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Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself Paperback – April 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this spirited response to the controversial 2004 New York Times Magazine's cover story The Opt-Out Revolution claiming that America's most educated women are choosing motherhood over careers, feminist activist Richards (coauthor, Grassroots) reminds readers of the real strides the women's movement has made in allowing women to choose and juggle both. The initial uneasiness in reconciling motherhood with feminism (e.g., dependence vs. independence) has largely been eclipsed, notes Richards, despite the misleading headlines. From diaper-changing stations in both men's and women's restrooms to the Family and Medical Leave Act, flextime and on-site childcare in the workplace, feminism's investment in parenting is undeniable, she writes. Her work incorporates her own experience raising two sons with her unmarried partner while maintaining an important identity in women's causes such as cofounder of the Third Wave Foundation and Soapbox. Scrolling through solid feminist history, she cogently examines issues involving mothers such as to work or not to work; the mania over one's biological clock; nonsexist child-rearing; balancing household work; and nurturing friendships with women and one's own mother. Overall, Richards strongly urges women to educate themselves about the achievements of the first waves of feminists and to advocate actively in their community for self-worth and dignity for all. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“With Opting In, Amy Richards does an impressive job of showing just how many ways there are for modern women to make motherhood work for them. Richards powerfully reminds us that although these are seemingly isolated "domestic" negotiations, women open up the work-life balance not only for other women, but for men and for generations of young people to come.” ―Veronica Chambers, author of Having It All? Black Women and Success

Opting In is a brave, rational, thoughtful book chock full of important information and ideas that every woman--married or not, mother or not--should make it her business to know and think about.” ―Cathi Hanauer, editor of The Bitch in the House

“To a world that either obsesses over children or excludes them, Amy Richards brings the revolutionary possibilities of shared intergenerational lives--not easy, mind you, but possible. If her example and writing had been around earlier, even I might have had children.” ―Gloria Steinem

“Amy Richards is always showing a new way forward for her generation of feminists and has done so once again with Opting In--a smart, savvy exploration of real-life, real-time motherhood that is sure to resonate.” ―Naomi Wolf

“Amy Richards is one of the few women in the country who can talk about the politics of mothering in a way that doesn't make me bored or irate. Opting In is intellectually rigorous, personally authentic, insightful, and brave--and frankly, how often can you say that about books on this subject? Richards is remarkably honest and thought-provoking, and her ideas stay with you long after you've put the book down. Read Opting In and challenge yourself about what you think and the decisions you're making, then talk about it not only with other women but with the men in your life as well.” ―Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees & Wannabees

“A movingly written book, Opting in: Having a Child without Losing Yourself beautifully dissects the feminist relationship to motherhood, creating a framework for modern career women to embrace motherhood while maintaining their aspirations and ambitions.” ―Sylvia Ann Hewlett

“In Amy Richards's insightful OPTING IN, knotty twentieth-century feminist debates about family, sex, and motherhood are reexamined through sharp twenty-first century eyes. This informative book is always reasonable, readable, and refreshingly open-minded.” ―Alix Kates Shulman

“Richards ... makes a convincing case for the necessity of living our politics if we want to see change... welcome advice.” ―Rachel Fudge, Mother Jones


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374226725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374226725
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,233,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

When Amy Richard's graduated from Barnard College in 1992, she did not know that her summer project would be the beginning of her career as a feminist activist, writer, and organizer. Amy expected to use her degree in Art History to work in a museum or gallery. Instead, after she organized Freedom Summer '92, a cross-country voter registration drive, Amy went on to co-found the Third Wave Foundation, a national organization for young feminist activists between the ages of 15 and 30.

For a decade, Amy led Third Wave as it grew from a small grassroots organization into a national institution. At Third Wave, Amy created and sustained the organization's program areas'grant-making, public education campaigns and a national membership'and initiated projects such as "I Spy Sexism," a public education and postcard campaign encouraging people to take action on the injustices that they witness every day, and "Why Vote?," a series of panel discussions on funding for the arts, education, reproductive rights, and affirmative action. Through this leadership, Amy became a spokesperson and leading voice for young feminist issues. This launched her on the lecturing circuit and brought her invitations to appear in videos, books and media interviews offering her perspective on current events and especially youth and feminist culture. Amy has appeared in a range of media venues including Fox's The O'Reilly Factor, Oprah, Talk of the Nation, New York One and CNN. Amy was publicly distinguished as a leader in 1995 when Who Cares magazine chose her as one of twenty-five Young Visionaries. She has gone on to win accolades from Ms. magazine, which profiled her in "21 for the 21st: Leaders for the Next Century,' Women's Enews, which in 2003 named her one of their 'Leaders for the 21st Century,' and the American Association of University Women, which recently chose her as a 2004 Woman of Distinction.

