Saturday, February 20, 2016

Reproductive Rights: Who Decides?

26543120Wittenstein, Vicki Oransky. Reproductive Rights: Who Decides?
January 1st 2016 by Twenty-First Century Books 
Copy provided by Blue Slip Media

Starting with ancient methods of birth control, this book covers a variety of issues involved with women's attempts to control the number of offspring they have and the social issues that go along with the practices of various eras. The Victorians get a chapter of their own which addresses both the innovations in contraception, the desperate need for it among the poor, and the complicated social structures of the times. Once the book starts to cover the 20th century, when society started to more openly address these issues, things get really interesting. I did not know, for example, about Mary Ware Dennett, and the fact that she considered Margaret Sanger's attempts to make birth control and birth control information widely available detrimental to the movement because she was so outspoken! Sanger is much more widely known, so the fact that Wittenstein covers lesser known historical figures makes this book a great resource. The information about the development and wide-spread adoption of the birth control pill also informed me of people as issues of which I'd never heard. 

The politics of reproduction are addressed as well. There are even two sections entitled "Pro-life Tactics" and "Pro-Choice Tactics" that address the political stances of both groups in admirably calm language. While all sides are given mention and considered, and the tone of the book is very factual and even tempered, it's clear, even from the title, that this is a book about giving women as many options as they can about their own bodies. 

Other topics, such as advances in infertility treatment, surrogacy, sexual violence, and issues with reproductive rights around the world, are covered as well, making this an essential high school resource about reproductive issues that is an essential purpose for high school libraries. I can see this being used for debate topics, studies of social history, and women's studies, especially since the format is also very clear and readable, with graphs, charts and diagrams that support the text. 

I won't put it in my middle school library because, while frank and matter-of-fact, there is some information that some younger students might not know, and my rule of thumb is that I don't want books in my library to be how they find out about these matters. Even though the map in this book indicates that the state of Ohio requires sex ed of some kind, it's certainly not provided at my school, and I don't have time to fight with parents. 

From Blue Slip Media:

Before becoming an author, VICKI ORANKSY WITTENSTEIN prosecuted criminal cases as an assistant district attorney with the Manhattan District Attorney's office. She earned an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Vicki has written a number of science articles and books for the juvenile market, including Planet Hunter: Geoff Marcy and the Search for Other Earths, which won the 2011 Science Communication Award from the American Institute of Physics. Her book For the Good of Mankind? The Shameful History of Human Medical Experimentation was a Junior Literary Guild selection. Vicki and her husband live in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her website at

★"Though slim, this volume packs a wallop."  --Booklist (starred review)

"Well written and impeccably researched, this volume will appeal to budding activists and feminists and to those concerned about human rights." --School Library Journal

A Junior Library Guild Selection

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