Help! Talk Radio Ate the Presidency!

In November 2016, my Facebook feed was filled with friends’ dreaded anticipation of Thanksgiving with extended family, and particularly with that uncle: the unapologetic Trump supporter full of crude, bigoted bluster. So many white families seemed to have an uncle like this — even if in liberal families everyone had written him off as a mean, eccentric old coot — that political pundits felt the need to weigh in on dinner etiquette.

At the time, I noticed the pattern, but I assumed that the similarities among uncles were organic, coming out of similar subject positions as older white men angry to see their privilege eroding. But after reading historian Brian Rosenwald’s Talk Radio’s America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States, I suddenly understood those obnoxious uncles, and so much more about the past few years’ politics, in a new way…

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In Vitro Fertilization: From Science Fiction to Reality to History

It was not that long ago that “test tube babies” only existed in science fiction. I remember my shock when, in 2007, one of my students at Wellesley College told me that she was an IVF (in vitro fertilization) baby. “The technology couldn’t be that old, could it?” I thought. In The Pursuit of Parenthood: Reproductive Technology from Test-Tube Babies to Uterus Transplants, historian Margaret Marsh and OBGYN Wanda Ronner demonstrate that IVF — in which an ovum or ova are removed via surgery from a woman’s ovaries, fertilized with sperm in a petri dish, and the resulting embryo or embryos are reimplanted in her uterus — has long since come of age, and deserves historical analysis. The sisterly duo present a lively, panoramic history of IVF and its associated reproductive technologies and social arrangements…

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Is a Historian’s Library an Archive or a Living Thing?

This week I purged my bookshelves. As a Ph.D. historian, it initially felt like a risky move — somewhere in between disowning my former self and cutting out part of my brain.

In the end, though, I think the effect will be closer to pruning a big, old, tangled shrub so that it has some energy and breathing room to send out new growth.

When I moved with my family to a New Jersey suburb a decade ago, I clung to every last one of my books…

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Journey Into Mothering with Historian Sarah Knott

In Mother Is a Verb, Sarah Knott takes her reader on a historian’s journey into motherhood. It is a sort of train travelogue, riding along parallel rails: personal memoir and wide-ranging social history.

Book jacket cover for Mother is a Verb). (©Amazon)

The path of the narrative is dictated by the chronology of the memoir, starting with choosing to try for a pregnancy, and progressing through her first child’s toddlerhood and the birth of her second child…

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This is Not a Culture of Life, This is a Culture of Un-Death

Last week at a Vatican conference on abortion, Pope Francis “argued that children who were not expected to live long after birth deserved to be treated in the womb ‘with extraordinary pharmacological, surgical and other interventions.’” He intimated that parents who did not use extraordinary measures were not caring for their children, saying that “Taking care of these children helps parents to grieve and not only think of it as a loss, but as a step on a path taken together.”

In other words, according to the Pope, a mother who chooses to care for her dying child by sheltering him in the safety and comfort of her womb, without medical intervention, is an uncaring, bad mother…

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