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As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

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. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street

Matt Taibbi's I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street was one of the most powerful non-fiction books I have read in some time.

In 2014, on Bay Street in Staten Island, Eric Garner was put in a chokehold by police and died at their hands. This, you are familiar with. But the journey to get to Bay Street on that hot summer day is one you aren't familiar with unless you spend you life steeped in research on the history of social (in)justice. Eric was a man on the streets selling cigarettes to support his family, and decades of history within the policing tactics of New York City came to a head to ultimately take the life of a father, a husband, a friend, a son, a human. The events before and after are ones you may not know about, but they are presented here in Taibbi's treatise on not just what happened to one person, but the injustice of the system as a whole that led to this death, and so many others.

"Broken windows" is a policy many of us are familiar with, but are we, really? It wasn't until I was a couple of chapters into Taibbi's book that I actually took the time to find the 1982 article in The Atlantic by the men who came up with the theory. You may find it more informative than you think. Taibbi goes into detail about George L. Kelling's work that led up to this and his thoughts about it even as cities started to adapt his work. He figured out very quickly that this policy, in the wrong hands, would lead to grave consequences for the citizens of the city living under its thumb. Boy, was he right. Three decades after the theory was put forth, it's a fair assessment that "broken windows" hs certainly achieved lower rates of crime but at a huge cost to the humans who make up the heart of the city. So many names mentioned in this book we know without needing much explanation -- Amadou Diallo. Sean Bell. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Philando Castile. Sandra Bland. These men and women are only a fraction of those who have lost their lives over the long game of social policies meant to "protect" the public. We know that's not how it goes.

"Stop and frisk" runs along those same lines, and it's something that has been on my mind for many years. This policy is not recent, but I watched it in action in my neighborhood in Queens. I saw many men stopped and frisked, and it was a difficult thing to watch helplessly. What could I do? It made me angry to watch this practice first hand among my neighbors and not be able to do anything about it other than to complain on social media. I knew it was absurd then, and I stand by that assertion four years later. The evidence for it is available for you to look up yourself, but you can start here with this article. The contributions of these programs and policies that criminalize a walk to the subway only seek to separate citizens.

Tiabbi has written a clear, concise, and haunting account of not just Garner's death, but of the systemic issues surrounding it that lead up to it -- such as stronger policing of little crimes in an area newly built up by wealthy white residents in Staten Island -- all the way through to the court cases that would not allow the records of what happened, other than the video released by an onlooker, to the public. There was no justice in this case, and Taibbi makes that clear for his reader with such pathos and honesty. I spent a lot of time reflecting on what I was reading in this book, and I ultimately came to the decision that I do not care what anyone is doing -- I don't care about someone selling illegal cigarettes, giving a cop attitude, or demanding that they be respected as a person -- the loss of human life is shameful and should be mourned regardless of circumstances.

This book is worth buying, reading, and keeping if you are at all interested in race, crime, policing, an the intersection of these issues with social policy.

I would also like to note the heartbreak that came with the passing of Erica, Eric's daughter and mother of two children who became an activist after her father's death and the subsequent lack of justice. The loss of life should always be mourned, whether you agree or disagree with actions and politics. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Hillary Rodham Clinton's What Happened

For Christmas, my husband and I don't do a lot. I have written about my frustration with the commercialism of the holiday recently, and when a meme popped up in my Facebook feed suggesting a different tradition, I jumped on it. I don't care how true it is. We decided to exchange books on Christmas Eve and spend the afternoon and evening reading a la Icelandic tradition. I got the hubby a book whose post is forthcoming, and he got me two books. Hillary Rodham Clinton's What Happened was the one I chose to read this past holiday.

I think it's fair to say that we all know what this book is about. If, for some reason, you are reading this in the post-apocalyptic world of 2543 and you have no access to what happened in 2016, first I say, you are a lucky ducky, and second, whoa. Long story short, Hillary Clinton lost the electoral college of the presidential election. Regardless of the historic implications of a female Clinton win, we are also facing some strange and frightening ramifications of the other candidate winning. However, this book focuses on Clinton's musings in the year following her 2016 defeat.

If you are new to this blog, this may surprise you, but for readers who have been around a while, you won't be shocked when I tell you I vote on the liberal side of things. I have no qualms telling you that I voted for Clinton, and I don't regret that vote. I actually didn't have any intention of reading this book any time soon, but when I received it as a thoughtful gift from my beloved, I wasn't disappointed. I was interested in what HRC had to say about her time on the campaign trail and the devastating loss. For the most part, my interest was sated, and I even put some new thoughts into action.

