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Sassy Peach Goes to Kindergarten: Happy 5th Birthday!

Wow! We made it! Half a decade! That's crazy talk. I said to a friend the other day how much I couldn't believe how far I've ...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions that Had a Major Impact on America

I picked this book up at Book Expo for a good friend of mine who is a political science professor, but I found it so fascinating myself that I ended up taking notes in Ted Stewart's Supreme Power: 7 Pivotal Supreme Court Decisions that Had a Major Impact on America and keeping it for myself. Sorry, not sorry, friend.

The cases discussed in this book include Marbury vs. Madison, which established powers the Supreme Court holds and doesn't hold; Plessy vs. Ferguson, which established racism and led to Jim Crow; Lochner vs. the State of New York, which brought about the power of substantive due process on behalf of the Supreme Court; Wickard vs. Filburn, which focused on the role of Federalism in the United States; Everson vs. Board of Education of Ewing Township, which examined the establishment clause and the role of religion in the public arena; Missouri vs. Jenkins, focused on integration and the role of the courts in ordering it; and Obergefell vs. Hodges, which struck down the ban on marriage between same sex couples.

Some of these cases I was already familiar with, and some were new. I particularly found that this book hinged on Lochner, a case that I didn't know at all, and that this case changed the Supreme Court into being the power that we know it. I appreciate that this book was focused on situating the case in historical perspective regarding what was happening in and around the time that the case was weaving its way through the courts; it's this level of historical perspective that I was after. That being said, the first half of the book, through Lochner, was incredibly informative and interesting. In fact, I was so floored at finding out the history of Thanksgiving, the American holiday that doesn't have origins in Pilgrims and Indians (seriously...do the research yourself, it's fascinating), I dropped everything and made my husband pause his movie just so I could tell him about it. It caused a big discussion in my house about the origins of the holiday and how we want to celebrate it.

However, once I hit the second half of the book, I was very turned off by Stewart's crusade to make America moral again. His politics come across loud and clear in the last few cases, and he's incredibly conservative, and whether or not he intends to be, he comes off as hating abortion (but I mean, who likes it?), LGBTQ+ rights, and he especially despises Hollywood, which is so interesting because none of these major cases is about Hollywood specifically. He mentions movies and entertainment several times in the Obergefell chapter, specifically blaming Hollywood and the media for the downfall of society's morals. It's peculiar, and red flags were popping up everywhere. Instead of entertaining the idea that perhaps society and the media shaped each other, it reads as though he blames popular culture and the Supreme Court for allowing such horrible things to occur such as gay marriage, which obviously wouldn't happen if Hollywood still had couples sleeping in separate beds. (That was sarcasm, by the way.)

I did learn a great deal from this book, specifically a historical perspective of these cases as well as some fairly intricate legalese about why the Supreme Court decided these cases the way that they did. Stewart also has great expertise in the Constitution and situates most of his analysis in the document itself, which I very much appreciated and learned a great deal from. I wish he could have done a better job of keeping his political views out of his analysis of later chapters, but I know from experience that this is easier said than done when you feel passionately about something. My overall recommendation is read this for the earlier chapters in order to gain a solid understanding of the earlier cases that shaped the Supreme Court. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Salt Fat Acid Heat

After finishing Tuesday's review, I thought it would be perfect to pair with this book, from one of Alice Waters' former employees of Chez Panisse. This book is, hands down, brilliant. I don't own a lot of cookbooks because I love to experiment in the kitchen, but when I read about Samin Nosrat's Salt Fat Acid Heat, I preordered it. It was worth every stinkin' dime.

Cooking is an art form, and some people love it while others can't stand it. I am in the category of "love it." I am no expert by any means, but I love to mess around in the kitchen and I joke around that recipes are against my religion. I am Italian, after all. Nosrat's whole concept with this book is that these four elements (salt, fat, acid, heat) are the main underpinnings of good cooking that you need to understand both in theory and practice to create dishes that will serve your palate. Amateurs in the kitchen are usually afraid of everything but heat, but fear of salt, fat, and acid will leave you with limp and unappetizing food.

