Review: What Makes a Baby

What Makes a Baby Book Trailer from Cory Silverberg on Vimeo.

A few months back I got a lovely email from Cory Silverberg telling me about a new book that he authored: What Makes a Baby. After a very delayed email exchange (I’ll admit I am often sloooowwww to respond) I received a copy of this lovely book in the mail.

The promises made in the trailer above definitely deliver. It’s an amazing specific yet unspecific story that helps tell the tale of where babies come from—all the modern and queer possibilities included. It does an incredible job of being inclusive of all genders and bodies. It also tells a birth story that includes the possibilities of a c-section and a vaginal birth, of midwives and doctors.

I’m not an expert on kids books, or what works when teaching kids about sensitive subjects like this one, but I’m happy to have this on my shelf for future use with family and friends.

The book is now available for purchase. A readers guide and more are available here.


Book review: Birth Models That Work

Cover of book with image of baby on itI was excited to get a review copy of the new book, Birth Models That Work, edited by Robbie Davis-Floyd, Lesley Barclay, Betty-Anne Daviss and Jan Tritten.

Robbie Davis-Floyd’s book Birth as an American Rite of Passage, was one of my biggest inspirations while in college and studying the anthropology of birth. She’s a definite pioneer in academic settings.

The best thing about Birth Models that Work is that it focuses on WHAT WORKS! So much of the academic literature out there (and activist literature, for that matter) focuses on what’s wrong with our current system. There is so much wrong that it can challenging not to focus on that entirely. BMTW is smart in its approach. We need to elucidate what is working, to give people models to emulate and to prove that we are right about what is best for parents and babies.

From the introduction:

None of the models described in this book is perfect, but all of them work well for mothers and babies. Chapter authors show us to what extent each model meets these criteria, pointing out what “getting there” takes and what obstacles and limitations each model faces in attempting to do so. Perfection is not the issue; functional (as opposed to dysfunctional) maternity care is. These functional models deserve international attention; this book is designed to help them achieve it and to encourage the creation of many other such models around the world.

Well said!

My only criticism of this book is that it’s overly academic in nature. Not surprising coming from academics and medical practitioners and probably wise since the audience they most need to research are other doctors, public health professionals, researchers. Unfortunately it’s also priced academically, at $27.95 for the paperback.

This book is a great addition to any library on the study of childbirth practices, with serious practical applications.

The authors are planning a second edition of the book, Part II, but its publication depends on the successful sale of this first part.

Go here to learn more about the book  and purchase it!

Virtual Tour for Yes Means Yes: Interview with Hazel/Cedar Troost

Hi ya’ll!

Welcome to the second to last stop on the virtual yes means yes tour. Be sure to check out the grande finale conversation at Feministe tomorrow.

If you haven’t heard about the book yet you should check it out. I have a piece about sexual violence against immigrant women in the book and there is a lot of really great content.

Today I have an interview with Hazel/Cedar Troost, another contributor to the book.

About Hazel/Cedar Troost:

Cedar/Hazel Troost is a trans and polyamorous femme living in Chicago, practicing explicit verbal consent, and passionate about ending trans misogyny. Ze is a former member of the University of Minnesota Transgender Commission, co-organizer of the 2007 Twin Cities Trans March, and the original author of the Cisgender Privilege Checklist currently residing at T-Vox—but hir real love is gardening.

You can also check out Hazel/Cedar’s blog here.

I asked to interview Hazel/Cedar because I thought hir post about consensual touch and body autonomy had some interesting connections the birth activist movement. We got a chance to gchat briefly. Here is an exerpt from our convo:

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Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape

I have a piece in the new anthology, Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape. My piece is called “When Sexual Autonomy Isn’t Enough: Sexual Violence Against Immigrant Women in the US.”

More about the anthology to come, but if you happen to be in Philly, you should come to our reading tonight! I will be there along with the editors Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman.

The reading is at Robin’s Bookstore. Come check it out if you’re in town. Also, Robin’s is closing down next month (after 73 years!) so you can visit the store for one of the last times. Robin’s Bookstore, 6pm 108 S. 13th St, Philadelphia PA 19107. Hope to see you!

Upcoming DC Event: Intentional Motherhood

I’m excited to announce this upcoming Washington DC event for three reasons. One, I helped to organize it. Two, it brings together two of my favorite topics, birth and abortion. Three, it happens to fall on my birthday! If you are in the DC area, you should come to the event, and wish me a happy birthday.

