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Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  2,609 ratings  ·  471 reviews
"Part memoir, part history, part documentary, part impassioned might be the most important book about being a parent that you will ever read." --Emily Rapp Black, New York Times bestselling author of The Still Point of the Turning World

"A beautifully told, harrowing story..."--Heather Havrilesky

One morning, Kim Brooks made a split-second decision to leave he
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 21st 2018 by Flatiron Books
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  2,609 ratings  ·  471 reviews

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Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
Although I appreciated, in part, the message of this book, I am also conflicted in my feelings towards the author's view of her actions, which led to a pretty lengthy involvement with child welfare services. The premise of the book is that we treat our children as if they were made of glass, and want to protect them from every little injury instead of allowing them to experience the world in all its forms, good and bad. Putting kids in a bubble stunts their ability to interact meaningfully with ...more
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
True story 1: When my daughter was about eight, we walked past a car where a tween was reading a book with the windows down. My daughter gasped, worried about the kid being alone in the car, in the middle of a Safeway parking lot. "That was normal when I was growing up," I said. "I used to ask to stay in the car so I could read."

True story 2: Every female lawyer I know is terrified of her jurisdiction's version of child protective services. None of the male lawyers I know are. We all have the s
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was at a target once and I saw a young mother in front of me in tears because the cops were coming for her for having left her kid in the car. An older woman had called the cops and the target employees were all on the other woman's side. I leapt to her defense. The kid was fine. It was cool out. She had run in to get diapers. She had the baby in there with her. She'd left another grown kid in the car.

I had three kids in New York city and I would let them run around alone in the playgrounds w
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Having kids has always seemed to me to be a form of madness. Kim Brooks' book shows that if you were not already a little bonkers when you had kids, then virtually every feature of America's fear-filled, outrage-driven, misogynistic culture and hyper-competitive dedication to capitalism are structured to drive you to that point.

"Unfortunately, just as there is little individual Americans feel that they can do about the threats of climate change, rising income inequality, and the dehumanizing ef
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
I only recently realized the extent to which helicopter parenting in America has become the norm, the expectation, sometimes even in the law of the land. That the definition of a “good parent” now requires keeping an eye on your child at every moment. That kids’ hanging out with friends has been formalized into “playdates,” typically arranged by parents and involving play directed by at least one parent, often with both kids' parents present. That parents hover over their children on playgrounds ...more
Anne ✨
Wow! This book resonated with me in a big way! As a mom of two now teens, I have lived through, and still experience many of the anxious feelings that Kim Brooks shares as she relates her experiences parenting in today's American society. The worries, pressures, expectations, and judgment. The polarizing platforms of helicopter parenting vs. free range parenting. It's seriously overwhelming! But it's also seriously important dialogue for moms/parents raising kids today to think about and underst ...more
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I got a free copy of this one from a goodreads giveaway. As a parent of three elementary school children whose parenting style has gone from helicopter (not necessarily by my choice, being a dad) to free-range over the last nine years, this book resonated. The author tells her story of being a do-everything-and-be-constantly-stressed-out mom who once left her child in a car for a few minutes while running an errand and was filmed by a "good Samaritan" and turned in to the cops and subsequently m ...more
Kevin Clouther
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, nonfiction
Structurally, this book is more effective than what I've seen in other parenting books, though one needn't be a parent to be moved. Because the author is a fiction writer, the narratives are thoughtful, well paced, and selective in detail. She complements these stories with interviews and research, and in these instances, she allows the authorities to articulate their positions at length, rather than fit their arguments into her own worldview. The cumulative effect is a readable, sobering, hones ...more
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is possibly the best book I've read all year. Brooks captures perfectly what it is like to be a parent in modern-day America, how the majority of your decisions are spurred by fear — fear of what will happen to your child if you don't do everything correctly and/or fear of what others parents will say or do if they believe you aren't parenting correctly. Through the framework of her own personal experience getting charged with "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" for leaving her 4-y ...more
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This isn't a long read, but it packs a punch. Brooks recounts her personal story of being "caught" leaving her young son in the car, in a Target parking lot as she ran in to get headphones for their airplane flight that day. Someone recorded the child in the car unattended. Later she was contacted by the police, pending a charge of child negligence. Was she a negligent parent for leaving the child in the car? I've certainly done it and I got called out for it by a stranger. Our parents most cert ...more
Joy Matteson
Well, this was an incredibly difficult book to review. I'm extremely grateful that Ms. Brooks shared her story of what happened after she left her 4 year old in a Target parking lot for a few minutes to grab a pair of headphones to prevent a toddler meltdown, provoking a stranger to record the leave-taking and call the police to report her. Her story, and apparently more and more moms (less dads, apparently) are finally sharing these stories instead of hiding behind the cultural shame of this. T ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book spoke to me. As a mother, this book spoke to me. As a millennial, this book spoke to me. As a member of society, this book spoke to me. I want to hand this book out to all of the parents I know and tell them to read it now - and then some! .

