The rotating format offers little in the way of analysis and very few conclusions, but the author offers valid testimony for...

JUST LIKE FAMILY

AN INTIMATE LOOK AT NANNIES, THE PARENTS THEY WORK FOR, AND THE CHILDREN THEY LOVE

A sympathetic look at the lives and work of three nannies.

When Blaine quit her office job to become a nanny, hoping it would allow her more time to make use of her MFA, she lasted only six months. The challenges of being intimately involved with a family without being part of it inspired her to give voice to women who are “paid by the hour to love.” The author’s case studies follow Claudia, a Caribbean immigrant in New York working to send money home; Vivian, a Nanny of the Year award winner whose goal is to “educate the public on the importance of nannies and set standards for the industry;” and Kim, a compassionate divorcée lending her expertise in newborns to a wealthy couple in Austin, Texas. Blaine gives equal attention to the women's personal and professional lives. Claudia left her infant son to bring her family out of poverty and was shocked when she realized the streets of New York weren't paved with gold. Her employer bailed her out when she faced eviction, but admitted to wishing that Claudia would be more proactive in her kids' upbringing. Vivian fulfilled that role in a borderline overbearing way, considering herself a third parent and the primary disciplinarian. Despite battling self-esteem issues from abusive relationships and obesity, Vivian is a confidently outspoken board member of the International Nanny Association. She clashed with the Domestic Workers United when they sought legislation to raise the minimum wage; she believed nannies' salaries should be merit-based. Kim endured two failed marriages and three miscarriages, then found herself living with a domineering employer who treated her like a servant. Nearly all of Blaine’s examples are characterized by demanding fathers, from whom the nannies seek to protect their charges, and understanding mothers struggling to balance work and family.

The rotating format offers little in the way of analysis and very few conclusions, but the author offers valid testimony for the specific concerns of women in an industry increasingly in the spotlight.

Pub Date: June 9, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-15-101051-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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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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