Caroline Grant, who has a book coming out called The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How we Learned to Eat, invited me to participate in a blog round robin for writers with new books coming out this year. Caroline is a San Francisco based writer, mother of two, and the editor-in-chief of Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined. She is also the co-editor of Mama, Ph.D., an anthology about women in academia for which I wrote a story (“Recovering Academic”).
Here’s how this works. I answer the ten questions Caroline sent me about my book (this seems weird, I’m interviewing myself. Sort of like masturbating, um, I mean talking to myself out loud … with other people listening.) Then I tag five other writers whose work I admire, and they do their thing (eh hem) next week.
So here goes, an interview with myself. Drum roll …
1. What is the title of your book?
2. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The Fast Food Nation of the baby industry.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
4. Where did the idea come from for the book?
Three years ago when I told a mom friend I was traveling with my cloth-diapered infant to a writers’ conference she thought I was crazy. At the time I was a contributing editor at Mothering magazine and I was researching a 5,000-word article Peggy O’Mara had asked me to write about diapers. We’d used cloth diapers with our kids because they were so much less expensive and the diapers were so cute. But I always believed you had to travel with disposables.
As I started investigating the marketing tactics used by plastic diaper companies I also started questioning my assumptions. Why couldn’t I travel with cloth diapers? Was it really any harder than using disposables? I also found out that the major proponent of delayed potty training in America, a much love and well trusted pediatrician, has long had an undisclosed conflict of interest as a paid spokesperson for Pampers.
As pregnant women and new parents, we are eager to make changes in our lives. But often the information we get is from people with something they want us to buy. Product placement starts in the hospital when our babies are just a few hours old and are washed with name brand soap (despite a wealth of science that shows that new babies should not be washed at all), given branded pacifiers donated for “free” to the hospitals (when science shows that early pacifier use interferes with breastfeeding), and swaddled in brand name disposable diapers (ever wonder why the diapers are branded?).
In April 2010 I was ranting about all of this to my agent Gillian MacKenzie. Even though she doesn’t have children of her own, Gillian was fascinated.
“You have to write about this,” she told me. “People need to know. That’s your next book.”
5. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It’s taken me about two and a half years to write this book, but I’ve been researching and writing about some of the science and other topics in it—like infant vaccination—for closer to ten years.
6. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wrote this book to make pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year of a baby’s life safer and more enjoyable for every mom and dad.
7. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My agent is Gillian MacKenzie. On October 13, 2010 the book proposal went to auction. It was bought by Scribner (an imprint of Simon and Schuster). They are my publisher. Scribner recently published Andrew Solomon’s masterpiece about children who are different from their parents, Far From the Tree.
8. What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?
Suzanne Arms’s Immaculate Deception; Jessica Mitford’s The American Way of Death; Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation; Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed.
9. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Everyone always said my mother looked like Meryl Strep.
“There’s Woody Allen,” someone screamed when my father went running around the track at Boston College.
But neither my dad or mom is in the book beyond the acknowledgments.
If the book were turned into a movie, it would be a hard-hitting documentary like Food, Inc., The Business of Being Born, or Consuming Kids. So all the characters (90 percent of the people I interviewed are identified by their real first and last names) would be played by themselves.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
At the end of every chapter is a real-life story:
A conservative young mom explains how she changed her mind about breastfeeding;
A trained sonogram technician discusses why she believes pregnant women should eschew ultrasounds;
A first-time mom shares her decision to leave the obstetric practice and have a homebirth;
A military dad of three gives the poop on diapering; and a doctor argues the case against obstetrics.
Tag, you’re it: Alisa Bowman (yes, she has a new book coming out. She’s amazing);
Christine Gross-Loh has a book coming out on May 2nd that compares parenting practices around the globe. It’s called Parenting Without Borders and it’s a fascinating, educational, and eye-opening read;
Investigative journalist Karen Coates has a book coming out called This Way More Better: Stories and Photos from Asia’s Back Roads, a collection of travel essays spanning a dozen years & 11 countries in Asia;
and Lauren Oliver, one of my favorite young adult writers, has the third book in her trilogy (the first is Delirium), Requiem, coming out on March 5th. If you haven’t read Delirium and Pandemonium, you’re in for a treat.