True Story. Nonfiction: Author Kim Brooks’ story starts the day she consciously left her son in her car for 5 minutes while she ran in to Target to grab something and finds out later that day that she is being criminally charged with endangering her
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
I devoured this book in one day yesterday and kept waking up during the night thinking about it. Small Animals is part memoir and part sociological analysis. It’s an honest, well-researched look at how batshit crazy modern American parenting has become. The book starts when Kim Brooks decides it’s not worth the fight to get her son out of the car to run into Target for one thing so she leaves him in the car, locked, not too hot, happily occupied by a game on a tablet, for 5 minutes to grab headp ...more
Aug 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Kim Brooks’s Small Animals is a personal and honest look at dealing with the “moral panics” of raising a child. It is a good read from a writer with a strong voice, but it didn’t go far enough in completing many of the viable arguments.

For the full review:

For all my reviews:
Kate Olson
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I can’t think of a better book choice for a book club discussion ~ especially a book club of moms/parents. Let the battle begin!
Erica Clou
Even though there is a large memoir aspect to this book, I think it's an extremely important nonfiction book about the current state of parenting in America. It's important from a sociological, psychological, and also legal perspective. As an attorney and as an American, I'm horrified that people are being charged with laws that the legislature has specifically failed to pass, and that selective enforcement perpetuates all of the worst biases in society: racism, sexism, and the still-unnamed pov ...more
Christina (‪‬ ‪a_politicallyreadgirl‬)
Let’s begin with how I went into this book, I’m a single mom of three children. My twin boys are six, they’re autistic, and my daughter is eight. I’m a working mother trying to figure things out on my own terms in what I call “the jungle” of life, mostly parenting. I feel judged daily for a wide variety of things but at the end of the day people can’t take away what’s most important to me, the title “mom”.

I have anxiety and depression, treatment is medication and therapy? Does it take away the a
Jul 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
For some reason I thought this was fiction when I picked it up from our library’s audio collection online. When I found it wasn’t I stuck with it anyway.

