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The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock Paperback – January 7, 2014


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The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock + Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It + Otherhood: Modern Women Finding A New Kind of Happiness
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616148454
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616148454
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #314,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

At the outset, Selvaratnam discloses that she’s had an abortion, a miscarriage, and unsuccessful fertility treatment. But somehow—even when faced with a cancer diagnosis, pregnancies that ended in the first trimester, and an unwanted separation from her husband—she remains upbeat. She’s intelligent (she’s a Harvard grad), passionate (she’s a feminist and activist), and artistic (she’s a documentary and theater producer). And she wants to share her hard-won wisdom so that young women in the future don’t make the same mistakes she did. Selvaratnam regrets mistreating her body (she smoked and copied the bulimic behavior she saw in older girls) and not thinking about fertility (she didn’t give it much thought until she started trying to conceive at age 37). Her message: Don’t fall victim to The Big Lie that women can delay motherhood until they find the perfect partner, feel emotionally and financially ready, and figure out their career. She also reminds us to “honor and care for the people who are already here on this Earth,” and to “Advocate for a better future.” --Karen Springen

Review

“A courageous, deeply personal, and unapologetically feminist exploration of delayed motherhood and infertility. This enlightening and empowering book should be required reading for every woman.”
Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound and When She Woke

“Forty may be the new thirty, and women are looking and feeling younger than their years—but try telling that to your ovaries! There is a disconnect between what women see in the mirror and what’s happening to their reproductive organs. Selvaratnam’s book will help women better understand their biological age and fertility health. It will also educate on the incredible advances being made in fertility treatment so that women are informed about their fertility options and choices. So pleased that Selvaratnam is furthering this dialogue.”
Carole Kowalczyk, MD, board-certified reproductive endocrinologist; director Michigan Center for Fertility and Women’s Health

“As a fertility specialist, I am confident that this book will be a wake-up call for the many women who are (voluntarily or involuntarily) postponing reproduction. I applaud the desire of Selvaratnam to dispel myths and tell the truth about the ‘biological clock.’ We cannot ‘rewind’ it, but today we can stop it with egg freezing. This technology is powerful, revolutionary, and will change the lives of women in the twenty-first century.”
Pasquale Patrizio, MD, MBE, professor, reproductive bioethicist, and director, Yale Fertility Center

“We all have to take responsibility for our choices, but what happens when we don’t know we are making a choice? What if we thought we were solving when but realized the question was whether or not? Selvaratnam bravely shares her heartbreaking, exhausting, and ultimately enlightening experience of being blindsided by fertility problems. Haunted by hindsight, she perseveres in her desire to have both a successful artistic life and a baby. Selvaratnam engages us without sentimentality or self-pity and, in the process, helps us all understand that there are ways to achieve our personal hopes and dreams when given honest information, guidance, and support.”
Catherine Gund, documentary filmmaker and cofounder, Third Wave Foundation
 
“With vulnerability, insight, and honesty, Selvaratnam uses her personal journey with health, fertility, and career to illuminate one of the biggest issues of our era. Have women lost out on fundamental happiness by following the call to have it all—a family and a career? How can women and men reshape the losses of our time into better choices and better outcomes? Selvaratnam takes us inside her medical and emotional journey and uses the stories of women across the country to examine how to put an end to ‘the big lie.’”
Farai Chideya, television and radio journalist; author of The Color of Our Future
 
“The ability to choose to become a mother (or not) is playing itself out in real time every day, and there is no question in my mind that the right to plan one’s family on one’s own timetable continues to have more pros than cons for this generation. However, it is also important that we examine the impact of a societal shift of this enormity. There is great potential in Selvaratnam’s journey to bring similar stories of disappointment, frustration, and hope to light. In sharing, there can also be healing.”
Christy Turlington Burns, founder, Every Mother Counts; director/producer, No Woman, No Cry
 
The Big Lie will leave readers with many big truths—truths about women’s wants and desires and revelations about our limitations. The book is part memoir, part maternal-health manifesto; taken together, it is an important read for anyone contemplating and assuming future motherhood.”
Amy Richards, author of Opting In: Having a Child without Losing Yourself

“Through detailed research and personal insights, Selvaratnam sheds light on one of the most important issues facing women in today’s society—that is, infertility. The path to parenthood is not linear, and Selvaratnam delicately yet passionately reminds us of this. As an infertility consultant and advocate, I believe knowledge is power when it comes to facing this issue, and Selvaratnam bravely shares her story so that we can all reexamine our notions of how a family is built. This book not only arms us with the information, guidance, and support to face infertility but also provides the honesty, vulnerability, and hope to comfort us.” 
Mindy Berkson, infertility consultant, Lotus Blossom Consulting 