You can easily skip the first section (the first two chapters) and even some of the last section (the last two chapters). They bookend what we really came here for, which was to hear HRC's take on two years leading up to November 8, 2016. The sections I suggest skipping are a little too touchy-feely for my taste, and while I am all about a good rallying cry to bring the people together, at many points I felt it was too much. I also felt the salience of one of the liberal critiques with HRC, which is that the feminism surrounding her candidacy isn't intersectional. Unfortunately, that came through to me and made me a bit uncomfortable. I do have hope that we can turn around the embarrassing and devastating decisions being made by the current commander in chief, but I don't necessarily need to be patted on the head.

That being said, the meat of this book lies in the breakdown of HRC's time on the campaign trail, the investigation into her emails, Russian influence on the election, and the actual election night and immediate aftermath. These were fascinating chapters, and they gave me quite a lot to think about. Regarding Russian involvement, HRC clearly lays out the timeline of what she knew when, and I think anyone with any stake at all in our current electoral system should take note. There is no way, after triangulating (polygonning, if you will) just the publicly available data (not including anything classified) that Russian operatives weren't involved. I appreciate HRC breaking down, piece by piece, her experience so that those of us who are interested in what happened can read it for ourselves. That doesn't mean that her word is the defining word, but hers along with others provides a picture of what occurred over a two year time span.

I also appreciate her breaking down her campaign, since even those closely following it most likely missed a great deal of it. No camera can follow a candidate day and night for 18 months to two years. I also think that there was a great deal of insight in this memoir, especially around what it was that attracted voters to a man who was so far from ever being prepared to be the head of state of a world-dominating super power. I want to go back and read Hard Choices, because even though I am no policy wonk, I feel that HRC explains things very clearly for her reader when she is talking about what she loves most, which is policy and human relations. I feel that this book humanized her in a way that even I missed. It's not about lamenting what could have been -- and there could have been so much -- but instead learning lessons for all of us as we move forward to pick up the pieces in the next few years. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Doctor and Child

While I was poking around Goodwill for some book scores a couple of months ago, I saw this gem from 1970. I had to get it immediately; my mom was a big fan of Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and I even once drew a scary clown and named it Brazelton. Not because I was scared of the doctor, but because it was the first name I could recall. Doctor and Child comes after some of his other well-known books, and I thought it would be fun to read a 45 year-old book and see how things have changed -- if they have changed at all. 

In this book, Dr. Brazelton covers everything from postpartum bonding with baby to colic, sleeping, and TV and toys. he uses his relationship as a doctor to his tiny patients to exemplify best parenting practices. It was lovely to read, really, and especially with my knowledge of child development, I found much of what he had to say pretty spot on. My one beef, which I would like to get out of the way early, is the female-centric role that he makes parenthood into. This is a product of the time -- 1970, which means he was practicing in the '50's and '60's as well -- and I do understand that at that time, parenthood was seen as women's work and the men just show up to support their wives. (Yes, we could easily argue that not much has changed, but that's for another day.) This greatly affects my delicate feminist sensibilities. 

Ok, so moving on. Even 45 years ago, Dr. B has some important things to say on toys for kids, and I found his thoughts to be similar to my own: fancy toys don't lead to better learning, and parents who think they do use them as a substitute for their own time. The same can be said about the obsession school quality and the overscheduling of small and large kids. (Caveat: This is also, I recognize, something that requires a certain privilege, which is the assumption that there are parents (plural) and that one or more is not working multiple jobs to make ends meet.) He recommends simple toys that you can make at home, including what I tell everyone: cardboard boxes and tissue paper make great toys. I still remember a school art project where we made dolls out of foil. To this day it's one of my favorite activities. Stop spending money and start spending time. 

I am so happy I found this book, if only for the sake nostalgia. I'll keep it around for a while. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel


I believe that Jesmyn Ward is the voice of a generation. I adore her work, and I truly believe that her non-fiction piece Men We Reaped is one of the most important reads for everyone to ingest. When I found out at Book Expo this year that she had a new novel coming out, I almost cried with joy. More on the picking up of the novel later. This is Sing, Unburied, Sing.

Jojo's thirteenth birthday is spent where he usually spends his days -- in his grandparent's house, helping his grandfather while his beloved grandmother slowly dies of cancer. Days later his mother receives word that his father is being released from prison, and she packs her kids in the car -- Jojo and his little sister Kayla -- to go pick him up. Leonie, his mother, is an addict who fell in love with the man connected to her beloved brother's death. Motherhood doesn't fit her well, so picking up her man from prison is what she is living for. Their road trip to Parchman and back will deeply define Jojo's life and shape the man he will one day become.

