cover image Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear

Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear

Kim Brooks. Flatiron, $26.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-08955-7

Repercussions pummel essayist and fiction writer Brooks after she leaves her toddler in her minivan to run an errand and is reported to the police, in this disturbing, ultimately affirming look at why parenting in the contemporary United States is defined by fear. With her personal journey—which included facing charges of “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”—providing the book’s narrative spine, she asks why mothers are competitive and judgmental with one another when they should be supportive of each other through such a “fundamentally anxious endeavor” as parenting. Consulting social psychology research, she discovers Lerner’s Just World Hypothesis, the cognitive bias toward assuming that advantageous consequences will follow from one’s own moral actions. She also reaches out to Lenore Skenazy, famous for her “free-range” parenting philosophy, who emphasizes the irrationality of parents’ fears, and to other mothers arrested for leaving their children unattended. What is clear, she says, is that “motherhood has become a battleground on which prejudice and class resentment can be waged without ever admitting that’s what we’re doing.” After casting outward for reasons, the author faces her own anxiety, knowing change comes from within. Throughout this book, readers will be eager to reach the conclusion and discover the ultimate outcome of the author’s misstep, and along the way, will learn much about U.S. culture today. (Aug.)