This book is astounding because it is a cookbook, yes, but it is also a journey through the basics of cooking that are easy to understand yet so deep and thoughtful. I am madly in love with this book for so many reasons, not the least of which are the illustrations, by Wendy MacNaughton. Holy hell, they are gorgeous. Everything from colors of cooked onions to wheels explaining how to get the regional taste that you want, this book is so gorgeous it's hard to put it on the shelf. I'm not kidding you -- it's currently open to that very page with the caramelized onions on my coffee table right now. One of my favorite pages is right before the section of recipes (which is actually the last half of the book), there is a flow chart that helps you determine what you want to cook that day. The first question asks if you've read the book, and if you select "no," it tells you to go back and read the book because it's about the journey, not the destination. Boy, is she ever right.

I read this book slowly and in sections so that I could start putting into practice what I was reading. I started with salt, because it's the first section. I opened myself up to what Nosrat was explaining about how to use salt and how to get away from our fear of using too much, and it improved my cooking -- especially with meats -- almost instantaneously. It turns out I already had multiple types of salt in my kitchen, and I was able to distinguish what to use and when to use it. Eye opening doesn't even begin to describe it. Now I use salt liberally and, more importantly, appropriately.

Then fat. Sweet, sweet fat. It's another element that scares new cooks, because anyone who was alive in the 1980's has a deep-seated fear of fat. In the past few years I have come to realize how great it is -- and not just in taste -- and I now can taste a (disgusting) difference in full-fat and low- or non-fat products. I now no longer fear butter and cream, and it's made such a big difference in our dinners. I learned how to render fat, how to take advantage of excess fat on meat, how to better cook bacon, and how to balance salt, fat, and the next ingredient, acid, into our meals. Fat is glorious when used (here it is again) appropriately.

Finally, last but never least, is acid. Holy mother of pearl, I had no idea what I was missing in my life. Much like Nosrat's discovery of what acid could do to add volume and depth to a dish, neither did I. It turns out that acid is a vital component for this purpose, and you are missing out if you don't take the time to play around and figure out how to finish off your dishes with the appropriate form of acid. I added apple cider vinegar to finish off my cauliflower soup -- what a difference from before and after! I then began experimenting with my sauteed spinach, and I discovered that squeezing fresh lime juice over the finished product added a new dimension to something that I liked before but that I love now. I decided to get a whole slew of vinegars the next time I grocery shopped, and thanks to Nosrat's section on acids, I now feel comfortable and inspired to experience with something that I previously thought would ruin a dish.

Oh wait -- let's not forget heat! See, my mom is amazing but it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized that she never taught me to cook very well. She learned on her own, as did I, but she came from a tradition that opened cans for dinner. (1950's and '60's, anyone?) I will say that I discovered I have been using heat inappropriately for YEARS. The section on heat really opened my (impatient) eyes to how to slow down my cooking and take advantage of different ways to use heat to cook.

When I picked up this book, I didn't realize that Nosrat was the cook who worked with Michael Pollan on cooking when he was writing one of my favorite books on food, Cooked. It was really wonderful to see the connection between my favorite food writers. No matter how I came to it, this book will remain one of my all time favorites and I am so, so glad that I splurged on purchasing it. Now that I am incorporating our son into our meal times (we skipped purees and have gone strait to eating what we eat -- I'm sure this will come up again in the Sassy Peachiverse someday), I love that I have new tools in my arsenal to play around with flavors. Thank you, Samin, from the bottom of my heart, for this glorious tome you have given the world. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook

I thought I would pair books this week, so we are starting with Alice Waters' Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook, followed by a cookbook from one of her former chefs at Chez Panisse.

Growing up in America in the 1950's, Alice Waters wasn't introduced to a wide range of gastronomic delights -- that era wasn't exactly known for good food, but rather the invention of kitchen items and foodstuffs that made household life easier on everyone. When she went to Paris for a study abroad trip, her palate was introduced to some of the world's finest flavors, and Alice fell in love with food. When she graduated college, she floated around Berkeley, trying to find her way, until one day she realizes her dream of opening up a small restaurant. She was never a trained chef, but she wanted a place that she and her friends could eat great, handmade French food and spend hours talking. Chez Panisse was the realization of that dream.

