and TV shows like Book Club and The Golden Girls. While images have diversified, the media often depict older women only to exploit them as sales targets or foster what marketers call “aspirational aging.” Even AARP magazine has been “moving down the age chain” and once featured then-49-year-old Brad Pitt saying, “Personally, I like aging.” As the author notes, “come back to me in thirty years, buster. And as a woman, with no health insurance.” Douglas also lands well-placed jabs at “anti-aging” cosmetics and diseasemongering pharmaceutical ads built on the “infantilizing strategy of using cartoons.” Unfortunately, the author gives too little attention, too late in the book, to the issue that polls repeatedly have identified as the No. 1 concern of older women—health care—and claims as feminist issues some concerns that don’t affect women exclusively, such as Medicare. Elsewhere, she offers a to-do list with timeworn tasks such as forming discussion groups, “kind of an update on [1970s] consciousness-raising,” and holds up, as a model of engagement, the late Gray Panthers founder Maggie Kuhn, who in her 70s successfully lobbied Congress against the mandatory retirement age of 65. Women of any age can learn from trailblazers like Kuhn, but those seeking a fresher and more urgent battle cry will find it in books like Jennifer Block’s recent Everything Below the Waist (2019).

Your mother’s feminism, sent back to the front lines with refurbished weapons.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-65255-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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. 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.


“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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