In August, the New Orleans Public Library teamed up with Fish in a Tree to host a 4-part Sensory Storytime series.
Staff Recommendations: Readings After Roe
On June 24, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, plunging many people into a state of fear and uncertainty. After more than 40 years of abortion access, a number of states have reinstated total bans on abortion. With the issue being both controversial and multifaceted, people across the political spectrum can benefit from resources about the issue and what will happen legally in the absence of Roe v Wade.
These five books in the New Orleans Public Library collection range from deeply personal to historical, and offer a starting point for continuing the abortion discussion. In Robin Marty’s prescient book, “New Handbook for a post-Roe America,” audiences are offered a practical perspective that will help clarify the legal challenges ahead. In “Choice Words” and “You’re the Only One I’ve Told,” readers empathize with the diverse experiences of women who deal with social and personal trials in their efforts to take ownership of their bodies.
The “New Handbook for a post-Roe America” tells readers the history of the 1973 ruling that made abortion bans unconstitutional across the U.S. In the book, Robin Marty predicts the end of Roe in the era of Trumpism and offers funding options, lists of support groups, and advice on how to take direct political action even when it requires “defying local laws.”
She also provides information about self-managed care with herbs and pills, the legality of these methods, and ways to stay secure online and offline when finding information. Maintaining privacy online is of particular importance, since many people will be tempted to use sites like Reddit and Facebook to access abortion resources.
If you are feeling confused and in need of concise information in this unsteady legal climate, Marty’s Handbook is a prime resource.
“New Handbook for a post-Roe America” is available digitally through Libby/Overdrive and CloudLibrary
“Choice Words” brings together an array of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from authors like Joyce Carol Oates and Langston Hughes. Each story honors the emotional lives of women who choose to give birth or end their pregnancies.
Its scope crosses borders to places like Pakistan, Ireland, and India, where differing gender norms create unique sets of challenges. Along the way, it counters the dehumanization women often face when they seek abortions by confronting the stigmas surrounding sex and pregnancy.
In her essay, “The Abortion I Didn’t Want,” Caitlin McDonnell says, “Abortion is just one example of how women have grown accustomed to living with stories that never get told publicly.”
Editor Annie Finch echoes the sentiment that women’s words need to be recognized when she writes, “may this book bring you closer to understanding that people who have abortions are full human beings.”
But perhaps Scottish poet, Leyla Josephine, makes the case even more succinctly in her poem, Think She Was a She: “This is my story, and it won’t be written in pencil and erased with guilt.”
“Choice Words: Writers on Abortion” is available from the Library in print and as an eBook through Libby/Overdrive.
Similar to “Choice Words,” Dr. Meera Shah’s book, “You’re the Only One I’ve Told” is a collection of stories about women’s abortions.
Dr. Shah is a family medicine doctor in New York who opens with her own narrative about violence and backlash she’s experienced from anti-abortion activists. She hasn’t been deterred, however, writing, “I’ve always believed that the simple act of sharing stories is one of the most effective ways to influence, teach, and inspire change.”
One of her goals is “non-absolutism,” which means seeing people’s lives in a nuanced light instead of judging outright. Whether one walks away from this book pro-abortion or anti-abortion is beside the point –– it is a book about people over partisan politics. The women featured vary so greatly in their experiences that it’s impossible for the reader to walk away still believing in common stereotypes about women who seek abortions.
Print editions of “You’re the Only One I’ve Told: Stories Behind Abortion” are available through the Library.
Robin Stevenson’s “My Body, My Choice” is a concise introduction to the history of abortion rights activism for teens and adults. Rife with crisp photographs, comics, and mini-biographies, this YA-geared book gives a multidimensional look at activism in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, and other parts of the world.
Written in the midst of Donald Trump presidency, the book describes the administration’s attack on reproductive rights and prepares the reader for a post-Roe America. Importantly, Stevenson gives a much needed guide to myths vs. facts about abortion, as well as methods patients and providers used to circumvent restrictive laws.
Since unwanted pregnancies can be an issue for teens as much as adults, this book offers an excellent start to learning about a past that is now repeating.
There are multiple print copies of “My Body, My Choice: The Fight for Abortion Rights” available at the Library.
“Jane Against the World” is another young adult pick that will illuminate the history of abortion activism. Its title refers to the pseudonym used for anonymity when women sought illegal abortions, and it was famously used for Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade.
The book also covers the Jane Collective – a Chicago-based group that offered safe abortion services. The Janes learned how to perform abortions themselves to decrease women’s reliance on shady, back-alley procedures and dangerous at-home methods (i.e. coat hangers).
Blumenthal details the many injustices leading up to the Janes.
In part one, readers learn about the restrictions that existed prior to Roe v. Wade, while the second section covers legal reforms and activist efforts. Part three is devoted to the famous supreme court case, and part four tells of post-Roe pushback and speculates about Trump-era changes to abortion laws.
In light of these foreseen challenges, Blumenthal aptly reminds us that, “Even outlawed, abortion will not go away. In the history of the world, it never has.”
“Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights” is available in print and in e-audiobook format through Libby.
The Library is celebrating Hispanic & Latinx Heritage Month through Oct. 15. You can celebrate, too, with these recommendations.
The New Orleans Public Library’s Reading Buddies program pairs children and teen volunteers to inspire growth in literacy.