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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Touring and Talking About Touring

The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things. Of future book tours and Jenna's tale of uterine linings. Of whether to do a Chabon book or read Max Tivoli.

Perhaps that didn't work as well as I would have liked.

But it is time, my sweet barren bitches, to set up the next few tours to take us through winter. Why set them up now? Because (1) some people like to read ahead and know what is happening next. (2) It gives me a chance to invite an author to participate. (3) Some non-US participants like to purchase all their books at once and save on shipping. And (4) some of us are used bookstore devotees and need the extra time to hunt down copies. Oh--and (5) for popular books or new books, you can get on a wait list at the library in advance. So, that's why.

I'm going to throw out some books I've collected along the way and I apologize, I was keeping a list of suggestions that people have thrown out since the last time we chose a bunch of book tours and now I can't find it. So if you've ever given me a book title, throw it out again in the comments section so everyone can see and I'll add it to the list. Only caveat this time: if you're suggesting a book, add why it would make a good selection. In other words, a few words about the book and its general plotline (or, if non-fiction, subject matter).

Guidelines for choosing books: we read fiction or non-fiction and try to do a little bit of each. In the past, we have read...

1. The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Adoption (Elizabeth Swire Falker)
2. Children of Men (P.D. James)
3. Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
4. Waiting for Daisy (Peggy Orenstein)
5. The Kid (Dan Savage)
6. Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (Ayelet Waldman)
7. Happiness Sold Separately (Lolly Winston)--current tour
8. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)--coming up
9. Inconceivable (Julia Indichova)--coming up

So, you can see, a wide-assortment of fiction and non-fiction. All of the books contain infertility or pregnancy loss--even if it is only in passing. I'd like to widen this a bit to add books that could be interesting to read from an IF point-of-view. One of the book suggestions below is a non-IF book (as far as I know), but I thought it would be interesting because it explores where our obligations to others begins and where protecting ourselves ends. See--pretty interesting when you compare the situation to what happens sometimes within friendships when IF comes into play...

So, here I've compiled a list of interesting books that I'd like to throw onto the voting table. What they're about and why I think it would be interesting to read them. Keep adding books until the voting post comes out. Then we'll all vote and take the top vote-earners and make them our upcoming tours.

The Empty Picture Frame (Jenna Nadeau): a book by one of our own in the IF/pg loss blogosphere. I just got a chance to read this book last week and it is wonderful. Interspersing old journal entries with straight narrative and her husband's thoughts, the book comes together to give a panoramic view of IVF and the day-to-day life of someone struggling with infertility. I think what I loved most about this book is the lack of space between the writer and the reader. I think it's a difficult task of a writer to bring the reader so close to the words. And Jenna succeeds in conveying the anger, sadness, frustration, and hope tied to infertility. Why I think we should read this book: first and foremost, it supports one of our own. Secondly, it's a book unlike any that we've tackled before in that it gives multiple points of view. Thirdly, a portion of the sale goes back to Resolve. Oh...and fourthly, Jenna rocks.

Gilead (Marilynne Robinson): Marilynne Robinson's first piece of fiction since winning the PEN/Hemingway Award in 1981 for Housekeeping. The narrator is a preacher who has lived most of his life in Iowa. The book is a letter to his seven-year-old son who may never know his older father due to the preacher's poor health. The letter serves as a way for this father to leave behind a sense of himself for his child. How does this book tie into IF/pg loss? The narrator always wanted a child, though his first wife and child both died during childbirth. His best friend, another preacher, has a large family and he names his son after our narrator, making him the godfather. But what is a kind gesture can also slice the heart of a man who longs to be a father. He finally achieves fatherhood after a very long wait and it is bittersweet to think about the time father and son could have had together had things worked out according to plan. Why I think we should read this book: Gilead is a mainstream, popular book right now and it will (1) be easy for everyone to find and (2) will make you look smart when you talk about it with other people at your next cocktail party...

The Yiddish Policeman's Union (Michael Chabon): what if, instead of Israel, Jews were given a temporary settlement in Alaska after World War II? It was a real idea proposed by Roosevelt and Chabon's imagination runs with this concept, taking us to the possible ending of the settlement in a detective-murder-mystery-many-other-genres type novel. Yes, Jewish bloggers may need to provide insight into some of the in-jokes, but I've heard only good reviews for this book. How does it connect to IF/pg loss? The narrator loses his child from a medical termination. Why I think we should read this book: (1) he's the husband of Ayelet Waldman (who was book club choice #6--see list above) so it could be interesting to hear how the loss they both experienced in real life was processed by two different writers and (2) we've done few male authors (only one at this point) and it would be nice to read a male point-of-view.

The Confessions of Max Tivoli
(Andrew Sean Greer): another male author creating another interesting read. Max Tivoli was born backwards in 1871. In other words, he was born as a 70-year-old man and he is aging backwards, working his way towards becoming a newborn. A scary thought since he obviously knows when his life will end--1941. Due to this strange phenomenon, his life intersects others at various points, constantly appearing as a new person each time. Though he should be around the same age as his one-time wife, he meets her during her youth as an old man, in middle-age as her equal, and towards the end of his life, as her son's friend. Pregnancy loss in the novel makes it relevant to our book club. Why I think we should read this book: (1) the male point-of-view factor, (2) the coolness of this story, (3) excellent writing.

