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Necessary Lies (Necessary Lies, #1)
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January - June 2020 > Feb. BotM "Necessary Lies"

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Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) | 140 comments Mod
Historical Fiction, 1960 North Carolina. Not only was this not a golden age for people of color or gay people, but it wasn't for others, either. Nostalgia puts on rose-colored glasses, and writers who do research take them off. I look forward to learning more about the era during which my parents were coming-of-age (though they were in MN & WI so there will be differences).


Ralph McEwen | 22 comments A very engaging story. The characters are realistic portrayals of the attitudes and roles of men and women of the time. The story is uncomfortable at times but well worth the read.

I learned a lot about this time during my childhood though I lived on the west coast and had no idea of the eugenic program. I believe that one should honestly look at the past and see the mistakes and misunderstanding (what seems so obvious and wrong to us now), while understanding the that those making them really believe they were acting in good faith.


Cheryl is busier irl atm. (cherylllr) | 140 comments Mod
Indeed. Bringing Ivy birth control tools is one thing. But sterilizing Mary Ella against her knowledge is a whole 'nother. She's certainly not that feeble-minded.

I'm grateful that Chamberlain didn't tell us the most awful stories. As she said in her notes, this could have been a book for voyeurs, a story that would make us feel so superior, so wise. Instead, as Ralph says, these people did act in good faith (mostly) and we're dangerously close to doing things now that will be seen as outrageous fifty years from now. We must remain vigilant.

Not a five star book. The characters often spoke too wisely, as the author was so earnest in getting the themes across to us. And I think the Gardiner subplot was egregious. But it's certainly engaging... I couldn't put it down and read it in one night when I was supposed to be sleeping. Made for bookclub, lots to discuss. I imagine it would be a good movie, too.

The root theme is, of course, poverty. If Nonnie had enough money for healthier food, and if the girls didn't have to work so hard, and if Mary Ella had better prenatal care, they wouldn't be in such a mess. Nonnie is my age ferpeetsake! And yet we still don't fund social service programs to near the extent we fund one corner of the Pentagon!

The root cause of poverty is inadequate education. I won't open that can of worms here as there are so many ways to talk about what that means. But in the book it's glaringly ridiculous. Girls who get pregnant are kicked out of school. If the dad wants to stick around and help, welfare benefits are reduced below the woefully low levels the family already gets. And that has not changed much, I know.

I am glad the author reminded us that IQ tests are totally fallible, and especially back then had not a whole lot of relevant accuracy for the 'colored' or the poor or the rural folk. Nonetheless, Lita scored 115... imagine how smart she *really* is!

One thing Chamberlain did wrong imo was imply that breast-feeding can be difficult and a bottle is fine. It totally is not fine. Breast milk has the perfect nutrition for the baby. Nursing is usually ridiculously easy (no heating the bottle at the stove in the middle of the night!) and can be learned on the occasions it's not. It's healthier and cheaper for mom, too. And of course it's good for the parent-child bond.


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