I found Alice's own words on her history to be very interesting. I will say at the start that her prose leaves a lot to be desired, but the meat of her story is incredibly interesting. From her childhood in a happy home all over the country to her transferring to Berkeley during the heyday of the cultural revolution, it's fair to say that Ms. Waters is a product of her culture. She trusts her instincts and it pays off. She talks in this book of her two great loves in the lead up to the opening of her restaurant, and she waxes poetically about her time in and love of France. I am completely biased, as I have found France to be positively lovely, at least once we got out of Paris. That's where Ms. Waters and I differ, but I think it's wonderful that she found the charm there that i didn't. But the rest of France -- ah. [Cue the emoji with heart eyes here.] French cuisine is entirely what Ms. Waters makes it out to be in this book. I have pictures for days of the incredible dishes that I ate while there. Just incredible.

I see what she is saying when she calls herself a counterculture cook, and some of that is on point. She is a woman chef who opened her own restaurant in the 1970's when that was basically unheard of, especially with no formal training in the kitchen. Chez Panisse serves just one meal per night at a prefixed price, and Ms. Waters is known for taking chances on informally trained staff based on instinct. Frankly, no one can argue that she knows what she is doing based on instinct. She certainly is counterculture for the time period that made her. It's hard for me, though, in 2017 to rectify that label with the story, but I will say that I believe that is due to my age and my distance from that time period. (By distance, I mean I wasn't even alive.) So I will just have to trust Ms. Waters on this one.

This book was picked up on a whim and I'm so glad that I got it. I was able to pair it with the cookbook I will post about next, and it really put Chez Panisse into perspective. I would love to one day make our winding way to Berkeley and eat at the famed restaurant. I mean, Alice's raving about her love affair with lettuce is enough to make a salad lover out of just about anyone. (I appreciate her recommendation to toss your salad by hand, as it is the best way to ensure that the dressing coats every leaf.) That isn't sarcasm, either; the way she talks so kindly and warmly about salad is just wonderful, and now my stomach is grumbling. I'm off to cook, inspired by Alice and the famed California restaurant. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Senator's Wife: A Novel

I really enjoyed Sue Miller's While I Was Gone, so when I found The Senator's Wife on one of my Goodwill jaunts, I picked it up in hopes that I would enjoy it as much as I enjoyed my first Miller experience. 

Meri is a newlywed when she agrees to move to a small college town for her husband's new job, and within months finds out she is pregnant. She is thankful for the friendship of her new next door neighbor Delia, the wife of the famous politician Tom Naughton. Tom's philandering is well known in D.C. circles, and Delia has opted to live separately from her husband while still being married to the man she loves. As both women navigate their complicated relationships, they will be drawn together in a way that is unexpected yet intimate, creating a bond that will ultimately be broken. 

I liked Sue Miller after While I Was Gone, but I loved her after this novel. This was a beautiful, gripping novel that I couldn't put down because staying away from it was just not possible. These characters were overwhelmingly real and flawed in their persons, and it made for honest and hopeful reading. I felt that with this novel I could really dive in and love in their world. It was wonderful and heartbreaking for so many reasons. 

The characters are what drive the story in this novel, and the story is central to the growth of the two main players. Meri and Delia are the Central heart of this story, loving parallel lives if not similar. We have no reason to believe Meri's husband is cheating -- except maybe with his work, as it keeps him distant and it encompasses him -- but Tom, Delia's beloved, has been a cad since he was a young man. Miller makes it easy for us to understand Delia's love for and attachment to Tom, making his first known betrayal to be utterly devastating. We jump through time in the course of the story, understanding that these two women are more similar to each other than they realize. 

The end of this story caught me by surprise. There are two endings, really, and the first was the most surprising of all, leading to the surprise of the second, post hoc ending. Both are worth sticking around for even if you don't agree with my assessment of the astounding beauty of the novel. Miller has this incredible way of drawing her reader into worlds where not very much happens yet everything does. It's dreamy. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

An American Marriage: A Novel

I will be honest with you -- I didn't even read the synopsis before I jumped at the chance to read Tayari Jones's An American Marriage. I absolutely adored her previous novel, so I knew that this was a must read for me.