Embryo Culture (Beth Kohl): I just started reading this one and I've already figured out from her website that IVF was ultimately successful for Kohl. But still, I'm drawn into the story, waiting to hear what will be the tipping point that brings her that first child. Well-written and engaging, it is not only a first-hand account of treatments and the emotions of infertility, but a look at treatments as an industry, how fertility is handled in other cultures, and the far-reaching grasp of technology. I think it speaks volumes that I think about this book when I'm not reading it and I look forward to picking it up again at the end of the day. Why I think we should read this book: good, old-fashioned look at infertility.

The Mistress's Daughter (A.M. Homes): simply put, this book made me think. A.M. Homes' memoir about her reunion with the mother who placed her for adoption many years earlier and the father who is absent even when present is truly a look at nature vs. nurture--where do our bloodlines end and environment begins? Even if adoption isn't on your horizon, it will make you consider your own heritage. Why I think we should read this book: I liked reading about adoption from an adoptee's point-of-view and her electronic anthropology made me want to start googling backwards through my own family.

Songs Without Words (Ann Packer): a non-IF/pg loss book (as far as I know) that explores the friendship between two women. Liz has always been the friend who takes care of Sarabeth. But when the tables turn and Liz is the one in need of comfort, Sarabeth is too riddled with traumatic memories to step up and provide support. Depression (and suicide) figure into the friendship in a multitude of ways. Why I think we should read this book: I think a book about personal limitations and seeing how these women overcome or are paralyzed by their limitations could be an interesting read in comparison to IF/pg loss.

So Close (Tertia Albertyn): again, a book by one of our own, this memoir covers Tertia's quest to become a mother via IVF as well as her son, Ben's, life and death. If you read her blog, you know that she ultimately becomes a mother to twins, but even knowing that outcome doesn't stop you from crying as you read through her story. This book should be available in the US and Canada later this year (perhaps winter) or it can be purchased online from South Africa. Why I think we should read this book: she's one of our own AND she is an excellent writer.

This is not the formal vote--these are just my contributions. Though feel free to either cheer on these choices and second them OR to tell me to scratch one off the list (and why). Remember, the Barren Bitches Book Brigade is open to everyone in the community, even if you haven't participated in a tour in the past. Submit your own (and tell us a bit about the book and why we should read it) by Friday, October 5. Formal voting happening next week.


Drowned Girl said...

Can I suggest

The Baby Void: My Quest for Motherhood (Paperback)
by Judith Uyterlinde

Drowned Girl said...

Extract and review here

Though going under a different title!

Samantha said...

Those are excellent suggestions for reading! I don't know of any to add right now, but I'll be thinking.

Julia said...

I second Tertia's book, although it will have to be shipped from SA. But maybe a big shipment can be arranged.

I would also like to suggest Four Minus Three: A Mother's Story (
by Guitelle H. Sandman.

It's a story of how this mother lived through the deaths of her three sons, at different times and ages. I think the book would be good because death of a child is something that touches this community, but isn't necessarily part of mainstream conversation in society in general, or even in the IF community.

Road Blocks and Rollercoasters said...

These all look great! I was going to suggest the Handmaid's Tale, but it's coming up (YAY! Read that book in college and loved it!) If I come up with any more ideas I'll let you know. :)

Ms. Planner said...

Excellent books! I cannot wait to participate.

For an IF non-fiction book, I really found help and solace in Jon Cohen's "Coming to Term." It is miscarriage specific, but recurrent miscarriage is infertility, too.

Rebecca said...


Handmaid's Tale, though! Will have to join in!

Fertilize Me said...

they all look like great suggestions

Kristen said...

I would love to read both Jenna's and Tertia's books, as well as Embryo Culture. I was perusing that one in the book store just the other day!

I have a few suggestions myself that I think I mentioned before but didn't want to get lost:

Tick Tock by Dr. Lillian Schapiro: This is about a young gyno resident who finds herself on the receiving end of fertility treatment. Can we say ironic? Since I love reading Geohde on Mission:Impossible, I think this would be a great read with some funny stories.

Almost Perfect by Dianne Blacklock: Seems like an interesting tale about infertility, infidelity and marriage. After 7 years of in-vitro treatment, the couple begins to drift apart and the guy starts an affair with another woman, who winds up pregnant at the drop of a hat. Possibly something that would trigger some of our worst fears.

Baby Trail by Sinead Moriarty: I have heard this book was quite good. Basically, it begins with a woman who carefully plans going off the pill and getting pregnant soon after (sound familiar?) only to discover she can't plan everything. It goes on through her foray into fertility treatment. Amazon calls her a cross between Bridget Jones and Charlotte from SATC.

I guess these could all be seen as Chick Lit but they are books I was interested in that maybe others would enjoy too :)

Kristen said...

Another to consider -

To Full Term by Darci Klein: I have read this and I found it to be very inspiring and educational about miscarriage. Through her research and her stick-to-it-iveness, she is able to overcome the odds and avoid a fourth loss. Lots of facts and statistics but more about her true life story.