So the deal is, I am terrible at this. I haven’t posted a new link here in many, many months. Between my weekly column for the Boston Globe books section and occasional other freelance pieces — not to mention my own attempts at writing long-form nonfiction — I haven’t figured out how to come up with 20 minutes a day to update my blog.
But I’m going to keep trying, because for better or worse I have put this link at the bottom of my email signature and I want it to be of some use. And as good as I sometimes feel about my ability to conceive, report, and write a piece, I need all the practice I can get with the hustle part of it.
So here goes: a little catch up of links from the past few months.
Here’s a piece I wrote for the Globe a few months back about teenagers and sex, here and in Holland.
Here’s my entry into the Write Club Atlanta’s 100-word prompt challenge. The task? Write a story, fiction or non, in 100 words — not 99, not 101 (not counting title). I wrote about my grandmother and a very special dress she once owned.
And here’s a recent Globe column, featuring some books I really liked (especially Enemies, a history of the FBi).
I promise to do better. I know, I say that a lot.
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Today the Boston Globe published a piece I wrote about reading to kids — specifically, why so many parents find themselves editing/censoring while reading to kids, and whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent.
Here’s how it starts:
On the seventh page of “The Story of Babar’’ by Jean De Brunhoff, the little elephant is riding on his mother’s back when something awful happens: “a wicked hunter, hidden behind some bushes, shoots at them. The hunter has killed Babar’s mother!’’ The pictures tell the rest of the story – we see Babar happily atop his mother in one scene, crying by her side the next. The first dozen times I read the book to my son, when I reached that two-page spread, I would pinch the pages together to turn as one, and then skip on ahead. One night, though, when I was out of the house, his father read him “Babar’’ at bedtime.
Posted in Arts, Books, Parenting | Tagged babar, Boston Globe, kids, moms, Parenting, reading | Leave a Comment »
Okay, I have renewed respect for people who manage to keep their blogs current all the damn time.
Catching up is hard to do, but here goes: since April I’ve been contributing a weekly column to the Boston Globe’s books section. It’s called Short Takes (I inherited the name) and is composed of three brief reviews each week. I’m reading more than I have since college, which is lovely but tends to leave less time for other writing than I’d like. But what a gift to be able to read so much, and so widely!
Here are a few recent columns:
July 24: Preston Lauterbach’s Chitlin’ Circuit, Stephen Kelman’s Pigeon English, and Sigmund Freud’s Coke Problem
July 17: Mary Horlock’s Book of Lies, Michael Levy’s Kosher Chinese, and the Battle for Suffrage
More later. I promise!
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I wrote last week on MomLogic about the recurring problem of sending baby bottle and formula as charitable aid to Haiti in the wake of the cholera epidemic:
The generosity of average people after a natural disaster — even one occurring thousands of miles away — is truly inspiring. In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti last January, we’ve witnessed acts of enormous caring, from doctors and nurses volunteering their time to construction workers traveling to help rebuild Port au Prince to everyday moms and dads sending donations of food, clothing and money. And the recent news that cholera — a potentially deadly waterborne illness — has now come to Haiti has sparked another round of giving. But charity isn’t always so simple, and one of the most commonly requested donations — baby bottles and formula — can hurt far more than it helps, according to international aid workers.
The reason is simple: Breastfeeding
, which is the best option for babies under any circumstances, becomes even more crucial when mothers and infants are in post-disaster situations, where clean water is nearly impossible to come by. Without clean water, bottles and nipples become vectors for disease, as does powdered formula prepared with dirty water. Once a baby begins feeding with formula, breastfeeding
‘s delicate supply-and-demand loop is interrupted, and it’s all too common for a nursing mother to find her supply waning. (Supply does not seem to be an issue in cases where mothers themselves are underfed and even dehydrated. Mother Nature seems to know how to provide for babies.)
While formula is often donated at first, once breastfeeding
is interrupted, mothers scramble to get formula they may not be able to afford, which leads to women “stretching” it by mixing it with more than the prescribed amount of water, which can cause illness
and even death. For all these reasons, aid workers caution against sending baby bottles and/or formula. In the very rare cases that a baby is left motherless, they say, the use of formula to feed that baby can and should be handled by care workers
on the local level (UNICEF
, for instance, which has been in Haiti
since before the disaster).
