book review

"HEAD CASES," Stories of Brain Injury and It's Aftermath by Michael Paul Mason

I've just finished reading Head Cases. Mason, the author is a "brain injury case manager," for a rehab facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The hospital has limited facilities and it is Mason's job to travel the country meeting and evaluating people who have suffered serious brain injuries who are likely to benefit from an intensive rehab program.

How Lincoln’s Republican Party Was Created from the Wreckage of the Fractured Whig and Democratic Parties

THE CASE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN, A story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President; by Julie M.Fenster

Julie Fenster’s new book is not only a fascinating look at a side of Abraham Lincoln—his daily life as an influential Illinois lawyer in the year’s before he became president—but an illuminating study about how he and his abolitionist associates succeeded in fusing anti-slavery Democrats and Whigs and to create the Republican party. Lincoln’s role as a wartime president tends to overshadow the fact of his crucial involvement not only in exposing his arch rival Stephen Douglas, author of the infamous Kansas-Nebraska act that opened the western territories of the United States to slavery—but in the nitty-gritty, day-to-day politicking that preceded, and was crucial to the party’s victory at the polls in the 1860 presidential election.

These days there is a lot of hand-wringing about how the internecine struggle in the present election campaign may fracture the Democratic Party and even allow Republicans to salvage victory from what seemed like a sure defeat, I find that highly doubtful considering the rate of the economic meltdown which—along with the Iraq war—should finally and unequivocally establish Bush’s legacy as the worst president in U.S. history and doom his would-be Republican successor; but even if this were not the case, I suggest that the way in which the Republican party came to power offers a hopeful model for a long overdue shakeup in the American political scene.

Unsung Heroes: Dr. Susan Wicklund

Dr. Susan Wicklund has devoted most of her 20-year medical career to helping women who are faced with the hard choice of whether or not to terminate a pregnancy during their first trimester—the only cases she herself treats. Now she has written a gripping account of her experiences, in THIS COMMON SECRET, My Journey as an Abortion Doctor.

Even though practicing abortion had been legal in the United States since 1973, in order to provide abortions, Wicklund has had to face right-to-life terrorists who not only threatened her own life but relentlessly persecuted her young daughter. Some of the experiences she writes about are horrible, but her triumph over intimidation and her sensitive treatment of her patients inspiring.

She grew up in a small working class community in Wisconsin—no one in her family had gone beyond high school—nor had she planned a different life. However after she underwent a legal abortion under horrible conditions she was drawn to midwifery, and then to the bold move of becoming a doctor. Her aim was to practice women’s medicine but she was drawn to becoming an abortionist when she realized that even though it was legal, it was still very difficult for women to get help in terminating a pregnancy.

A new look at "The Feminine Mystique"

I’ve just been rereading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique again, on a whim, I guess. I read it in 1963, at the time of its first publication, and it was such a breath of fresh air. “Aha, I thought someone to explain to me that the blank wall of hostility that a rebel like me kept bumping up against.” And (true confessions being in order I wasn’t such a aware rebel really). I felt plenty of unease and even guilt when confronted with the “evil” of my non-conforming ways. Needless to say I didn’t “love Lucy.”