Thursday, August 23, 2007

God's Brothel by Andrea Moore-Emmett

I am currently reading God's Brothel by Andrea Moore-Emmett. I actually ran across this book while I was at the library doing research for a gay parenting article -- this book was on the shelf right above where I was looking, and it happened to catch my eye. My preliminary thought was that it looked interesting, and so I checked it out along with the others.

I started reading God's Brothel last night after finishing Unassisted Childbirth, and I am very glad I checked it out. It is definitely very interesting, not to mention rather disturbing.

God's Brothel is about the polygamist culture of Mormon and Christian fundamentalists. The book starts out with a chapter on the problems of polygamy, from legal issues to the domestic abuse (both physical and sexual) this fundamentalist culture is breeding. After that, the book tells the stories of 18 women who experienced it firsthand -- and managed to escape.

Their stories are horrendous; it's hard to believe that these things go on in our country. I'm only slightly joking when I say that incest jokes should be about Mormon fundamentalists and not Southerners. This book is chalk-full of stories of girls who were beaten, molested, and raped by their male relatives -- and in these communites, practically everyone is a relative. Girls in their mid-teens are forced to marry older stepfathers, uncles, and cousins.

Girls in these fundamentalist Mormon groups are taken out of school by the time they hit puberty, if they ever even go to school at all. As part of their preparation for motherhood, which starts in early adolescence, they are told it is their duty to bear a child a year -- in fact, that their body is intended by God to be worn out through childbirth. It is their only purpose in life.

What is really horrifying is that many of the women attest to the fact that this is the rule, and not the exception. Furthermore, most of them ran into problems getting the legal system to do anything. Even though there are laws about polygamy, most of the time these cults are ignored and allowed to continue mistreating their women and children. It's horrifying.

On the bright side, God's Brothel has inspired me to research and write about the topic myself.

September 9, 2007 -- Update:

This evening I spotted a related article on the New York Times website, about the trial of a polygamist matchmaker named Warren S. Jeffs. Jeffs is on trial for forcing underage girls to enter into polygamist marriages with older men. Although the article goes nowhere near the depth of the issues Andrea Moore-Emmett discusses in her book, it is still an interesting current event, particularly if you have read (or are reading) God's Brothel.

Unassisted Childbirth by Laura Shanley

Recently I ran across an article -- I think it was on -- about "do-it-yourself childbirth." Laura Shanley and her website, Bornfree, were mentioned in the article. As it turns out, Shanley is also the author of a book on the subject, Unassisted Childbirth.

I was immediately interested. As a diabetic woman who is interested in having children someday soon, I have recently become concerned with current medical practices concerning childbirth. Since my women's studies classes in college, I have been interested in natural childbirth, only to find more recently that my diabetes is going to make it hard (if not nearly impossible) to have the type of childbirth I want.

For instance, I don't want an IV, but diabetic mothers are apparently almost always given an insulin/glucose drip -- whether or not they need it. Also, I find the incidence of C-section very alarming -- more than a quarter of babies born in the U.S. are now born by C-section. Unfortunately, as a diabetic woman that apparently makes it even more likely that a doctor will want to perform a C-section on me.

About the time I saw the article on unassisted childbirth (or UC, as it is often referred to), I had recently been told by a midwifery clinic that midwifes were legally prohibited from attending to a diabetic mother at home. While I don't know yet if that is true, I am interested in finding more out about unassisted childbirth as an alternative to having my babies in the hospital.

Being interested in finding out more, I decided to read Laura Shanley's book, Unassisted Childbirth. I found the book highly interesting and extremely readable. Especially informative was the information on how medical intervention can actually endanger the mother and child. In fact, unassisted childbirth is actually just as safe if not safer than hospital birth, because all of the things that doctors and nurses do can actually cause complications. There's so much information that I can't even begin to list it here -- if you are interested in finding out more, I definitely recommend this book!

In addition, the book includes several people's stories of UC. It is also really encouraging to read about people's experiences with it.

All in all, I find the notion of unassisted childbirth intriguing. While I haven't decided yet whether I will go that route, it has definitely impacted what I want out of my childbirth experiences. When it comes time to make a decision, if I do decide to go with a hospital birth it will be armed with information and a fully-constructed birthing plan that will essentially tell the doctors, "I MAKE THE DECISIONS HERE, NOT YOU."

This book has helped to give me the knowledge and the determination to be in charge of my own childbirth. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to find out more about natural childbirth (whether unassisted or not) and the dangers of medical intervention!

