cover image The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock

The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock

Tanya Selvaratnam. Prometheus Books, $19.95 trade paper (300p) ISBN 978-1-61614-845-4

Producer and activist Selvaratnam, a self-defined casualty of the second-wave feminist idea that biology should not define destiny, responds with a provocative mix of solid information and palpable anger. She critiques a medical profession that portrays childbirth after age 35 as reasonable and easy, a business culture that idolizes “leaning in,” and media idolatry of pregnant older celebrities. Selvaratnam stays committed to third-wave feminism as she urges women to understand the limits of their fertility. Acknowledging the reasons why women delay childbearing, she asserts that women who know they want a child should not “make it dependent on being established in your career or finding the right partner,” and supports single motherhood. Throughout, Selvaratnam shares her personal experience with fertility struggles, including multiple miscarriages after age 37. Although the book occasionally veers off-message as the author addresses the difficulties of her artistic career and a surprise cancer diagnosis, she wants to encourage other women to discuss the financial drain and disappointments associated with assistive reproduction. This wakeup call to feminists of childbearing age is controversial, but few would argue with Selvaratnam’s suggestion that women get the facts before making family-planning decisions. Agent: Meg Thompson, Einstein Thompson Agency. (Jan.)