Electric Literature presents a compendium of 11 books expectant parents might want to read instead of parenting books. Compiler Allison Gibson hit on this idea because the books she read while pregnant were “both too specific to prepare me for what I ended up encountering and too generalized to grasp before I even had a look at my own son’s face.” I had one of those very specific books, but I found it reassuring. There were answers. Somewhere. If I could find the book under piles of laundry, toppling stacks of diapers, and a storage unit’s worth of babygear.
Gibson quotes award-winning writer Marilynne Robinson’s view that fiction is “an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification,” which does make fiction seem both appropriate and vital preparation for greeting that diminutive stranger about to take over your life, 24/7/365/forever.
Here are some of the books that she recommends and why:
- We the Animals by Justin Torres – to relish “bright moments of outright joy,” which actually seem few and far between for this family in the throes of domestic abuse
- Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky – to understand challenges facing new parents and their relationships, exemplified in this novel by the nanny who takes off for Paris with the toddler she minds and the baby’s father
- White Oleander by Janet Fitch – to confirm “every parent’s dark suspicion that with the responsibility of caring for a child comes the capacity to do tremendous damage” and
- More than It Hurts You by Darin Strauss – the title tells all
Nice try, Ms. Gibson, but I don’t think so. Just the thought of reading from this collection brings up the visceral memory of an acquaintance who asked me, nine months pregnant,“Did you see the interesting PBS show last night about SIDS?” Are you insane?
All 11 choices sound like interesting and worthy books to read, sometime. Just not until baby is safely in college. Or married. Or . . .
Another friend like to say that deciding to be a parent is “deciding to wear your heart on the outside.” Special handling required.