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October 2018

September 2018

Laura Jean Baker's The Motherhood Affidavits.

So last week I said I had read Laura Jean Baker's memoir The Motherhood Affidavits, and I didn't quite know how I felt about it.

That is not completely true. I know how I feel about it. What I don't know how to do is write about how I feel about it without being unkind, or too harsh.

I have this problem a lot.

Let's get the basic details out of the way. The book is a new memoir by a woman who lives in Oshkosh (WI), has five kids, and is married to a criminal defense attorney. Interspersed with her stories of family life and the oxytocin lift that being pregnant and having babies gave her (which is one reason she sought to have multiple kids), are stories of her husband's law practice and the types of drug, family abuse, theft, and animal cruelty (among others) charges from which he defends his clients.

It's an interesting book, and although I live in Wisconsin and am passably familiar with Oshkosh, it's always eye-opening to read what is all going on in what you might otherwise think are peaceful small towns. Baker also does a pretty good job of describing the chaos of pregnancy and family life, as well as the logistic challenges of packing a family into a small house (which is the biggest house they can afford).

So what's the problem?


Okay, if you missed that, please understand that if you want to read this memoir fresh, you should stop reading this review now, because I'm going to tell you about the last chapter.

Still here?

In the last chapter Baker shares how she starts to realize that, for the sake of her health and the family's finances, it's probably time to stop having babies (after five). Then she further shares how they meant to get her husband a vasectomy, and just didn't get it done; so then she relied on the rhythm method (poorly; by not tracking her period and for having a weekend away with her husband and without her kids, in the middle of her fertile period) to not get pregnant; and she got pregnant. So then she had an abortion.

I was so sad to read a whole book that was weirdly affirming of life even in the depth of chaos and community crime, only to have the last chapter end with a death.

And don't tell me abortion isn't death for someone. I am too tired to have that fight; you know how I feel on this issue. I'm not dumb; I know the many reasons women (and men--abortion makes a lot of problems go away for men too, never forget) might need abortions, and I really do understand. But in this case? Just because a woman couldn't be bothered to figure out when her fertile period is or to ask her husband to wear a condom? Brother.

I'm really sorry it ruined the whole book for me. But it did. I'd be interested to hear what you think about it.

September so far.

Has anyone picked up a copy of the Best American Essays 2017, our September Essay Project pick?

I have, but I have been rather scattershot in reading it. When faced with "Best" collections I first scan for names that might interest me, then titles, then I read a paragraph and decide if I'm interested. So far I have looked at about five or six essays in this collection, and decided to read one. The two I read I liked very much (Emily Maloney's "Cost of Living" and Kenneth McClane's "Sparrow Needy," about his brother), but I'll be honest, I'm having trouble dipping into the collection. I wish I didn't know it was edited by Leslie Jamison. I'm not a Leslie Jamison fan, and I think it's affecting my willingness to read what's on offer here. 

In other news I read Laura Jean Baker's memoir The Motherhood Affidavits, about her having five kids because it helped provide natural oxytocin to offset her depression, intermingled with stories from her criminal defense attorney husband's clients in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I read the whole thing, but I can't decide how I feel about it.

Last but not least I have started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to the CRjrs. They are totally addicted to it, which makes for a nice change from their Lego addiction.

Have a nice week, all.

The Essay Project 2018: On to September.

If you'll remember, a while back we were discussing what essays to read during September. MB in the comments suggested The Best American Essays 2017, and I think that sounds like an excellent choice. Hopefully it will be a bit easier going than Joan Didion.

Although I must say I enjoyed the Didion (although perhaps "enjoyed" isn't the right word--"am still digesting" might come closer to the mark), and I have now gone down a Didion rabbit-hole where I'm reading her essays, her memoirs, a memoir by her husband John Gregory Dunne, etc., and am having way too many long conversations with my sister about what is going on in Joan Didion's head and heart.*

Any last thoughts on Didion out there? Please let us know.

Otherwise? Get thee a copy of Best American Essays of 2017 and let's have at. Enjoy the rest of your week!

*Although I enjoy the conversations, and there "enjoy" is the right word. Wholeheartedly. Thanks, dear.

Labor Day Reading List 2018.

Good morning! If you'll remember, Labor Day is one of my absolute favorite holidays. I am determined to enjoy it today, although for some reason I cannot sleep at all lately and so stumble around all day like a zombie. Also, it is dark out there (I live in a new monsoon zone where it is constantly dark and rainy) and we will probably not be able to play much outside; major bummer.

So every year at this time I compile a list of books that I've read that have to do with jobs and work. (Here's the prior links: 2017. 2016. 2015. 2014. 2009.) This is a category of nonfiction I really enjoy, so normally this is a long list, but not this year. I've read a lot less this year, so apologies for this short list. Better luck next year, right? I hear you just feel better and get lots more time to indulge in your favorite activities as you age*, so here's looking forward to 2018-2019.

Helene Hanff, Underfoot in Show Business. A re-read, but God, this book is so awesome. About trying to make it in theatah and i New York City in general.

Michael Perry, Population 485. Another re-read, about being a writer, volunteer EMT and firefighter, and all-around decent guy.

Brian Alexander, Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of an All-American Town. An investigative book about Ohio's Anchor Hocking Glass company, and how finance types and business people raped it for all the profit they could get, helping destroy its hometown in the process. In bold because it's one of the best books I read this year. READ IT, even if some of the financial fine print gets a bit dense and you have to skip parts of it.

Peter Maas, Serpico. About being a cop, and a whistleblower. Unbelievably great read.

Caroline Fraser, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. About Wilder's life as a farmer and author. Fantastic. Very important in these days when Wilder's reputation is taking a hit. Yes, the settlers were not nice to Native Americans. Maybe we should read about that and discuss why it was wrong rather than pretend it never happened. At least that's the way I feel about it.

Annie Spence, Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks. About books, reading, and being a librarian.

Rachel Arneson, No Apparent Distress: A Doctor's Coming-of-Age on the Front Lines of American Medicine. About becoming and being a doctor. It didn't set me on fire but was an interesting read.

NOW: Go forth, and have a Happy Labor Day. I wish you a good day celebrating work by not doing any.