Holy shit this book pisses me off. Not the message. Not the author. The cruelty of others who will do anything to exalt themselves above anyone else. That’s what pisses me off. Just hearing these stories dredged up some of the shitty memories my wife and I have of being judged as parents. I’m not here to share war stories though. We all get judg
Aug 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think this book should be required reading for this day and age (along with Julie Lythcott-Haims' How to Raise an Adult). Kim Brooks went through a hell no parent should have to experience. One person was so judgmental about her parenting choice - to leave her 4-year-old child alone in a car for about five minutes - that the person went so far as to call the police and report the situation. Brooks shares her story in this book, along with the aftermath. She wrote an article about her experienc ...more
Estelle Erasmus
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book, like Kim Brooks's deft writing (she's also an essayist and novelist) grabs you by the throat and doesn't let you go till the final page. Much more than a memoir (although Brooks shares her personal story that led to the book), this book is a treatise on what happens when we tighten the reigns of protection around our children to the point where it affects their upbringing, and their parents' state of mind. She has a special skill that allows her to tell a story, while digging deep int ...more
May 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book didn't live up to its blurb. It seems to speak more to parents who lack confidence in their parenting, who really worry about keeping up with (and how they appear to) others. Although the author acknowledges her own privilege, there's still an icky layer of ableism and classism throughout. Her points felt scattered and unfocused. When a significant point/angle did come up, it wasn't fleshed out before moving on. Overall, not a satisfying read. ...more
Devorah Heitner
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Essential reading in our panic-filled historical moment. Filled with great research and a compelling voice, this book explores how crazy things have gotten, how we got here and offers some thoughts on how we might make things better. Any parent or anyone who was a kid and remembers other times, will find provocative questions and thoughtful reflection here. Highly recommended!
Genevieve Trono
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Small Animals resonated so deeply with me. She shared the story with what happened with her son but also researched and explored the broader topic of how fear has become such a big part of how we parent in today’s society. Are we afraid to let our kids go out and explore, walk alone to a friends house or play at a park because we think something will happen? Or are we afraid because we are told we should be, and we might also be afraid of the judgments we might receive if we do? And what happens ...more
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
No matter which generation you're in, you have probably pointed out the differences between yours and the one after yours in terms of spending time alone and unsupervised. You rode your bike to the corner store, maybe played outside until your mom called you for dinner, but the kid thirty years your junior would do no such thing. Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear takes a look at the evolution of the "fear" that has taken over society and caused these changes. Stranger abduction is c ...more
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
I don't hand out five star reviews lightly, but this book gives such an important picture of parenting in America right now. Parents and non-parents would benefit from reading this book, as so much of the anxiety and fear discussed in this book is caused by comparison and judgement by both parents and the childless. I didn't even want to read this book because I was already familiar with the author's experience that led to her writing this book and didn't feel like reading an entire book of her ...more
Traci at The Stacks
This is a super interesting look at parenting and anxiety and raising humans. I really enjoyed this book though, of course, wish the author could have embraced the racism of child rearing that is so common in the US. What she did present was fascinating and a great reminder that kids need and thrive with real independence. If you’re a parent of young kids check this out.
Hannah Garden
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: july-2019
This book! I had no idea! I mean I was aware on some level of murmurings or sort of softball imprecations that parents today are too helicoptery or whatever, but I guess I chalked that up mostly to the kind of generational shittalking that doesn't amount to much, like oh millennials are so entitled, which is the dumbest stuff ever and I block it out, but what!! Oh man!!! It's so much deeper and scarier and more anti-woman and classist and racist than that, although a lot of the former serves as ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
One day when Kim Brooks decided to leave her four-year-old son in the car for a couple of minutes while she went into the store to grab something, a passerby filmed what was happening and reported her to the police. What followed was a year-long process of being condemned for her actions, even while her son had been the one to ask if he could stay in the car—and even while he was 100% fine upon her return.

For a while, Brooks experienced feelings of guilt and shame around what happened. But it a
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good book about how our fears as parents are impeding our children from learning independence and how to problem solve. There's some interesting commentary in the book about competitive parenting, white male privilege, and how the author dealt with her 2-year ordeal with the police after she left her 4-year old son in the car while she ran into Target.

I had to laugh at myself while reading these book when the author commented on parents who read parenting books instead of relying upon instinct.
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book for parents of children of any age. It's part memoir as the idea for the book starts with the author's personal story of getting arrested for leaving her son in the car alone for a few minutes. It then explores the history of parenting in America, and the psychology of parenting and how parenting effects the psychology of our children. It is well researched, interesting, and an easy, at times funny read. I highly recommend it for all parents.

I received an ARC from NetGa
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NPR Book Club: Book for September 2018-Small Animals 1 10 Sep 04, 2018 09:25AM  
Book for September 2018-Small Animals 1 1 Sep 04, 2018 09:23AM  

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Kim Brooks is the personal essays editor at Salon. Her first novel, The Houseguest, will be published in 2016 by Counterpoint Press and her memoir, Small Animals: A Memoir of Parenthood and Fear, will be published in 2017 by Flatiron Books/ Macmillan. Her stories have appeared in Glimmer Train, One Story, Five Chapters and other journals and her essays have appeared in Salon, New York Magazine, an ...more

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“Sarnecka summarizes the findings this way: People don’t think that leaving children alone is dangerous and therefore immoral. They think it is immoral and therefore dangerous.” 2 likes
“Feminists frequently debate which elements of systemic and internalized sexism most need to change in order for more women to run for political office or rise to the top of their companies or colonize professions from which they’ve been historically excluded. Undoubtedly, there are many. But maybe not expecting and encouraging women to worry about every fucking thing that happens in their household might be a solid place to start.” 2 likes
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