Abortion Gang Summer Reading List

3 Jun

Summer is nearly here! Hopefully for many of you this will mean some downtime, whether a post-graduation break before beginning a new job or a much-needed vacation from your current one. Whether your plans include long plane rides or lounging by the pool, either should give you the opportunity to catch up on your reading list – and just in case that list isn’t quite as long as you’d like, here are a few recommendations.

If you want to embark on your reproductive justice reading as part of a community, the RJ Reads online book club (organized by Backline) is reading Dorothy Roberts’s Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty this month. There will be local groups gathering across the country — check out the Goodreads group to see if there’s a in-person meeting in your area, or just read along and join the online discussion. You can also check out the RJ Reads site to vote on the next book selection.

If you want to dive into a book on your own, here are a few of my personal suggestions. These books are all newer publications, so hopefully you’ll find something you haven’t heard of before.

Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement by Sarah Erdreich. An “on the ground” book with slews of interviews from activists all over the country, including abortion fund volunteers, clinic escorts, current students, and movement bloggers (including our own Steph Herold), this book seems like a 240-page rebuttal to the idea that the our generation isn’t actively inheriting the pro-choice movement. Erdreich includes mention of accusations of complacency levied against younger people, the content of the book argues against just that. She speaks with young(ish) activists that are currently studying law, practicing medicine, founding organizations, sharing their stories, and challenging the movement’s power structure. Generation Roe is a quick read that makes the future of the movement – albeit with its many challenges – seem hopeful.

Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard in Women’s Health and How We Can Change That by Robin Marty and Jessica Mason Pieklo. From RH Reality Check writers Marty and Pieklo comes this easy to follow legal primer on the current status of attacks on reproductive health across the country. With twelve chapters examining issues on a state-by-state basis, the book provides essential background on the Bei Bei Shuai case in Indiana, the Jennie McCormack case in Idaho, the abortion funding ban in Washington, DC, and for Arizona, Chapter 12: “Banning Everything but the Kitchen Sink.” I was familiar with all of these stories before reading Crow After Roe, but after reading it you have a much greater sense of both the legal framework behind the cases and the potential policy implications that could follow. The book is equal parts frustration and motivation.

The Child Catchers: Rescue Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption by Kathryn Joyce. This book has gotten a lot of deservedly wonderful press, along with the expected backlash.  It deftly covers the motivations (both well-meaning and corrupt) driving adoption in this country, considering the role of the Evangelical church and the anti-abortion movement, crisis pregnancy centers, and international politics. I wrote a full review for The Declassified Adoptee, which I invite you to check out.

Reproductive Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know by Rickie Solinger. I haven’t actually read this one yet, but it’s on the very top of my list, and I’ll swear by anything Solinger writes. Her Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America should be required reading for every reproductive justice activist in the US, with Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion and Welfare in the United States assigned for extra credit.

(The next paragraph contains some minor spoilers, but nothing that would give away the most important parts of the stories mentioned.)

Beyond these titles explicitly about reproductive health and justice, though, it seems I have a knack to picking up books that have abortion storylines in them this spring. I really try to diversify my reading and intentionally pull books off bookstore shelves that, at first glance, seem to have nothing to do with abortion. Yet, three of the four non-abortion books I’ve read in the past two months have all had abortion plot points that have surprised me.

It seems not to matter the genre or type of story: I found discussion of abortion in Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (about her hiking of the PCT after her divorce and her mother’s death), Kate Atkinson’s dark novel Life After Life (about a young woman in World War II-era England leading infinite parallel lives in an attempt to stay alive in any one of them), and Jess Walter’s Beautiful Ruins (about an American movie actress – and the young man she captivates – in Italy in the 1960s, and a film producer in contemporary Hollywood, with guest appearances by Richard Burton and side trips to Seattle, Edinburgh, and northern Idaho). None of these are niche books about reproductive rights, of course. They’ve each taken their turn near the top of the New York Times bestseller list, which makes me feel hopeful about unplanned pregnancy and abortion being seen as a normalized part of the human experience, a plot decision that so many face at some point in the course of their own personal narratives, but that – depending on the decision and its context – may or may not impact their entire life. But whatever the impact of these decisions, the consideration (or obtaining) of an abortion is not that story’s defining purpose.

Other AGers had their own recommendations, with some older classics and newer favorites, to add to my list:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lord
  • The Birth House by Ami McKay

What are your recommendations? Please share!

4 Responses to “Abortion Gang Summer Reading List”

  1. SDAWG June 4, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    Thanks for the summer reading list. It makes it easier to think of books for y book group.

    I give a second thumbs up for Sara Erdriech’s Generation Roe.

    I would add This Common Secret by Dr. Susan Wicklund. It tells about Dr. Wicklund’s career as an abortion provider. The book inspired me to become a clinic escort. My volunteer role has shifted to working with Abortion Access Network of Arizona. Dr. Wicklund’s book will definitely inspire activism.

  2. Lena June 4, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    For fiction, I really enjoyed The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey. It’s a lovely novel inspired by the fairy tale, set in Alaska. Although it’s probably not intended as such, it is a poignant exploration of adoption and infertility and what it means to be a family.

  3. Sarah Erdreich June 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    So honored to be on your list!

    Some of my favorite novels that have unplanned pregnancy/abortion plotlines are American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld, and the YA books My Life as a Rhombus, by Varian Johnson; and Unwind, by Neal Shusterman. Unwind set in the future, and imagines a country where a civil war has been fought over abortion rights, and what follows.


  1. Gretchen Sisson - July 7, 2013

    […] Abortion Gang Summer Reading List […]

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