Roy and Celestial are newlyweds when Roy is arrested and jailed for a crime he did not commit. Married only a year at the time of his arrest, the couple finds that they have different visions of what marriage can and should be during a forced separation. Celestial becomes fairly well known for her doll creations while Roy sits in prison, missing the life he was supposed to lead. Celestial finds a shoulder to lean on in her childhood best friend, Andre, and tries to move on with her life. At least, until Roy wins an appeal and is released early. Can a couple separated by time, miles, and spirit make a go of it, or is it too late for them?

I was quite taken with this narrative, and Jones's ability to craft such honest and real characters in her world. It also snagged my heart a little, as Celestial is from and currently resides in Atlanta, which I also consider my home. Jones knows how to dig deep into the clay of the earth and sculpt characters from nothing, line by line, until they become so lifelike that you forget they aren't real. She does that in this novel, and it's an incredible work of art. The book alternates narrators, and I was struck by Roy in particular, as I found him to be an unreliable (albeit captive) narrator. I was waiting for the bomb to drop that maybe he actually did commit the crime -- and I won't tell you the answer to that -- but the truth (without spoilers) is that this part of the story doesn't matter. When the story takes a sharp left toward the end, it's about the characters and their complicated, interwoven relationships that have you raising your eyebrows and choosing a side.

In this novel, just as in life, there are no winning sides, really. In the game of love, someone is bound to get hurt, and bad. There are so many loving, shining moments in this novel that they are hard to illuminate. Do you love Andre, or do you hate him? I liked him, then I disliked him, then I felt bad for him, then I felt triumphant, and finally I became sad for him. Do you love Roy or do you want to punch him in the face? I liked him a great deal at first, then I came to despise him if only for the character arc that Jones has prescribed him. That is, as per usual, a compliment, for to have a strong draw to or away from any aspect of any narrative or character is a testament to the ability of the hand holding the pen. Celestial is the third in the triangle for whom my opinion wavered constantly, and I'm still mulling over the final pull she had on the characters and who they became.

Tayari Jones is one of those writers that I feel understands the complicated web of human emotion deep down in her core, and I will always run to pick up her work. It makes me feel alive and thrilled and devastated and whole.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

White Owl, Barn Owl

I recently read Nicola Davies' White Owl, Barn Owl (illustrated by Michael Foreman) as part of a teacher professional development on science learning, and I fell madly in love with it. If you haven't picked it up, it's well worth your time.  

A boy is helping his grandfather, and today they are going to build a box for the owls in their fields. The boy has so many questions -- what is the box for? How will they use it? The pair builds the box, and in time they find that a barn owl has stayed there. The boy explores information about owls with his guide, such as how owls hunt and eat and what they leave behind, and they learn more together than they could have expected. 

I was really enamored with this book for one very specific reason. It warmed my educator heart to see that this book told two stories. The first story was the narrative, the story of the grandfather and the grandson (at least, we think it's a grandson because the gender is never specified) and their building of an owl house in order to take care of the bird on their property. The parallel story is expository, giving the reader factual, scientific information on the barn owl. Not only is the story compelling and sweet, but it also contains clear, factual information that I learned so much from. For example, I never knew that the heart-shaped ruff around their eyes was designed to move sound toward owls' ears, which have incredible hearing so that they can hunt prey. I also never knew what owl pellets were; I thought they were poop, but they are not. You will have to get the book to find that out yourself. 

I am so in love with this book that I will have to buy it for my son. I love books that are informative while still being good reads. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

What's Your Evidence? Engaging K-5 Students in Constructing Explanations in Science

I don't always post on the books I read through my work, but sometimes it's a must because the books are just that good or useful. Hence today's post on What's Your Evidence? Engaging K-5 Students in Constructing Explanations in Science by Carla Zembal-Saul, Katherine L. McNeill, and Kimber Hershberger.

Science education on the elementary levels has been lacking in substance for some time; a good deal of what you see when you walk into a classroom is worksheets focused on naming things. Where does inquiry come in? As our nation moves to adopting the Next Generation Science Standards, educators will need to turn to inquiry-based lesson design in order to avoid sweeping science, science pedagogy, and scientific thinking under the rug.