As Amy moves into her thirties and away from her commitment to Third Wave, she makes her living as a lecturer, writer and consultant. Amy was the interim director for Twilight: Los Angeles, a film by Anna Deavere Smith, where she oversaw a national educational program that addressed race in America . She has also consulted to Scenarios USA on the distribution of their teen educational videos, to Gloria Steinem on her writing and political commitments, and to the Columbia School of Public Health on the long-term negative health consequences of welfare reform. Amy is also the voice behind Ask Amy, the online advice column she launched at feminist.com in 1995.

Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future, Amy's first book, which she co-authored with Jennifer Baumgardner, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in October 2000. Amy and Jennifer completed their second book, Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism, and together they also created Soapbox Inc: Speakers Who Speak Out, a lecture agency for 'speakers who speak out.' Amy's writings have also appeared in The Nation, The LA Times, Bust, Ms. and numerous anthologies, including Listen Up, Body Outlaws and Catching A Wave. Insight Guides recently hired Amy to write a shopping guide to New York City. She is also very involved with the organizations on whose boards and advisory committees she serves, Third Wave, Ms. Magazine, Choice USA, the Sadie Nash Leadership Program, feminist.com and Planned Parenthood of New York City.

Her most recent book, Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself, about feminism and motherhood, was recently released by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

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Top Customer Reviews

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The perfect reader or audience for this book is going to be a new mother in her 20s or 30s and preferably someone who hasn't heard of the Association for Research on Mothering, Adrienne Rich or the plethora of published lay and academic books on mothering and parenting. This is a great book and the new reader to said topics will enjoy the breadth of what it covers and the style. Richards (and her co-author of two other books Manifest and Grassroots) both write in an easy to read style.

This book pretty much rehashes countles other books and studies and includes personal points and nonscientific examples (her friends/colleagues, and strangers). It was a really easy read, but at times, I was again rolling my eyes at the self-congatulatory statements that she made. I don't have my copy here at work, but for instance making the comparison that kids from a single parent household share attributes with people of color was a bit of a stretch. She meant to say that she shared a sense of not belonging to mainstream society as a white woman who was raised by a single parent and that she had an affinity for folks of color or something like that. Nonetheless, this particular section of the book reminded me of limosine liberals trying hard to prove through street cred.

There was nothing new here; however, I will suggest this book to women who are unfamiliar with the more academic area of study or other women who haven't read Breeder, Mothers Who Think, Perfect Madness, The Mommy Myth, Ariel Gore, Ayun Halliday, and too many others to list.

Richards book does give an overview of the literature and I'm sure that a reader will be encouraged to look through the list of sources and bibliography in the back. But, for me, someone who has been officially parenting for 11 years and other parenting prior to this, the book did not present any new material.
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Format: Paperback
Richards' book shines as a beacon of hope to frazzled, overstressed mothers: having a life outside of motherhood is entirely possible! It's about priorities, balance, and knowing your limits.

Richards balances personal anecdotes with well-known feminist commentary. She cites the changes society has undergone to allow mothers and their parenting partners more flexibility in the workplace and beyond.

A must-read for mothers, mothers-to-be, fathers, partners, EVERYONE!
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By Emily Baker on July 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
Richards is a good writer and I enjoyed reading her story and thoughts. But this to me was a good afternoon read from the library, nothing more. The book is a bit rambling and unstructured, and I got really impatient with it at times. She goes on for a long time about why women chose to stay at home or work, and while I agree with many of her thoughts (for example: that staying home can have at least as much to do with dissatisfaction with their own careers or lives as it is for the sake of the kids), I think it's amazing that she never brings the cost of daycare into the discussion.

I preferred "The Mommy Myth" as a history of views on motherhood and the tough choices that women have to make once they have their first child.
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Richards book is carefully researched with a plethora of women's voices on motherhood. Richards is the Third Wave feminist version of Doctor Spock. Her writing is a vital contribution to the feminist movement as it underscores the importance of choice in motherhood. Richards draws on personal experiences, and interviews with other mothers, to demonstrate that whom we co-parent with is just as important as how we parent. Richards acknowledges the difficulties of balancing personal and professional, and hi-lites research that demonstrates how our personal decisions impact the political movement of feminism.
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