No Place to Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs

Lezlie Lowe. Coach House (Consortium, U.S. dist.; PGC, Canadian dist.), $16.95 trade paper (220p) ISBN 978-1-55245-370-4
Journalist Lowe’s debut is a frank, political, and wide-ranging exploration of the shortcomings of public bathrooms. After noting that open-air defecation is a daily reality for 892 million people globally, she focuses on issues in England, the U.S., and Canada. Starting with the point that human beings cannot avoid having to deal with their own waste, she interviews excretion researchers, toilet activists, and civic planners in order to delve into the history of public toilets, their decreasing accessibility in many cities, and potential ways to reverse that trend. Along the way, she embeds fascinating facts, describing huge “fatbergs” of effluvium in London sewers, the “Great Stink” of 1858, shy bladder syndrome, and euphemisms relating to menstruation. Asserting that North Americans are “culturally constipated... when it comes to our conception of the bathroom,” Lowe addresses the numerous ways public bathrooms get things wrong, especially for people who menstruate, are homeless, or have medical conditions. The public has gotten used to a status quo of less and less accessibility, but Lowe argues that innovations, including public pay toilets and public toilets with paid attendants, are both possible and necessary for civic well-being. This is a concise but thorough effort at open conversation about a topic usually discussed in whispers. Agent: Carolyn Forde, Westwood Creative Artists. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/13/2018
Release date: 09/01/2018
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