More About the Author

Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Long Beach, CA, Tanya Selvaratnam is a writer, producer, actor, and activist based in New York City and Portland, Oregon. She is the author of THE BIG LIE: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock. Her writing has been in Vogue, Bust, Paper, xoJane, Huffington Post, Pop and Politics, the Toronto Review, Art Basel Magazine, the Journal of Law and Politics, on Women's eNews and CNN. She has produced projects by Gabri Christa, Chiara Clemente, Catherine Gund, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, and Jed Weintrob; and has appeared in shows by The Wooster Group and The Builders Association, among others. Tanya has been a fellow at Yaddo and Blue Mountain Center. As an activist, she has worked with the Ms. Foundation, NGO Forum on Women, Third Wave Fund, and World Health Organization. Currently, she serves on the advisory boards of The Wooster Group and The DO School and the board of Boom Arts. She received her B.A. and M.A. in Chinese language and history from Harvard University. www.tanyaturnsup.com

Customer Reviews

Well written and very informative.
Laura Kimmick
With The Big Lie, she interweaves her deeply moving personal story with impeccably researched data, generously giving us the book we need now.
Gabriela Poma Traynor
If you are a younger woman in your twenties or early thirties, read the book.
Kerry Macintosh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Megan Pritchard on January 19, 2014
Format: Paperback
I bought this book immediately upon it's publication and finished it in 4 days. The book transitions between the personal story of the author and facts and studies on fertility. I am a well educated woman with an active career (PhD in nuclear engineering), with a large knowledge base, and very active in pro-choice organizations. I have never educated myself in fertility-thinking I can get pregnant when I'm ready and willing. This book hits home for women like me. Luckily, I'm 30 and feel like this has captured me young enough to still make educated decisions on my fertility so that I don't have regrets in the future.

As a result of this book, I am going to be proactive about getting my fertility tested to be well armed to make the right decisions. Truthfully, I have never though about these issues and this book has been an eye opener. It is also easy to read her story and follow the struggles of the author. She left us hanging on her personal situation, and now I'm eager to find out what the end result was! I highly recommend this book to women, young women, and younger women. Well done.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Emily on January 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you think you may possibly want children at some point in your life, you need to read this book. Even as a well-educated women myself, some facts and thoughts presented in this book were simply shocking to me. I wanted to wait to have children until I was at least 30 and found out recently that I already have fertility issues at 26 due to a diagnosis of endometrosis.

Women have been told to live life and don't have children until you are ready, but no one talks about how if you wait until that day, you may never have them. Deciding to start a family does not mean giving up your dreams and your life being over. Educate your self. I really appreciate this book and the perspective it's given me during a difficult time. I've already recommended it all my girlfriends.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Macintosh on January 21, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I came to this book as an legal academic who does research in the field of assisted reproduction. For those who are interested in the medical facts, Ms. Selvaratnam will not disappoint. The book is thick with the results of her research.

However, it is her personal story that makes this book special. She writes about her infertility with such passion and honesty. Reading the book is like having a conversation with a trusted friend...except this woman has had the courage and heart to share her story with strangers.

If you are an "older" woman in your mid-thirties to forties who has struggled with age-related infertility, read the book. It will make you feel less alone.

If you are a younger woman in your twenties or early thirties, read the book. The author has given you the greatest gift possible: the truth. It will empower you to make better decisions.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Diverse Interests on March 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are 2 books here. The first is a stern warning about respecting ones biological clock by having a first child before age 30. I'm all for that. I'd like a grandchild. However, the author repeats and repeats and repeats statistical minutia chapter after chapter. No one took a red pen to this stuff and had her make her point clearly one time.

The other story is a tragic one about the author's experience with miscarriage, infertility, cancer, separation and divorce. It is a terribly sad story with little hope mixed in. My thoughts go out to this woman.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gabriela Poma Traynor on February 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Tanya Selvaratnam has written an indispensible book that gives us important, often overlooked facts needed to make informed decisions about our lives, especially our reproductive lives. With The Big Lie, she interweaves her deeply moving personal story with impeccably researched data, generously giving us the book we need now.

This is an historic, timely wake-up call that will engage people in new ways around important issues and in the end, help us become aware of all possibilities, pushing the debate forward in order to attain better solutions not only around motherhood, fertility and feminism but also about the perpetual challenge of work/life balance. Honest, generous and hopeful, The Big Lie is a must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Karen Christine Hug on January 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What a truthful and informative book for any woman to read and share with others who are contemplating having a child. The biological clock is a real thing and should not be taken lightly. "The Big Lie" will teach you what you need to know to make an informed decision about your precious childbearing years, which are not to be taken for granted.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Feminist Reader on January 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Part-memoir, part-self help, part-pop science, Selvaratnam's book is shoddily-researched and clumsily put together.

I wasn't particularly clear as to what was so "groundbreaking" and "feminist" about this book. She makes no original arguments--entire chapters are quote after quote from various other sources with little or no transition between them. The writing felt as if it were done by an undergraduate attempting to hit his/her word count! She extensively quotes "feminists" such as Beyonce and Sheryl Sandburg, yet shies away from radical arguments from real feminists. Whither the academic rigor? Whither the intersectional analysis?

However, her personal story was so tender and true that I had to read to the end. I wish she had written a full-blown memoir rather this trying-to-be-everything-ended-up-being-nothing book.
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