This pushing science aside is a result of a few things. First and foremost, the push for reading and math is overwhelming in schools, especially schools that serve low-income neighborhoods. Research has found that these skills push drill-and-kill more than their more affluent counterparts. There is little room, or time, for science and teaching through inquiry. Another reason science is seen as the stepchild of schooling is because teachers often feel uncomfortable teaching science. With middle and high school teacher training, teachers specialize in a subject area and they can choose to focus on science as a content area, whereas with elementary teachers, many are drawn to the reading and care part of teaching. Helping teachers realize that not only can they teach science through inquiry, but also that they are scientists themselves, is the big takeaway from this book.

I was borderline moved when reading this book, as it was incredibly illuminating in terms of pedagogy as a whole, not just science. The authors focus tightly on evidence and reasoning throughout their work, and they drill it into their readers' heads. They discuss the importance of data -- how it is represented, and why students need to base their reasoning in evidence. I found myself furiously underlining and writing notes in the margins, and I marked several pages to come back to. Some things that stood out to me in terms of the brilliance of this pedagogical focus were their inclusion of how to scaffold scientific talk in the classroom, both through whole-class discussion and also within small groups. Additionally, there are tons of real-world examples and student artifacts for reference and inspiration.

Interestingly, I also found myself recommending this book to one of my graduate students when we were discussing her research project. She wanted to know if she should focus on the the science content or the literacy component, and I said, "Well, actually, both." We discussed her getting herself a copy of What's Your Evidence? to use as a basis for her understanding of how to incorporate the two. After all, evidence and reasoning go hand in hand in almost every subject, but especially in literacy. Looking at where we currently are as a country, teaching inquiry-based lessons that focus on evidence and reasoning are vital for teaching a future educated workforce -- and we need that now more than ever. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Heartshire High: A Novel

Wouldn't you know it? Our very own Charlotte Leonetti has written a novel, and by golly, it's wonderful. I don't say this just because she's a guest blogger here and I happen to like her a lot. It's a compelling novel that instantly grabbed my attention.

Celia has just moved to a new town through no choice of her own -- she was moved by her dad, who just left her mom in sunny California to battle her mental illness alone. Celia is already so bummed by this move, and the difficulty making friends in her new town isn't helping. She has a countdown of days until she graduates and can go home to be with her mom. One night, forced by her only friend to go to the hottest party of the year, she comes upon a closely guarded secret of Pilar, whose boyfriend died right before the school year began. This only leads to more questions, leading Celia down a rabbit hole that can only be fixed one way -- by finding out the truth that lies behind the death of Pilar's boyfriend.

Rereading my synopsis of the book, I feel that I may not have done it justice. On the outside it may seem like this story has a lot going on, but in reading it, the story flows together and the twists and turns come naturally. I say that I was pleasantly surprised, only because I didn't really know what to expect going in. I purposely kept myself in the dark so that I could fairly judge the book, and I knew about a third of the way through that I loved it. Charlotte has a voice that is as clear as a bell, and her storytelling skills are on point.

The character arc of Celia is strong and deep; she is immediately likable but in a dark, brooding sort of way. She jumps off the page as a very real, very deep character, and I liked her immediately. One of the advantages of this author being a young female is that she understands how to write for them more so than most. One of my biggest peeves is reading unrealistic portrayals of females, especially young females, and Charlotte hit this one out of the park. Celia is a full-bodied human whom I could relate to, and she was genuinely interesting. Celia was my favorite character in this book, with the right amount of snark and intelligence and smarts. I loved that she was raw and real, and that she didn't let her estrangement from her peers just roll off her back. I got her, and that's the highest compliment I can pay a character.

The events of the book are crazy and twisty and outlandish and it's crazy fun. Charlotte has taken us on a roller coaster ride that is seemingly nuts but flows together seamlessly. While entirely outlandish, that's the fun of this story. I saw the connection to Alice in Wonderland, but Charlotte has made this story her own. It's topsy-turvey yet still grounded in reality, and I wanted to be on Celia's side the whole time. I wanted to hug Pilar and Dutch, and I wish I had known Tim. This was a wonderful reading experience, and I'm so grateful that Charlotte entrusted me with her work. Now, you go off and read it. Enjoy yourself too. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Guest Blogger Charlotte - Humans of New York: Stories

Hi!

