Category: Reviews

Surviving While Black in America: A Review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me

One of the products of Americans’ growing consciousness around racism and the police killings of African Americans is the conversation about the “talk” that African American parents conduct with their sons and daughters. I do not recall my mother and father engaging me in a specific conversation, but rather a series of conversations about navigating… Read more →

Clio Goes to the Movies: “Selma” in History

Ava DuVernay’s Selma has sparked a robust discussion about the civil rights movement, memory, and the filmmaker’s role in creating “accurate” and teachable history. The film has garnered much pointed criticism for “artful falsehood,” “distorting” history, and “villainizing” Lyndon Johnson. The problems with these assertions are threefold. First, deploying terms like distortion and villainizing does not reflect a… Read more →

Call the Medical Missionary: Religion and Health Care in Twentieth-Century Britain

If you have ever seen the popular BBC/PBS television program Call the Midwife1 then you know that the central setting, Nonnatus House, is an Anglican religious order in the East End of London in the 1950s, offering midwifery and medical services to the community. Nonnatus House and Call the Midwife are semi-fictitious creations of author… Read more →

Positively Negative: Love, Pregnancy, and Science’s Surprising Victory over HIV

By Lara Freidenfelds

What would you do if you desperately wanted to have a baby, and your spouse had HIV? In the mid-1990s, the introduction of highly-effective HIV drug regimens turned HIV from a death sentence into a chronic condition. People with HIV and their life partners could begin to imagine creating families and living to see their children grow up. But it was not until 2014 that researchers and policy-makers approved a prophylactic regimen that effectively protects against HIV-transmission even without condom use. (It still is not officially condoned for family-building purposes, but some physicians are willing to prescribe it for that purpose.) For almost two decades, HIV-discordant couples faced a special kind of infertility: it was childlessness caused by the threat of illness, by fear, and by a traumatized, cautious public health and medical community that could not move beyond its initial message, that “only condoms prevent HIV transmission.”

A new e-book, Positively Negative: Love, Pregnancy, and Science’s Surprising Victory over HIV, takes us into the lives of two couples who lived this history.

The Boy Who Lived: Stillbirth and Life after Death

Ghostbelly: A Memoir. By Elizabeth Heineman. (New York: The Feminist Press, 2014. 320 pp. $16.95.) How do you grieve for a stillborn child? How do you ensure your child is remembered for having lived, not just for having died? These are the questions that Elizabeth Heineman explores in the unflinching, yet deeply intimate, Ghostbelly: A… Read more →

Downton Abbey, Maternal Death and the Crisis of Childbirth in Britain

Those of us who watch Downton Abbey regularly should not have been surprised that Sybil died. After all, series one began with the death of the Crawley heir on the Titanic as well as the untimely death of the Turkish gentleman during sex with Lady Mary; series two saw the death of the footman from… Read more →

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times Britain in the 1950s

As I watched Call the Midwife, I recalled my own personal memories and relationship with the National Health System (NHS).   I trained as a midwife in the late 1980s in one of the busiest (if not the busiest) inner-city maternity hospitals in Britain. We delivered 8,000 babies a year. Midwifery training was highly competitive. The… Read more →