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American Parent: My Strange and Surprising Adventures in Modern Babyland Hardcover – June 2, 2009

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Book Description
Part memoir, part journalism, part history, part downright strange and hilarious, American Parent takes readers on a unique tour of the world of new mothers and fathers. As Sam Apple embarks on his own journey into parenthood, he decides to put his background in journalism to good use by talking to a wide range of experts. Along the way, Apple visits with the mohel who circumcised him, enters a trance with a childbirth hypnotist, goes on a stakeout with a nanny spy, and attends a lecture on Botox for new mothers. Apple is full of questions, and none is left unexplored: Is the Lamaze method a Stalinist plot? (Yes.) Are newborns really fetuses that are born too soon? (Sort of.) Is there a universal theory that can explain the origins of circumcision in many diverse cultures? (Maybe.) Does it sting when you pour baby shampoo into your own eyes? (Big-time!)

And yet for all the unusual twists in this story—at one point Apple fantasizes about a father losing his mind and refusing to remove his BabyBjörn—the strangest twist of all might be that at its core American Parent is a deeply serious and personal book about the way emotionally vulnerable and confused new parents can get lost in the increasingly complex labyrinth of baby products, classes, and fads.

Parenthood is the oldest subject of all. In American Parent, Sam Apple makes it feel entirely new.

"How Not to Travel with Your Baby": An Essay by Sam Apple

Our one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment was beginning to feel like a toy-filled prison. It had been almost a year since the birth of our son Isaac, and my wife Jennifer and I had only gone out in the evening four times. We needed to get away.

On the recommendation of a friend, Jennifer made reservations at the Don CeSar Beach Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida.

I wasn't entirely delusional. I knew that the trip might be difficult.

Still, my hopes were high. And I felt justified in my optimism after Isaac made it all the way through the 45-minute cab ride to the airport without a single scream. I was so thrilled by Isaac's screamless performance that I lifted him over my head in triumph as soon as I stepped out of the cab. This is one of the great things about being a parent of a small child: every non-event is cause for celebration.

This particular celebration, however, was short-lived. A few moments later, I discovered that I couldn't release the wheels of the $250 car seat-stroller combo I had invested in for the occasion.

But then so what if I had to drag Isaac through the airport in a wheelless stroller? I wasn't going to let a broken contraption ruin our first family vacation. Nor was I going to have our fun interrupted just because I had accidentally pushed the button on the self check-in terminal that indicated I was carrying hazardous materials. Let the security officials search me all they pleased. Indeed, I was still prepared to enjoy our trip even after we arrived at the security checkpoint and realized that while I was lifting Isaac over my head in triumph, our cab driver had taken off with Jennifer's carry-on—complete with her brand new Apple laptop.

Over the next three days, I had plenty of opportunities to figure out that our string of mishaps was never going to end. I might have come to this realization when Jennifer, trying to cheer up a grumpy Isaac with a little roughhousing, accidentally lifted his head in a moving ceiling fan; or when we somehow managed to melt The Don's complimentary chocolates onto the sheets of both queen beds in our room; or when I grew paranoid that the cleaning woman would think that the chocolate on the sheets was not chocolate at all; or when Jennifer and I got into an argument over whether I should leave a note on the bed that said "chocolate" with an arrow pointing to the stain.

But it wasn't until I spilled a panzanella salad on my pants for the second time that I finally understood that mishaps are not the exception but the rule of traveling with a baby.

The first panzanella salad ended up on my pants almost as soon as we arrived at the hotel, as I stupidly attempted to carry three meals in one hand and Isaac in the other.

The second panzanella salad didn't end up on my pants until the last night of the trip. I was carrying the leftover panzanella in a doggie bag as we strolled along the seven-and-one-half miles of powdery shores. As I stopped to admire the perfect sunset, truffle vinaigrette leaked out of the bag and onto my pants.

Under normal circumstances the sight of truffle vinaigrette on my crotch would have been cause for alarm. But by that point, I understood that the key to a successful trip with a baby is accepting the mishaps as inevitable and adjusting your expectations.