I received Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton from my parents this holiday season. I had seen this book floating around on reading forums about a year ago, but never got around to buying it myself. However, I’m so glad that it made its way into my hands and onto my reading list. Being an avid people-watcher, whether in a cafĂ© or while waiting for a ride to pick me up, this seemed like the perfect book for me. In addition, the quotes are accompanied with great photographs and being a fan of photography, I fell in love with this book.

Humans of New York: Stories is a sort of record book for the people living in New York. It’s based on the popular website where Brandon Stanton photographs someone in New York City and shares a quote from the person that tells something about his or her experience. It’s often very personal and can lead to thousands of comments of support and reflection. The site has raised money for some amazing causes just by sharing stories and creating human connection, but I was worried that without the social aspect, it just might not work as a book. It does.

The book consists of long stories, anecdotes, random thoughts, or answers to questions, which all come together to give an intimate portrait of a stranger in just a snapshot of words. The quotes are from people in all walks of life, ages, and backgrounds, which I found very interesting. I loved seeing glimpses into other peoples’ lives and their points of view, even if it was just with a sentence. Whether they were shocking, funny, emotional, these little vignettes connected with my emotions in ways I didn’t necessarily expect. The author really has a skill for exposing the human side of everyone he encounters and making you see what you might have in common with someone to whom you may have never otherwise given a second thought.

I also found it very intriguing to see that so many different stories work together so well. The quotes are so random and different from one another, yet they still flow in a way that’s engaging. I almost felt as if the book structure made you the reader try to find connections and stories between them, which ended up enhancing their impact. The book is organized into different topics, but they go from one to another in a completely organic manner. Although the emotions and seriousness of the quotes and stories varied, I did not find myself taken out of what was being said. All the stories worked together, somewhat connected, to create a record of ordinary people living in the same city.  

My favorite part of this book, however, was the photography. Brandon Stanton began this project with taking candid street portraits before he started accompanying them with quotes. Working with the quotes, however, gives a new dimension and insight into these individuals’ lives. Whether it is with a photo of someone caught off guard, posing alone, hugging their dog, or holding an inanimate object, the pictures bring to life what is being said. In a world where it can be quite easy to stay in one’s bubble, I found that this book really reached me and made me think, as individuals that are so diverse from one another, yet all connected by a city, are being given a voice.

This book is completely different from anything I have ever read before. Incorporating two media, readers are giving an insight into a city they may have never visited and the lives of strangers. It’s of course an easy read, but it also connected to my own emotional experiences and made me think deeply and feel empathy for the “characters” I encountered. It focuses on varied aspects of life and humanity in a way that is eye-opening, hilarious, devastating, and exciting, and I would suggest it for anyone who loves to people-watch and imagine the lives of others or who enjoying learning about the stories of the people around them.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting

As a friend commented, "That's one controversial lady." Amy Tuteur, MD, is an OB/GYN by training who now runs a blog dedicated to decimating the natural parenting industry. She takes her work to this collection, Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting. Another friend of mine saw me reading it and groaned, and commented about how I shouldn't feel guilty. I will be the first to tell you that I have no guilt in my parenting, which I will get to in a bit. I picked this book up because it was mentioned in a long-form article on breastfeeding (along with Lactivism from a couple of weeks ago), so I picked it up as more reading into this mommy wars issue that I'm now so interested in.

Dr. Tuteur focuses on three areas that make her angry, the first of which is natural childbirth. She argues not just that women should not feel bad that the didn't have a natural birth, but that women in the 21st century should avoid natural childbirth altogether because we have pain relief and the medical establishment for a reason. Breastfeeding is her second issue, and she wants women to not feel guilty if they can't or don't want to breastfeed. Finally, attachment parenting really gets Dr. Tuteur up in arms. Kids have turned out fine for centuries, and there's no reason for women (because let's face it, it's mostly women) to feel guilty if they can't hold their child 24/7.