This was one of those novels that was so stunningly beautiful that I had to take a breather and just revel in it. I had to stop, take deep breaths, and just realize the beauty that I was given in this novel. Ward has captured several characters deeply and fully, and she has taken great care in handing these over to us as her readers. Jojo is everything I hope to find as reader in a young boy. Often when I read stories told from the perspective of a preadolescent, they are overly young and reaching to portray a child who is a complicated and full being. Ward took this young boy and gave him life on the page, and he was incredible. I also found Leonie to be full-bodied and a complicated character, and while I didn't like her, it's important to distinguish that my dislike of her came from the creation of the character, and I feel that deeply speaks to Ward's ability to craft a character. I enjoyed reading her and disliking her for her willingness to abandon her family -- not just her children, but also her parents -- even as I felt great sympathy for her in losing her brother and falling in love with his murderer's cousin.

I also deeply connected with Ward's portrayal of her characters' dealings with addiction and how that drove their choices and their stories. It is a central story element, both using and transporting, and it was treated with a delicate and caring hand. We live in a world where addiction is treated as a class issue, a race issue, and a moral issue. Ward's book takes it on as a human issue and succeeds at presenting addiction in a world world context that doesn't begin or end with an after-school special moment.

This story was told in service to the characters, and it was deep for its short length. It was sold to me as a Faulkner-esque tale of a journey in search for self, and while I would say that I don't entirely buy this (I personally find Faulkner insufferable), I would say that the road trip that is in the center of this story was far more beautiful than anything Faulkner could have written. The journey out to Parchman and back serves Leonie's and Jojo's character development rather than serving as the point of the book itself. At least, that's how I read it. I couldn't recommend this book any more highly.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Lactivism: How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy


I read about Courtney Jung's Lactivism: How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy in a long form article on breastfeeding, and I found it was readily available for reading on my Kindle. Wowza. I was not expecting such a gut punch of a read. Bottom line: It was incredible.

The title and subtitle of this book tell you the gist of what the book is about -- Jung dives deep into lactivism, what it is, how it supports itself, and how the movement may be doing more harm than good for American mothers and children. I will say that I was swept up in the lactivism push myself. After all, who doesn't want to give their child every advantage that they can? I sure do. In all honesty, I am thrilled with the idea of an average child, and I have no doubt that in later posts this explanation will come out. (Blame too much knowledge, folks.) However, if breastfeeding can give my little guy an advantage in terms of health, brain development, physical development, and bonding, then sign me up. Jung points out that breastfeeding is the great uniter of everyone from feminists to fundamentalists to hippies to yuppies. (That is, after all, the title.)

The problem with this push is that, at least in the United States, the evidence for most of the claims touted by lactivists just don't hold up. Mostly we know that it helps my kid's immunity against ear infections and some gut issues, but connections to intelligence and heftier diseases just isn't there.  (While I can't say I have done an exhaustive search, as I am also busy writing my own research, I can say that I checked out Jung's and it was pretty thorough. I love a fellow academic.) Like Jung, I went forth with breastfeeding because it was easy (after a few weeks -- the first weeks were brutal) and because it was free (but only kind of -- more on that in a bit). I make no bones about the fact that did it for convenience and not because of any moral high ground or ulterior motive. Sure, the bonding is great, but we could have had that without breastfeeding. While breastfeeding is literally life or death in third world countries, in the United States it's simply a preferred choice. There isn't anything wrong with this, but Jung's point that the guilt-driven push and borderline hostage-taking of women in poverty is egregious. If you don't know of what I speak, do some quick research into your state's WIC guidelines regarding benefits for breastfeeding versus non-breastfeeding mothers. Egregious doesn't even begin to cover it.

I am part of a breastfeeding support group on the book of faces, and I had to stop following posts regularly because I was horrified by the weight that women put into breastfeeding their children -- so many see it as life or death. As I said, in some countries it is, but in the industrialized world, it just isn't. While I will admit to being swept up in the breastfeeding mania at first, this book was a complete eye opener in terms of truly supporting women from a feminist perspective. No child is going to be harmed by being fed formula. I don't believe I, or my son, are better off because we were breastfed, and I don't think so many people and kids that I know are worse off because they are fed formula. I have put a lot of thought into the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, and I'm now not as gung-ho about it as I was a year ago when I was planning for the birth of my son. No one should have to justify their desire to feed their baby by formula, whether it's a desire or it's a necessity. I am happy that my son and I have had the chance to breastfeed, and I wouldn't change it for the world. I also don't hold any other woman to any standard other than that they have to feed their kid, be it by the boob or by formula.