Every time this issue comes up, it seems to provoke another round of online comment wars, in which America’s love-hate relationship with breastfeeding
is invoked, someone accuses the aid workers of being “boob Nazis” and so on. I wish we could get past that fight, because what happens in a country like Haiti
is not about the issues so many American women bring to the topic of breastfeeding
. It’s unarguable that breast milk is babies’ preferred food source, but American infants do just fine on formula. That’s because we have dishwashers, refrigerators and clean water supplies — three things that the average Haitian mother can only dream of at this point. (Oh, and enough money to buy the stuff.)
For mothers and babies
whose lives are not like ours, there is no better health insurance plan than this: Provide them with shelter and food, and protect nursing mothers from helpful donations that will end up hurting them (and from the formula manufacturers
, for whom every natural disaster represents a new market they’d love to get into).
Posted in Parenting, Politics | Tagged baby bottles, breast milk, breastfeeding, cholera, earthquake, formula, haiti, infant formula | Leave a Comment »
A book I reviewed recently for the Globe left me feeling really sad about the publishing industry. Jay Kirk’s Kingdom Under Glass, a piece of narrative nonfiction, chronicles the life of Carl Akeley, a pioneer in the field of taxidermy. As part of his craft, Akeley spent many years hunting big game in Africa (mostly Uganda and the Congo).
It’s the kind of book I should have loved. But the thoroughly retrograde treatment of Africa and Africans — which any good editor should have talked Kirk out of — made it really tough for me to read. Parts of it read like they came straight out of Tarzan (hostile, animalistic “natives,” etc.).
This is something my old Africana columnist Amy Alexander often railed against: when the publishing industry (or journalism, or other media endeavors) is staffed entirely by young white people of privilege, there are entire worlds of experience and nuance that are simply not captured or conveyed, and horrible old stereotypes are allowed to persist. We need more black editors, more Latino editors, more editors who grew up poor.
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These are the two most political books I’ve reviewed for the Globe, and both were a pleasure to read and write about.
Last Sunday, I took a look at Salon’s Rebecca Traister’s Big Girls Don’t Cry, a chronicle of the 2008 presidential race as seen through the lens of feminism. Although I take Traister to task for a slightly shallow reading of history — I would have loved a sidebar or two by Jill Lepore — overall this is a smart, illuminating take on an election that toppled some boundaries and reminded us of the persistence of others.
Then on Tuesday, my review of Yellow Dirt appeared. Judy Pasternak, an LA Times writer, investigated the decades-long trauma suffered by Navajo people due to uranium mining. Here’s my best point:
“The story feels dismally current in a year that saw both a devastating coal mining disaster and a massive offshore oil spill. Although often described as accidental tragedies, it’s easy to see them instead as predictable outcomes when corporate greed and lax safety regulations come together in a poor neighborhood.”
Sometimes freelancing makes you feel like a hack. Sometimes you get to say things you really mean about topics you care about.
Posted in Books, Politics, Race | Tagged 2008, Big Girls Don't Cry, environmental racism, Hillary Clinton, Judy Pasternak, Navajo, Rebecca Traister, Salon, Uranium, Yellow Dirt | Leave a Comment »
One of the most startling things about visiting my daughter’s high school is seeing the police officer who patrols the halls. Most public high schools have them now — they’re called Resource Officers — and a new book I reviewed for the Globe recently explains why. Aaron Kupchik’s Homeroom Security argues passionately against the cops-in-schools, “zero tolerance” approach to keeping our kids safe. Even though it’s a fairly clunky read — a classic university press book written by a sociologist — it’s worthwhile for anyone who cares about kids, schools, and real safety (versus the illusion of it).
Posted in Books, Education, Parenting, Politics | Tagged Aaron Kupchik, book reviews, Boston Globe, Columbine, Homeroom Security, kate tuttle, school safety, zero tolerance | 1 Comment »