Forty years after the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, "abortion" is still a word that is said with outright hostility by many, despite the fact that one in three American women will have terminated at least one pregnancy by menopause. Even those who support a woman's right to an abortion often qualify their support by saying abortion is a "bad thing," an "agonizing decision," making the medical procedure so remote and radioactive that it takes it out of the world of the everyday, turning an act that is normal and necessary into something shameful and secretive. Meanwhile, with each passing day, the rights upheld by the Supreme Court are being systematically eroded by state laws designed to end abortion outright.
In this urgent, controversial book, Katha Pollitt reframes abortion as a common part of a woman's reproductive life, one that should be accepted as a moral right with positive social implications. In Pro, Pollitt takes on the personhood argument, reaffirms the priority of a woman's life and health, and discusses why terminating a pregnancy can be a force for good for women, families, and society. It is time, Pollitt argues, that we reclaim the lives and the rights of women and mothers.
Celebrated for her award-winning political columns, criticism, and poetry, Katha Pollitt now shows us another side of her talent. Learning to Drive is a surprising, revealing, and entertaining collection of essays drawn from the author’s own life.
With deep feeling and sharp insight, Pollitt writes about the death of her father; the sad but noble final days of a leftist study group of which she was a member; and the betrayal and heartbreak inflicted by a man who seriously deceived her. (Her infinitely patient, gentle driving instructor points out her weakness—“Observation, Katha, observation!”) She also offers a candid view of her preoccupation with her ex-lover’s haunting presence on the Internet, and her search there for a secret link that might provide a revelation about him that will Explain Everything.
Other topics include the differences between women and men—“More than half the male members of the Donner party died of cold and starvation, but three quarters of the females survived, saved by that extra layer of fat we spend our lives trying to get rid of”—and the practical implications of political theory: “What if socialism—all that warmhearted folderol about community and solidarity and sharing was just an elaborate con job, a way for men to avoid supporting their kids?”
Learning to Drive demonstrates that while Katha Pollitt is undeniably one of our era’s most profound observers of culture, society, and politics, she is just as impressively a wise, graceful, and honest observer of her own and others’ human nature.
Praise for Learning to Drive
“The kind of book you want to look up from at points so you can read aloud certain passages to a friend or lover.”—Chicago Tribune
“A powerful personal narrative . . . full of insight and charm . . . Pollitt is her own Jane Austen character . . . haughty and modest, moral and irresponsible, sensible and, happily for us, lost in sensibility.”—The New York Review of Books
“With . . . bracing self-honesty, Pollitt takes us through the maddening swirl of contradictions at the heart of being fifty-something: the sense of slowing down, of urgency, of wisdom, of ignorance, of strength, of helplessness, of breakdown, of renewal.”—The Seattle Times
“Essays of breathtaking candor and razor-sharp humor . . . [Pollitt] has outdone herself. . . . [Her] observations are acute and her confessions tonic. Forget face-lifts; Pollitt’s essays elevate the spirit.”—Booklist (starred review)
–Victor Navasky, author of A Matter of Opinion
Through presidential administrations Democratic and Republican, Katha Pollitt has observed and exposed the inconsistencies and illogic of those who stand in the way of progress solely to hold on to their power. In defense of human rights and equality, she assails the corrupt and educates the misguided with compassion, Swiftian wit, and complete literary authority.
In this compelling collection, Pollitt skewers one hypocrite after another. She suggests, for example, that creationists be permitted to oppose the teaching of evolution only so long as they agree to forgo the benefits of the theory–such as flu vaccines. She gently wonders if those who denounced the decision to allow Terri Schiavo to die in peace would themselves be satisfied to be video-diagnosed by Senator Bill Frist. And in the title essay about fundamentalists’ antagonism toward sex education and STD prevention, she asks, “What is it with these right-wing Christians? Faced with a choice between sex and death, they choose death every time.”
Pollitt is one of the most eloquent and persuasive voices in American political conversation of this or any other era, and Virginity or Death! Is a marvelous demonstration of her keen insight, mordant humor, and sense of justice.
“Katha Pollitt has long and rightly been hailed for her brilliance, wit, and great insight into politics, social issues, and women’s rights. As with all of her work, I am enormously grateful for Virginity or Death!, and also deeply jealous.”
–Anne Lamott, author of Traveling Mercies
From the Trade Paperback edition.
With these moving, vivid, and utterly distinctive poems, Katha Pollitt reminds us that poetry can be both profound and accessible, and reconfirms her standing in the first rank of modern American poets.
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Trade Paperback edition.