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[personal profile] akujunkan
Two books this week, both of which require a a strong stomach to read.

1) Pushed - Jennifer Block
I was under the impression that Pushed was a book about the recent cultural trend urging educated, ambitious women to "opt out" of careers for motherhood and domestic bliss before it's "too late" to have children. It's actually about a problem far less visible and far, far scarier: namely, the ways in which the medical industry turns childbirth into a drug-soaked, invasive procedure-riddled exercise in pain, just for the sake of health provider convenience and the bottom line.

Block makes a compelling case that what began as a compassionate desire to lessen the pain of childbirth has resulted in Rube Goldberg system in which rafts of unnecessary procedures are performed to correct complications created by previous unnecessary procedures, and any woman wishing to deliver in a U.S. hospital sans epidural and/or episiotomy and/or caesarian section is shit out of luck.

It's a terrifying indictment of the ways in which America's for profit, private health care system handles prenatal care and delivery, one it's impossible to come away from without feeling the desire to do something to correct this mess. Unfortunately, Block fails to offer any suggestions on how to begin for readers wishing to take further action. That said, this is the only failing in a superbly researched, well-argued, and objective volume. Pushed comes highly recommended.

2) The Girl With Glass Feet - Ali Shaw
The Girl With Glass Feet's jacket refers to it many times over as a fairytale. It is not. It's an anti-fairytale. For while a fairytale's message is "happily ever after," The Girl With Glass Feet's message is this: you will suffer a disappointment in love from which you will never recover. It will define your existence to the exclusion of all else, leaving you cocooned in the desperation of your private grief, deadened to more pleasant emotions. Any attempt to reach out to other human beings will end in failure, and if you are so brave as to overcome your own pain, your love will be suddenly and tragically snatched from you by death. The end.

It's a pity, because Shaw is a talented writer with a strong grasp of the use of poetic language and magical realism, and the modern fantasy setting he creates in Glass Feet is truly fresh. Unfortunately, the utter inability of any of the novel's characters to rise above the sole defining setback in their life eventually renders them all unsympathetic and aggravating. I can't help but feel that this novel could have been a truly moving meditation on chronic illness and death if only Shaw weren't so obviously trying to go for capital-P profundity.

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January 2012

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