Intentional Motherhood: Connecting Abortion, Pregnancy, and Birth
Considering the full range of women’s reproductive rights:

The right to affordable birth control.
The right to parent.
The right to choose abortion.
The right to midwifery care.
The right to determine a birth plan.
The right to prenatal care.

Our Bodies Ourselves has provided indispensable information on women’s health and sexuality for more than 40 years. Their newest book, Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth addresses the questions and needs of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the “fourth trimester” of early motherhood.

The DC Abortion Fund is excited to host a a book signing and discussion to explore the many connections between these issues.

Judy Norsigian, Executive Director, Our Bodies Ourselves
Alexis Zepeda, Board Member, DC Abortion Fund
Jill Morrison, Senior Counsel, National Women’s Law Center

Wednesday May 28, 6:30 pm
Hawk ‘n’ Dove, 329 Pennsylvania Ave SE

Capital South Metro

Suggested Donation: $20

All Proceeds Benefit the DC Abortion Fund

If you have questions or are interested in co-sponsoring this event, please contact Betsy Illingworth at or Dina Morad at

I have yet to read the new OBOS book, but so far I have heard good things about it. After reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting during my thesis work in college, I know we are in desperate need of good pregnancy books that don’t scare women. It’s also a good book because its pretty affordable–only $15! We will be raffling off some books at the event, and Judy Norsigian will be there to sign copies.

Hope you can make it!

Suggestions for good pregnancy books please

When I was in college, I wrote a chapter of my thesis (entitled Managing Birth: Hospitals, Mothers and their Meaning in the United States about my work as a volunteer doula) on the best-selling pregnancy book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. In brief, I wrote about why it is terrible, and scares women, and should really be called What to Be Scared of When You’re Expecting. Not to mention that it is very much based on the doctors are better paradigm (my favorite quote, from the introduction, was something to the effect of how modern medicine had moved birth from the kitchen table to the hospital. wtf).

What I didn’t do when I wrote that chapter was recommend a good pregnancy book alternative. Now I’m looking for suggestions from you all, for good not scary midwife and doula friendly pregnancy books. Suggest away!

Resources for lesbians who want to become parents

I recently spoke at the NYU LGBT Center, as part of a Queer Lunch series they have (called Quench). I was talking about the connections between reproductive rights and LGBT liberation. It’s a topic I enjoy discussing (you can check out an article I wrote about it). But after the talk, one woman came up to me and asked about resources for lesbians who want to start families. I realized that I had little to tell her, except to point her toward the parenting section of the LGBT library the center had created. So I went home and did a little more internet research, and here is some of what I came up with. Please, if you have more resources, post them in the comments.

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A new book about Choice

True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, and Abortion

Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, and Abortion (Paperback) by Karen E. Bender (Editor), Nina De Gramont (Editor)

I went to Bluestockings last week to hear from the two editors and one contributor to this new book called Choice. It originally intrigued me because I thought it might be a broader take on what the term choice means for people in the United States. While I haven’t read the whole book yet, from the three contributions read last week and the editors remarks, it expands the concept of choice, but not as far as I would have liked. As a young queer woman, I didn’t feel particularly reflected or included in their stories, and from scanning the titles of the other essays, and looking at the biographies of the other contributors, didn’t feel compelled to keep reading.

While I think the book itself provides some interesting, thoughtful and well-written perspectives on what choice can mean for women, it misses an opportunity to really provide something new. I feel disappointed by these kind of publications frequently, and maybe that’s because of who is able to access publishers and agents, and who is in their circle of writers. It’s difficult for new writers (or even people who wouldn’t consider themselves writers, but have amazing things to say) to get publishedor included in these types of manuscripts.

I obviously need to read the rest of the selections to really be able to give my opinion, but in the meantime, you can check out this (kind of scathing) review of the book at SFGate.

For more from one of the editor, check out Karen Bender’s article at Huffington Post.

Shout out for a cool book: Nobody Passes

I went to a reading yesterday at Bluestockings (awesome radical feminist bookstore) by the editor and some of the contributors to this new book called Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Comformity, published by Seal Press.

Not only was there an awesome crowd, but Rocko Bulldagger and Helen Boyd  (author of My Husband Betty) both read from their pieces about passing and gender. What’s very cool about the book is that it tries to talk about passing outside the context of gender as well as within it, including articles about ability, race and immigration status among other things. Oh yeah, and Mattilda Bernstein, the editor of the book, is also a radical rockstar.  (She even has her own blog about the book and tour)