Stay tuned for other books on this subject. I have a whole stack of books to read!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

I just finished reading The Subtle Knife, the second book in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. I only recently finished the first book, The Golden Compass, but the second book was shorter and a faster read.

Unfortunately, The Subtle Knife had a cliffhanger ending. The story is obviously waiting until the third book to come to any sort of resolution. I would normally be starting the fourth book right away, but Michael is only about halfway done with it right now.

I guess I'll have to find something else to read in the meantime.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

As you may already know, Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass has been made into a movie, due out this December. Michael loves fantasy and is excited for the movie, so he decided to read the books, as well. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he also managed to rope me into reading them, too.

I used to read Philip Pullman as a teenager, so I'm interested to see if his writing is as good as I remember it to be. (So far it is.) I'm a third or half of the way through The Golden Compass, and so far I'm enjoying it immensely. The book is entirely different from the type of fantasy found in the Harry Potter books (which I've also been reading lately), so it is a nice change.

Essentially, the book is about a little girl, Lyra, who has discovered to be involved in a huge -- and most likely sinister -- mystery. Pullman does an excellent job of giving you only a few details at a time, keeping you wondering what is going on, so unfortunately there is little I can tell you about the premise of the novel.

However, I can tell you that The Golden Compass takes place in a fantasy world, but one that is similar to ours in many ways; that children are disappearing; and that Lyra has something to do with all of this (though she doesn't know what yet). Lyra is a delightful heroine, spunky and defiant and rather wild.

While I read The Golden Compass, Michael is reading The Subtle Knife, which is the second book in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy. We'll be picking up the third one -- The Amber Spyglass -- soon, as Michael is almost done with The Subtle Knife.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Milk Memos by Cate Colburn-Smith and Andrea Serrette

I am currently reading The Milk Memos, by Cate Colburn-Smith and Andrea Serrette. This book was a total impulse buy: Last week, when Michael and I were at Tattered Cover (a local, independent Barnes and Noble-style bookstore that offers free WiFi), I spotted it on the shelf right next to where we were sitting.

How can you resist a book with the title "The Milk Memos," especially when it has wide baby's eyes and an almost-bald baby's head on the cover? I picked it up and started looking at it, and I very quickly became intrigued.

The Milk Memos is part memoir, part how-to for working moms. Basically, the authors were both working at IBM shortly after giving birth, so they were both using the lactation room -- the room the company provided them in order to pump at work. Along with other nursing/working moms, they started keeping a little notebook, where they would all leave messages to each other while they were pumping.

The Milk Memos includes some of those exchanges, divided into specific topics and accompanied by related commentary and how-to information. The focus of the book is helping working moms continue to breastfeed; despite the dramatic health benefits enjoyed by breastfed babies, the task of pumping throughout the day intimidates many new mothers into switching to forumla.

The biggest reason why I bought the book was that it has a chapter for work-at-home moms. Since I am a writer who works from home, I thought the book might have some good tips for when Michael and I have a baby. I know that many of my fellow freelance writers are also work-at-home moms, too, so take note — this book has some good tips!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

I am now reading the fourth of J.K. Rowling's books, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I was worried about not being able to get to the 7th book by the time it was due back at the library, but interestingly enough, the library made a mistake, and the book isn't registered as being checked out to me. In that case, I think I'll keep it out for a week or so longer than would usually be allowed, which should give me enough time to finish the entire series.

I have to admit, I had forgotten how long and involved these books started getting after a while. The Goblet of Fire is rather daunting, and I am an adult! How do kids feel with they see this 800-page doorstop?

It's just a good thing Rowling is so good at writing compelling, suspenseful stories -- otherwise, kids would joke about her books the same as they joke about books like War and Peace.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Moving right along in my quest to read the entire 7 books of Harry Potter! I am now on the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

It's hard to know what to say when I've read all these before, except to comment about the things that are different about the movie. One thing I definitely have noticed, however, is that J.K. Rowling does an excellent job of dropping clues about what is going on -- except you don't notice it when you're reading the books for the first time.

*** Warning: I'm about to reveal something that may spoil the book (or movie) for you if you haven't read (or seen) it! ***

For instance, in the third book Hermione has enrolled in more classes than she could take in a normal 24-hour day, so she is using a time-travel device to attend them all -- but you don't find that out until the end. However, odd little things are constantly happening, like Hermione suddenly being in class when Ron and Harry didn't see her walk in, or Hermione carrying books for classes she doesn't have that day. If you already know what is going on, you really pick up on these things -- but if you don't know, some of them slip by you.

In other words, J.K. Rowling is a MASTER of subtlety!