I pretty much summed up the breastfeeding argument in my post on Lactivism a couple of weeks ago (link in the first paragraph), so I won't go too much into detail here. I can sum up my position, which I think is a little less militant than Dr. Tuteur's, as "do it if you can but don't cry about it if you can't, and it's no one's business why you choose what you choose." I agree with the author when I say that I think that the argument goes beyond just those who can't and needs to include those who don't want to. It doesn't matter the reason why -- if you don't want to, you are the boss of your body and you get to make that decision.

I'm also in the "I don't really care so much" zone on attachment parenting. I thought I was attachment parenting when I told people that what I was doing was "lazy parenting," but Dr. Tuteur describes it here as something much more rigid and crunchy than anything I'm into. Now, that being said, I have yet to read the Dr. Sears book, so I'm withholding thoughts on this since I haven't quite done my research well enough to have an opinion. After reading Dr. Tuteur's thoughts on these three subjects, I'm hesitant to jump in and completely believe her description of attachment parenting. She may be right (again, I'll do my own investigation), but she is just as militantly dictating her agenda as those she rails against in this book. Which brings to me to the biggest beef I have with this book.

Natural childbirth. I haven't made any bones about my goal for my own birth was natural childbirth with the understanding that I would have the kid however I ended up having the kid. A quick side note here so that you can understand why I think Dr. Tuteur's claim that these views come from her being a feminist is a little , and the short answer is because of her dismissal of any argument about patient-centered care in treating women giving birth. As I said, the goal was natural childbirth, and I labored for 12 hours on Pitocin after an induction via balloon catheter with no epidural. I'm damned proud of that, and I'm glad I experienced it. I ended up with an epidural and a Cesarean not because of any emergency or concern about the baby -- the hospital puts laboring patients on a time clock, and after six hours, if there's no movement to transition, you move into surgery. I have yet to meet someone who isn't horrified when I tell them this.

That being said, I don't regret getting my kiddo out the way he came. I don't feel guilty about a c-section or an epidural (honestly, it felt like rainbows and unicorns), and it is what it is. What I hated about my birth, and what still sits with me, is how I was treated as a patient. I was treated by the hospital staff (namely the nurses) and the doctor on duty when I was inducted (who, by the way, was not my OB -- she was absolutely amazing, patient-centered, collaborative, and awesome) as just another case to move through labor and delivery. I had to literally argue to be treated as a human being. It was disgusting, and especially as someone who only wanted to be an autonomous being. (Side note -- the surgery staff were also great, although the ped on duty should be slapped.)

Dr. Tuteur is so anti-natural childbirth that she never stops to consider the women who are choosing it and why. I wondered as I read this book if she had ever had a conversation with someone who chose this route about her reasons for doing so. There are many things I agree with her about -- for instance, pain meds are awesome, and giving birth is dangerous, and we have increased the ability for women to live after giving birth wildly in the past centuries with modern medical advancements. She is 100% correct about that. Additionally, I would never argue medicinal procedures or implications with her, as she is clearly the expert here. I am, however, pushing back (if you will) on the notion that women don't need to be a part of their birth experience. Dr. Tuteur completely and deliberately ignores the patients at the center of this dangerous process, and their feelings. It is precisely because birth is traumatizing that women should be involved in why things are happening and how to be a part of the team with their doctors.

In what I feel is the most egregious violation of bodily autonomy in women, Dr. Tuteur only mentions one single time in the entire sections on natural childbirth about women who have experienced sexual assault needing to discuss this with their providers. One, single, solitary time. She says you need to talk to your provider about it and they can help you. Oh boy howdy, how wrong she is about this. I have seen plenty of OB/GYN's myself who were not understanding of this. So no, it's not as simple as being like, "Hey, I was assaulted, be careful!" I can't even begin to describe to you how absolutely morally wrong I believe this is in an argument about giving birth, one of the most physically and emotionally difficult experiences a human goes through. All of this to say, some women want to be a part of their birth experience through natural childbirth because it's how they feel they can be in control of the situation, even if in reality they aren't.

There are a ton of reasons why a person might choose a natural childbirth, and there are many ways to go about it (not just a home birth -- it can happen in a birthing center or a hospital), and to dismiss them all in turn without thinking that some women might choose this course of action not because they are hippies who think they know best, but because they are real reasons that affect and are affected by the fact that they are humans with feelings and bringing life into the world is scary, is unkind at best.