The interplay of complex political, medical, and societal issues involved in reproductive rights is clearly explained and placed in its historical context.

Human reproduction and attempts to control it have been issues for society throughout history, culminating in the United States in contentious debates about abortion. Wittenstein places the issue in historical context beginning in the ancient world and highlighting particular periods of struggle for societal change, making clear how long abortion and birth control have been issues of contention. Major figures such as Alfred Comstock and Margaret Sanger are introduced, as well as some of the differences in approach that caused divisions in the cause in the early years of the 20th century. Ultimately, Wittenstein argues, the greatest influences continue to come from scientific advances that improve contraception even as the country remains divided about pregnancy termination. This slim volume is full of information on all aspects of the subject. Written in a clear, straightforward style, it manages to include pertinent information about the role of reproduction in U.S. slavery as well as current efforts to address the issue globally. Black-and-white and color photographs, drawings, charts, and sidebars add graphic interest. There is considerable backmatter: glossary, timeline, source notes, selected bibliography, recommendations for further information, index, and photo credits.

A valuable resource. (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4677-4187-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Lerner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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As gay Chippewa 16-year-old Zack puts it, “They tried really hard to kill us all off, and we’re still here!”—a welcome and...



In distilled interviews, 45 young Native Americans express hope, resilience, optimism—and, rarely, anger—amid frank accounts of families plagued by drug, alcohol and sexual abuse, as well as murder, suicide, extreme poverty, and widespread discrimination, both public and private.

The interviewees range in age from 9 to 18 and in locale from the Everglades to Nunavut, Martha’s Vineyard to Haida Gwaii. Despite this, likely due to editorial shaping, Ellis’ interviewees sound about the same in vocabulary and “voice.” Together, they tell a wrenching tale. Many are foster children; several suffer from or have siblings with spectrum disorders and other disabilities; nearly all describe tragic personal or family histories. Moreover, the narratives are shot through with evidence of vicious racial prejudice—not just in the distant past: “My mother works with residential school survivors,” tellingly notes Cohen, a Haida teen. Even the youngest, however, display firm tribal identities and knowledge of their collective history and heritage. Also, along with describing typical activities and concerns of modern day-to-day living, these young people embrace their distinctive cultural practices and almost without exception, express a buoyant attitude.

As gay Chippewa 16-year-old Zack puts it, “They tried really hard to kill us all off, and we’re still here!”—a welcome and necessary reminder to all. (introductory notes, photos, annotated lists of organizations) (Nonfiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55498-120-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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More likely to confuse than to provoke thought.


From the Gravel Road series

In a near-future United States, unisex gender presentation becomes mandated by law.

In short free-verse lines with occasional rhyme, a narrator of unspecified gender explains that Pennsylvania has just become the final U.S. state to pass this legislation, and “in 30 days / this will be our law: / No Gender Specified.” Under the new law, everyone must shave their heads, wear body-shaping suits, take voice-altering medication and avoid asking names of other people. When the narrator, who takes the name Spark (unisex names are, apparently, acceptable), meets Whistler at a campground, the teens are instantly drawn to each other. Descriptions of the pair’s desire for each other are moving, but basic plot questions remain confusingly unanswered: If the law is not yet in effect, why can’t Whistler know Spark’s gender? How does the government plan to enforce its ban on love and sex for young people? In light of young people’s increasing awareness of transgender experiences, the idea put forth here that knowing the shape of someone’s physical body reveals the person’s true gender feels both dated and simplistic. And with no discussion of how sexual orientation works in a unisex world, the book feels oddly out of step with readers’ current reality, in which social and legal acceptance of same-sex marriage is becoming the norm.

More likely to confuse than to provoke thought. (Dystopian romance/verse. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62250-891-4

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Saddleback Educational Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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