How proud of myself am I to still be ahead of the 12 Books, 12 Months game?
My latest read, Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life, edited by Elrena Evans and Caroline Grant, was one I'd been putting off since I got it, because I knew it would depress me. And depress me it did! The book is a collection of short essays by women in academia, all centered around having children (or not, there is one essay from a woman who has decided not to have kids, and one from a woman who is as yet undecided). Though the details of each story are different, the themes are very similar: being a female academic with children is hard. Academia has no respect for the body in general (as opposed to the mind) and even less for outside time commitments. None of it is surprising to me--it's similar, in a lot of ways, to what women with kids face in any career. But that doesn't make it any less infuriating.
One thing reading this book did was spark a lot of discussion at my house. I am not an academic--I wanted to be, at one time, but I have since realized it's not for me, and even though I still plan to get a PhD one day, I never plan to teach. Mark, however, is a lifer. I can't imagine him doing anything else. And he's in a field with very few women. However, he currently has a lab mate who is both an impressive scientist and a mother of two. The most amazing thing about that, of course, is how unusual it seems to be.
I'm deep in the throes of new job brain sludge at the moment, and can't think of a single intelligent thing to say about this book, so I'm afraid you'll have to forgive my lack of insight. It's worth reading, if this subject interests you, just as a collection of anecdotes, but there isn't really anything new here for those of us who who are already well-versed in the mommy wars and the second shift. These things may look a bit different in academia, but they are part of the same beast.
Next up, another cheery read: The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic. But I am currently in the middle of Jon Clinch's phenomenal new one, Kings of the Earth, so I'm going to finish that first.