Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Stirring the Chicken Feed

Maybe Baby by Tenaya Darlington

A former boss from my circulation clerk days gave me the following advice on keeping book displays looking fresh and well-stocked: "Patrons are like chickens, and you have to keep stirring the feed so they'll peck at it." We recently bought a much-needed bookshelf, our biggest one having been loaded up with three rows of books on each shelf. Moving some of these to the new bookshelf was kind of like an archaeological dig, as I uncovered a lot of titles that I hadn't seen in over a year, including this sweet, quirky, and very funny book.

In it, a young couple finds themselves accidentally knocked up, and announces to the family their intention to raise a gender-neutral child -- no Tonka trucks, no Barbies, gray onesies, and the child's sex will only be revealed when the kid's five. Much to their surprise, everybody completely freaks out.

It's weird to think about - when someone's having a kid, they always say, "Oh, I don't care what I have as long as it's a healthy baby." Then immediately following its birth, a child's sex becomes incredibly important. It shouldn't matter if, at the grocery store, you mistake some stranger's baby boy for a baby girl. But I've done it before, and know the kind of sharp looks I got.

An old acquaintance of mine from Madison, Ms. Darlington was a journalist who would write these intensely personal, in-depth feature articles for the Isthmus, and you'd wonder, "how'd she get that interview out of them?" Her book has that same kind of attentiveness to the tiny details of human behavior, and as a result, stands out from your typical domestic Midwestern fiction. Fun stuff.

If you like...: Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler or the short stories of Judy Budnitz, this book is for you.

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