Tag: Book review

Women’s Experiences Matter. Natalie Kimball’s An Open Secret: The History of Unwanted Pregnancy and Abortion in Modern Bolivia

Women’s experiences matter – this simple truth is at the core of Natalie Kimball’s brilliant new exploration into the tragic history of unwanted pregnancy and abortion in highland Bolivia over the past sixty years. As Kimball so eloquently argues in her book An Open Secret: The History of Unwanted Pregnancy and Abortion in Modern Bolivia,… Read more →

Reclaiming Disability Space in an Ableist Society: A Review of Alice Wong’s Disability Visibility

Former president Donald Trump publicly mocked and disparaged disabled people, weakened the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and cut the payroll tax to make Social Security Disability Income run out by 2022. Writing for The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg interpreted that “Trump is deeply anxious about dying or… Read more →

Review of To Make the Wounded Whole: The African American Struggle Against HIV/AIDS by Dan Royles

As we approach the eleventh month of the COVID-19 pandemic, the death rates for Black, Indigenous, and people of color are disproportionately high and rising daily. The national response to the virus echoes the long-term HIV/AIDS pandemic that continues today to rattle the Black world. Dan Royle’s monumental new book, To Make the Wounded Whole:… Read more →

Upholding “First, Do No Harm”: A Review of Sarah B. Rodriguez’s The Love Surgeon

James Burt, an OB/GYN in Dayton, Ohio, spent years developing and perfecting his “love surgery.” He designed it to increase men’s pleasure during sex by “fixing” women’s anatomies so they would get better clitoral stimulation during missionary postion sex. The procedure involved radically altering womens’ genitalia: making the vaginal opening smaller, moving the vaginal opening… Read more →

What About Men’s Reproductive Health?

In her latest book, GUYnecology: The Missing Science of Men’s Reproductive Health, sociologist Rene Almeling asks why all the public health messages about healthy childbearing seem to be aimed at women. What about the research that shows that men’s health is relevant to the condition of their sperm, and can profoundly affect the health of… Read more →

Defining Normal Genitalia: A Review of Camille Nurka’s Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery

Everything, of course, has a history, and in her book, Female Genital Cosmetic Surgery: Deviance, Desire and the Pursuit of Perfection, Camille Nurka seeks to find the historical path leading up to what have been popularly (and not entirely accurately) called “designer vaginas.” These surgeries are often performed, and requested, with the intention of surgically… Read more →

The Collective Power of Our Abortion Stories

“I had an abortion in 1999.” So begins Annie Finch’s important new anthology, Choice Words: Writers on Abortion, about the representation of abortion across literary genres. After her abortion, Finch searched to find depictions of the procedure in literature to make sense of her experience and was surprised to learn that no major collection existed…. Read more →

Past Practices: A Review of Ruth MacKay’s Life in a Time of Pestilence: The Great Castilian Plague of 1596–1601

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, a number of historians of medicine and other scholars have written and given interviews about past public health crises. E. Thomas Ewing’s look at how newspapers focused on kissing during the 1918 influenza outbreak suggested that the emphasis on kissing via handkerchief 100 years ago signaled potentially troubling questions for… Read more →

Between a Soft Rock and a Hard Place: A Review of Karen Tongson’s Why Karen Carpenter Matters

Early in her new book Why Karen Carpenter Matters, Karen Tongson reports that a karaoke machine in the Philippines once presented the key phrase from the Carpenters’ 1970 song “We’ve Only Just Begun” as “whiteness and promises” instead of “white lace and promises.”1 Sometimes, Tongson suggests, getting something “wrong” can be a very powerful mode… Read more →

Sperm Donor Siblings Speak Their Truths

In Random Families: Genetic Strangers, Sperm Donor Siblings, and the Creation of New Kin, sociologists Rosanna Hertz and Margaret Nelson ask what it means for children to be related to each other via a sperm donor. In their rendering, this is not merely a theoretical question up for philosophical debate. What is so brilliant about… Read more →