Roe v. Wade legalized abortion 41 years ago, and access to abortion is a right that a lot of people living in the United States now take for granted. The reality is a lot more grim: the
pro-life anti-choice movement has been hard at work chipping away at abortion access. They often rely on intimidation tactics, misinformation campaigns, and — especially during the 1990s — sometimes violence. In recent years, TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) have proven successful at chipping away at abortion access on a state-by-state level. At a cultural level, the picture is just as grim. 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time they turn 45, but abortion remains a taboo subject. It’s a common medical procedure that few are willing to talk about for various reasons.
Sarah Erdrich discusses all of this and more in Generation Roe. It’s a great primer on the current state of abortion access in the United States because of the way it outlines what the pro-choice movement is up against. She interviews abortion providers, clinic escorts, pro-choice activists, and the patients themselves to give a fuller view of some of the effects that TRAP laws and the constant barrage of intimidation tactics have created. It’s a terrifying picture, with the barriers climbing higher the further along a person is into their pregnancy. See, for instance, the hardships one woman had to endure in the wake of Dr. George Tiller’s murder; she needed a late-term abortion because of severe birth defects:
Bartholomew Neil is thirty-eight years old and has lived with his mother his entire life. She recently passed away after a battle with brain cancer, and now Bartholomew faces life alone. He’s never had a job, and he probably falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. He spends his days at the library, harboring a longtime crush on a socially awkward woman he calls The Girlbrarian. A young counselor named Wendy recommends therapy to help him deal with his grief, but the thing is Bartholomew feels okay. Not great, but he’s getting by…with some help from Richard Gere.
The Good Luck of Right Now is written in epistolary format, each chapter a letter to Richard Gere. Bartholomew’s mother was a huge Richard Gere fan, and after finding a form letter from Gere that his mother saved, Bartholomew decides to start writing letters to Gere, whom he sees as a suave confidant. Through these letters, we learn more about Bartholomew’s life: he’s a devout Catholic with a close relationship to his longtime priest, Father McNamee. Soon after Bartholomew’s mother dies, Father McNamee has a very public breakdown during church service — he’s bipolar and an alcoholic, and he somehow winds up living on Bartholomew’s couch. Meanwhile, taking Wendy up on her offer to attend group grief counseling, Bartholomew meets a foul-mouthed man who believes in aliens. An unlikely friendship develops, and suddenly Bartholomew’s once-insular life is filled with all kinds of drama, adventure, and serendipitous connections.
For as long as I’ve had my blog, I’ve always done some sort of Women’s History Month giveaway. Most of the books I reviewed this month were related to women’s stories in some form or another (history/memoir/general nonfiction), and though I didn’t get to do as much reading as I’d hoped, who am I to break with bookish traditions?
Up for grabs? Your choice of one of the following books I reviewed this month:
This one is open worldwide, and I’ll pick one winner on Monday, April 7.
Janet Mock had a recognizable presence on social and mainstream media for a few years now. In 2011, Marie Claire published a profile of her, her first major introduction to the public as a trans woman and activist. A lot of people got to know her for the #girlslikeus hashtag on Twitter, which allows trans women to share their experiences, and she continues to speak out about the issues that trans people — especially trans women of color — face.
Redefining Realness is a memoir about coming of age as a young trans woman in Hawaii. She was the firstborn son of a couple whose relationship was doomed from the beginning; they divorced because of her father’s constant philandering. She and her little brother stayed with their mother, but that arrangement was also short-lived. Her mother was someone who always needed to be in a relationship, and with a new man and a new baby on the way, Mock is sent Oakland (and later, Texas) to live with her father and younger brother. By that time, Mock already knew she was different, but she didn’t know exactly how. Her father also knew she was different, and Mock could never seem to fit the role of firstborn son/big brother that was expected of her.
Part memoir, part journalistic exploration, Ann Dowsett Johnston’s new book, Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, looks at the rise of alcoholism in girls and women. Just as women caught up to men’s rates of tobacco use a few decades ago, women’s rates of alcohol abuse have also increased at an alarming rate. And just like it did with tobacco, the epidemic is drastically impacting women’s health.
Johnston is frank about how alcoholism affected her own family. Her mother was an alcoholic, her father became an alcoholic later in life, and Johnston herself — even though she knew the signs and was terrified of going down the same path — became an alcoholic as well. Her story mirrors the story of thousands of other women in the United States, and because of alcohol culture and the alcohol industry itself, the prevalence of alcohol abuse among women shows no signs of stopping.
Alcohol has always had a role in popular culture, but once the alcohol industry realized that women were an untapped market, marketing towards women skyrocketed. Unlike beer, the alcoholic beverages marketed to women — from wine coolers to cocktails — tend to have a higher alcohol content. Add this to places where people are particularly vulnerable (college parties, for instance), and you have a recipe for disaster. Women are physiologically more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, but Johnston considers other risk factors associated with drinking culture as well. Binge drinking is one behavior that by now most people are aware of, but doctors are starting to see the other behaviors at play that come before binge drinking, such as “drunkorexia” (intentionally refraining from eating in order to consume more alcohol) and pre-drinking (getting buzzed or drunk before heading out to the bars, which has the additional effect of people to keeping more alcohol stocked at home).