Book Review: Period

period twelve voices tell the bloody truthPeriod: Twelve Voices Tell The Bloody Truth
Edited by Kate Farrell
Nonfiction
208 pages
Published May 2018

Period consists of twelve essays about periods. The authors are wonderfully diverse, covering intersex, disabled, POC, and trans individuals. There are stories about fibroids, about wishing to have periods, wishing not to have periods, pads vs tampons, having periods at work, dealing with a period while being homeless, running a marathon while menstruating – just an amazing variety of experiences with periods. Some of the essays talk about how menstruation is treated in pop culture, from the famous “blue liquid” of pad commercials to the sitcom trope of “angry woman is irrational because she’s on her period.”

I think this is a book that every parent of a young daughter should read. I say that because it’s a little advanced, so perhaps not a book to hand to every pre-pubescent girl, but there’s a lot in it about what we teach our girls about their periods. Any person who has ever wondered if their period is normal should also read this book. There is SO. MUCH. VARIETY. when it comes to menstruation. But while there is plenty of variety that is normal, there is some that isn’t. The essay about the fibroids is an example of this. That level of bleeding is NOT normal, and it’s dangerous to tell people that it is. But because we don’t TALK about periods, people unfortunately assume things are normal that aren’t.

The book also makes me want to put together some hygiene kits for the homeless women I see in Baltimore. I’d never really thought about how difficult it is to deal with your period while homeless. Some pads/tampons, some hand sanitizer, and some cleaning wipes in a ziploc would go a long way towards making their lives a lot easier. The essay about having periods while homeless includes some ideas for kits to give out.

Overall, this is a very educating (and entertaining!) read. For those with periods AND those without. Menstruation should stop being a shameful topic. It’s a health issue.

From the cover of Period: Twelve Voices Tell The Bloody Truth:

Periods enter the spotlight, raising a diverse group of voices on a topic long shrouded in shame and secrecy.

In this collection, writers of various ages and across racial, cultural, and gender identities share stories about the period. Each of our twelve authors brings an individual perspective and sensibility. They write about homeless periods, nonexistent periods, male periods, political periods, and more. Told with warmth, humor, and purpose, these essays celebrate all kinds of period experiences. 

Periods are a fact of life. It’s time to talk about them. 

Women’s History Month

enchantress of numbersMarch is Women’s History Month! Most of the books I’m reviewing this month are by women, and several of them are about women. My review of Jennifer Chiaverini’s historical fiction about Ada Lovelace will be published towards the end of the month, a book about a Muslim teen dealing with rape culture is coming later this week (Saints and Misfits), and a dystopia dealing with the end of fertility, centered on the experiences of a Native American woman, (Future Home of the Living God) is also on the list this month.

I’ve always been pretty female-focused on this blog – I like female and minority protagonists, and female authors are pretty common in my preferred genres. I am reading several books this month focused on feminism or prominent women, but I probably won’t get reviews of those up until early April. I have a biography of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, a couple of books on non-white feminism, and another biography of the first black female millionaire in America.

saintsIn the meantime, a few interesting links for Women’s History Month!

The longlist for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction has been released.

A few lists of books to read for Women’s History Month.

Children’s books for Women’s History Month. 

Middle-grade reads.

Women’s History Facts and Timeline.

 

Book Review: This Common Secret

commonsecThis Common Secret
Susan Wicklund with Alan Kesselheim
Memoir
268 pages
Published 2007

Let me begin by saying I am a feminist. I am pro-choice. This was a difficult read because it talks about the lengths people will go to infringe on the rights of women like me to make that choice. Dr. Wicklund goes into detail about the dangers she personally has faced as an abortion provider – from stalking, to assault, to arson and death threats. The murders of Dr. Hill and Dr. Britton are mentioned, and the attempted murder of Dr. Tiller. (An attempt on Dr. Tiller’s life was successful two years after the publication of the book.) She resorted to wildly varying routines, different methods of transportation, elaborate disguises, as well as hiring private security guards, none of it really alleviating her fear that she could be next.

Running throughout the entire book is Dr. Wicklund’s concern for her patients. She is a dedicated, compassionate woman who wants nothing but the best for the women in her care. In many cases, that’s not actually abortion. One of the things that makes her an excellent doctor is ferreting out what is really in her patients’ best interests.

The book is mercifully short; I have no doubt she had many more stories she could have told, but the topic is brutal and hard to read, and keeping it concise and on-message was well done. I still had to set it down and play some mindless video games when I was done, as it was a little overwhelming.

In the ten years since the book was published, nothing has really changed. The New York Times has a short read on the major acts of violence against abortion clinics and providers. The National Abortion Federation has a longer database on all acts of violence against clinics. Their summary is eye-opening – all statistics below are from 1977 to present. (They have it broken down further by decade and year on a downloadable pdf.)

Murders – 11
Attempted Murders – 26
Bombing – 42
Arson – 186
Attempted Bombing/Arson – 98
Invasion – 411
Vandalism – 1643
Trespassing – 2925
Acid Attacks – 100
Anthrax/Bioterrorism Threats – 663
Assault & Battery – 239
Death Threats – 545
Kidnapping – 4
Burglary – 255
Stalking – 583

That doesn’t include the pure amounts of hate mail, picketers, hate mail, and blockades. This is what providers persevere through to give us health care. To provide a LEGAL PROCEDURE so women don’t die from performing it on themselves in an unsafe manner.

This Common Secret also touches on why people keep it a secret. Why people don’t talk about their abortion. And why people should. If more people realize that the women that get abortions are your neighbor, your sister, your grandmother – not just that “whore that slept around” – although she, too, deserves an abortion if that is the right choice for her. Maybe they would rethink their opposition to it.

I’m honestly probably not giving this book justice – it’s a decade old, but could have been written yesterday. And I am infuriated by anti-choice assholes.

From the cover of This Common Secret:

Susan Wicklund was twenty-two-years old and juggling three jobs in Portland, Oregon when she endured a difficult abortion. Partly in response to that experience, she later embarked on an improbable life journey devoted to women’s reproductive health, attending both undergraduate and medical school as a single mother. It was not until she became a doctor that she realized how many women share the ordeal of unwanted pregnancies – and how hidden this common experience remains.

Here is an emotional and dramatic story covering twenty years on the front lines of the abortion war. For years Wicklund commuted between clinics in different states and disguised herself from protesters – often wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a .38 caliber revolver. Her daughter, Sonja, experienced seeing wanted posters with her mother’s face on them and riding to school in police cars to get through the human blockades at the end of their driveway.

Wicklund also tells the stories of the women she serves, women whose options are increasingly limited: counseling sessions in which women confide that they had used combinations of herbs – or worse – to attempt a miscarriage; or patients who have been protesters, but then find themselves bearing an unwanted pregnancy; and women who claim to want an abortion, but nothing they say or do convinces Wicklund that the decision is whole-hearted.

This Common Secret brims with the compassion and urgency of a woman who has witnessed the struggles of real patients. It also offers an honest portrait of the clinics that anti-abortion activists portray as little more than slaughterhouses for the unborn. As we enter the most fevered political fight over abortion that America has ever seen, Wicklund’s raw and revealing memoir shows us what is at stake.