Read Barren in the Promised Land: Childless Americans and the Pursuit of Happiness by Elaine Tyler May Ellen Levine Online

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Chronicling the shifts in public attitudes towards reproduction, this book traces attitudes from colonial times to the 1990s. In colonial days barrenness was associated with sin, from here the progression is traced to the laws of compulsory sterilization in the early twentieth century, the baby craze of the 1950s, the rise in voluntary childlessness in the 1990s, and the iChronicling the shifts in public attitudes towards reproduction, this book traces attitudes from colonial times to the 1990s. In colonial days barrenness was associated with sin, from here the progression is traced to the laws of compulsory sterilization in the early twentieth century, the baby craze of the 1950s, the rise in voluntary childlessness in the 1990s, and the increasing reliance on reproductive technologies. The author reveals the intersection between public life and the most private part of life - sexuality, procreation, and the family....

Title : Barren in the Promised Land: Childless Americans and the Pursuit of Happiness
Author :
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ISBN : 9780674061828
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Barren in the Promised Land: Childless Americans and the Pursuit of Happiness Reviews

  • Karen Powell
    2019-03-10 05:28

    In this book, May examines the history and social impact of people who cannot or will not have children. It's the "cannots" who receive the most attention from May, though she does devote one small chapter to the childfree. But it is ultimately the research into the minds and trials of the infertile that are most fascinating in May's writing. As we read through the historial timeline, we notice America's increasingly fervent insistance that everyone have children, first as a necessity to populate the new land, then as a patriotic duty, and finally as a means of "having it all," fitting in, and appearing "normal." Infertiles had the burden of feeling they have let down their country and, more recently, that they have let down themselves. Infertiles who wrote to May when she requested their points of view wrote of intense feelings of despair, of invasive and indignified treatments, jeopardizing their jobs and marriages, and even planning suicide if they should reach a certain age before reproducing a biological child. [return][return]Adoption is a course taken by some, but to many who go this route, it is like coming in second place. This is why many who adopt, according to May, choose adoptees who look most like them, to fulfill the fantasy of having a fertile family. One heartbreaking story, told by a woman who adopted a baby girl with her husband, imparts how the couple insisted they loved the child, but gave her back to the agency after discovering she was biracial, a fact withheld by the birth mother. This is just one of the many anecdotes that can frustrate the reader. From many such accounts in the book, the most logical conclusion appears to be that our society needs to ease up on the pressure to reproduce. However, May sees it a little differently, and while she notes that Americans are obsessed with reproduction (their own and others), her conclusion is that society looks to the family to solve its problems, but doesn't give the family any support. She does a very good job on describing how society looks to the idealized version of "family" (hetero couple, with kids) to be America's salvation, but has little to no information to back up her claim that these children aren't supported after they are born. Her book is about the decision to have children, and she should have stuck with it, unless she wants to elaborate more on what happens after the children are born. Only in the chapter dedicated to the childfree, does she really hint at what is unappealing about parenthood, through the voices of those who volunteered their stories.[return][return]In this vein, I believe more could have been said about the childfree. While trying to highlight a point that Americans have become more focused on their private lives, she paints the childfree as selfish, choosing not to have children because of reasons like moral superiority, preservation of good looks, and unwillingness to put in the time and money. While the plight of infertiles that wipes out their bank accounts and health gets the full pathos treatment, the childfree get no such break. Truly, May overlooks a major factor brought up by many childfree people in their first-hand accounts: that not every woman has a maternal instinct. But I suppose it is more interesting to juxstapose them against the sob stories of the infertile to show how badly some want babies, and here are people simply not trying to have any. But like infertiles, the childfree are also treated like outcasts in society.[return][return]What this book is most valuable for is gender studies: how men and women are treated according to their status as fertile/infertile. Women, particularily, get the brunt of the baby battle: throughout history, they are the ones who are blamed, poked, prodded, and ultimately ostracized if a hetero couple cannot produce children. In early America, a childless woman was a suspected witch unless she proved her worth by becoming active in the community. In modern America, the childless are seen as incomplete and immature, as the passage into adulthood is now defined by giving birth. Women still have to deal with the guilt and blame from peers and strangers, and even themselves.[return][return]It would be interesting to see how May views the changing perceptions of adoption in these current times, in light of rich, white women like Angelina Jolie and Madonna adopting children of other races, and making it more acceptable than in past years.

  • Chechoui
    2019-03-20 02:22

    This book basically covers the history of fertility in the US from colonization through the early 1990s. It reviews political, social, medical, and other movements that influenced the trends related to childbirth, pregnancy, family planning, and the state of being childless. It heavily covers those who are infertile, but it also delves into the childless by choice crowd and issues related to abortion prior to a time when contraceptives were readily available. I think it is a must-read for those who have struggled with infertility, a great read for feminists and those interested in US women's history, a good read for childless by choice women. All around and interesting book and easy read. She nicely mixes research, historical text, and personal narratives.