cover image Like a Virgin: Exploring the Frontiers of Conception

Like a Virgin: Exploring the Frontiers of Conception

Aarathi Prasad. Oneworld, $19.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-85168-911-8

Sex—how quaint, and increasingly needless, biologist and geneticist Prasad finds in this radical history of baby making. Shucking the “myths and assumptions... stained by the politics of gender,” the London-based Prasad’s debut explores virgin births—reproduction without sex—in the natural world, finding a steadily growing list that now includes insects, vertebrates, fish, and at least one mammal. The remarkable advances in science, going beyond in vitro fertilization, suggest a looming ethical nightmare as well as a dream come true for millions of infertile couples, she argues. Research is being done on artificial wombs and artificial sperm, the use of stem cells for reproduction, and “genetic tinkering” that led to the 2004 birth in Japan of a mouse named Kaguya, the first animal in history to be born to two mothers. Though this mighty mouse’s birth could very well herald a world without men, solo parenting, Prasad coolly preaches, “would be the great biological and social equalizer, a truly new way of thinking about sex.” Her elegantly written romp through the science and history of conception is conceivably as much fun as you’ll ever have thinking about sex without working up a sweat. Agent: Peter Tallack, the Science Factory. (Sept. 16)