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Just a Guy Reviews "American Parent"

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Bruce Sallan: Sam Apple's new book recounts a journey I know well: the journey from childless husband to new parent.

As a dad to two boys, ages 15 and 12, my memories of their births and the anxieties I felt at the time have faded, to be replaced by current anxieties over developments like my teen wanting to drive (over my dead body -- or a "B" average, whichever comes first). Apple's self-effacing approach makes American Parent less a Dr. Spock how-to than a valuable calming tool for first-time parents. Apple's book cannot be easily labeled -- it is not quite a memoir, not quite a news report, and not quite a collection of humorous essays, but a bit of all of these.

american parent book by sam apple

As a journalist, Apple took an investigative approach to all the current trends among new parents, from baby naming (yes, you can actually hire a consultant) to water births (I thought that only happened to fish), as well as stops to debate the value of Lamaze vs. Bradley methods of coaching during birth, prenatal education, and whether you might need a doula in the delivery room. Yes, a doula. I'll leave that for your reading pleasure when you pick up American Parent.

Part of the fun of reading Apple's book is his irreverent approach to all the new (e.g., new-age) aspects of parenting that big-city parents are exploring. Even buying a stroller gets attention in his book, as well as whether you should strap a BabyPlus to your pregnant wife so the drumming it provides will enhance your baby's learning abilities. I believe that some of his cynicism may be gender-based, as so many of these sorts of books are written by and read by women. But his unique and masculine voice is part of this book's strength.

Other chapters include discussions of circumcision, crying, lactation, and labor pain (including a fascinating history of the Soviet Union's efforts to eliminate labor pain by instituting various birthing methods as official government policy). But, for this reader, the most fun was reading about Apple's encounters, which he sometimes made his pregnant wife endure, with various experts on such subjects as water birthing, prenatal ed, or nipple preparation (for lactation).

I mentioned yesterday in my review of "Away We Go" that oddly, Sam Mendes' new movie and Apple's book can act like companion pieces to one another. Each relates the journey of discovery that begins when a couple becomes pregnant, and hits upon many frightening and heartening stops along the way. Sam Apple's easy-to-read, humorous, and well-researched journey to parenthood, American Parent, was a fun reminder of those anxious times we go through when expecting our first child. I recommend it for any parent, as a compendium of all that you can explore and get obsessed about in those months before D-day. It obviously worked well for the author, as he and his wife had twins two years later, after the birth of their first son.

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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
About to be a new mom June 22, 2009, 11:47 AM

I’m in my eighth month of pregnancy and this book sounds like something I should read. The trick will be getting my husband to read it! Thanks for the review.

Denise June 23, 2009, 12:04 AM

Now you’re doing book and movie reviews Bruce? Okay, I’m interested in the movie, but I’m way past this baby stuff. Sounds good, but it’s over for me (thank God!).

David June 24, 2009, 3:43 PM

This review gives me a solid sense of what to expect in the book — which I personally think is the purpose of a review. Thanks, Bruce. I myself do not have kids. PERSONAL OPINION ALERT: I get bored by the way that so many people seem to “do” being a parent in an attention-getting way. Based on what I’m getting from Bruce’s review, maybe this book in part explores and perhaps takes some of the air out of that way of parenting.

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