I was in a beautiful place with the two people I loved most, and all the panzanella salads in the world on my crotch couldn't take that away from me. —Sam Apple

(Photo © Aaron Liebman)

From Publishers Weekly

Lest new parents forget the age-old reasoning behind choosing baby names, circumcision and infant sleep training, journalist Apple (Schlepping Through the Alps) gathers some helpful, not terribly groundbreaking but pleasantly humorous information for clueless, fully participatory first-time fathers. After dispensing in the first chapters with the hard-sell commodities market offered by the baby industrial complex (with his own wife several months pregnant, Apple admits to a kind of personal identity crisis when trying on the BabyBjorn at a mega–baby store), the author regards the various rituals of child birthing and raising in these snappy essays with a fresh, healthy skepticism. He wonders (without pursuing very deeply) whether the naming of a child brings happiness or grief. He takes a look at some of the labor-easing efforts that have emerged over the decades, such as water birth, Lamaze and hypnosis, and their histories and debatable rates of success. (Readers might be amazed to learn that the so-called Lamaze method originated in Soviet Russia as a way to avoid the use of pain medication.) As part of his unorthodox hands-on research, he tracks down his own mohel (a Jewish circumciser, nicknamed the Yankee Clipper) and accompanies the founder of a nanny-surveillance outfit on a stakeout. Throughout these instructive essays, Apple maintains a calm, bemused tone. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Edition edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345465040
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345465047
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,627,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Carrie Gorton on November 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have really enjoyed reading this book in the last few months of my pregnancy and find myself laughing out loud throughout the book as Apple recounts his own humorous experiences going through the pregnancy and birth of his child. It provides interesting historical insight behind many parenting theories you hear about these days and how they have become trends in mainstream culture. He does all the homework for you and presents you with his findings on the background and effectiveness of many baby-raising concepts often just taken as "truths" in today's parenting circles often popularized by over-simplified hype in the media. While the tone can be at times cynical because of the extremes so many parents go to these days (again usually humorously expressed), it does not come across as negative or condescending, but instead as answers to Apple's own genuine curiosity and attempt to find out for himself how to make the best parenting decisions. It is refreshing to realize the theories can be as flawed as parenting itself can be, questioning why American parents are so obsessed with spending so much on things ranging from baby gear or nanny cams, to expensive "educational" classes at early ages when there is no real proof of its effectiveness. From breastfeeding to child care, from attachment parenting to circumcision, this book eased my mind a lot about the stress of wondering if I have been making (and will make again, as this is my 2nd child) sound decisions as a parent, and all is expressed with his dry sense of humor in recognizing his own at-times-neurotic parental behavior and overwhelming sense of worry about this precious new being in his life.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book Sunday and finished it Monday night. It is laugh-out-loud funny and would make a great Father's Day present or baby shower present. It's also thoughtful and smart. It's about both the author's own craziness and the general craziness of caring for newborns. A serious exploration of child psychology is mixed in with bizarre anecdotes about the author's own research adventures, such as going to find and interview the mohel who circumcised him, or trailing a nanny while on assignment with a private investigator who is hired by Manhattan parents to spy on their nannies.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sam Apple makes me wish I was a father...or pregnant...or at least shopping for a carrier. His wry take on parenthood is both charming and laugh out loud funny. This book should be required reading for any parent in need of humorous perspective...and if there are any parents out there NOT in need of humorous perspective, I'd like to meet you. Covering everything from baby-naming trends (and how celebrities have led us down the path of, well - some very odd choices) to brisses (aka circumcision parties - always more amusing to the guests than the guest of honor), Sam Apple clearly loves being a Dad and loves sharing his journey. And what a delightful journey he takes us on. Two thumbs-in-mouth up.
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Format: Hardcover
What a joy. And filled with so much practical advice about parenting that it should be read as soon as the little stick turns pink. The history of water birthing? It's here. Labor coaches? They show up, too. Along with the author's hysterical commentary throughout. I'm just sorry I didn't have this book before my first child was born to help me better understand what my husband was experiencing from the Daddy point-of-view. A happy and enlightening read.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Reading this book now, when my kids are 13 and 11, was a trip down memory lane, immediately plunging me back in those early days and nights, which remain probably the most formative experience of my life. With self-deprecating honesty and humor, Sam Apple relates the sheer joy and immeasureable love one feels for a baby, combined with the worry, exhaustion, loneliness, and daunting sense of responsability, the answers one inevitably looks for in a new life, every parent's wish to give a child the best chances at happiness, yet skepticism of anything too fancy or out-there... Sam and his wife Jennifer are endearing characters and their common sense is as refreshing as their neurotic and entertaining bloopers in parenthood. The tangents into the history of pregancy, birthing, infant care, psychoanalysis, etc. are thoughtful and well-researched. A great read.
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