Book selection, and why: Gay Dads: Transitions to Adoptive Fatherhood
It hasn’t been easy for me to designate only one book as my “Spring Pick” – as an acquisitions editor dedicated to the production of new research and ideas, I’m overwhelmed by the wealth of riches that appears in our Spring 2012 catalog. But since I’m under orders to pick one and only one, I’ve selected Abbie E. Goldberg’s Gay Dads: Transitions to Adoptive Fatherhood. When I was ready to have children I worried about whether or not I’d be able to conceive, and, if successful, how well I’d be able to withstand the pain of childbirth and, after that, whether or not I’d be a good mother. These weren’t minor concerns, and I still worry about whether I’m a good enough mother (whatever that means). But I never, ever questioned or even thought about the relationship between biology, parenthood, and child-rearing because, as a straight, married woman and mother, I’m a heteronormative parent. From birth, my son and daughter legally belonged to my husband and me. We didn’t have to prove or defend our right to be parents – we simply were, because our children came from my egg and my husband’s sperm.
Not so for gay couples, who have to contend with a host of legal, social, and cultural issues when they become parents – questions that many straight couples never have to consider. How important is biology for the couple: will one partner turn to artificial reproductive technology, or will the couple adopt? If they adopt, will their sexuality adversely affect their chances of adoption? And if the couple isn’t married, how will legal parenthood be defined? Finally, how will notions of parenthood and sexuality intersect and change the lives of gay parents? Psychologist Goldberg addresses these questions and many more via in-depth interviews with 70 gay fathers, analyzing how they negotiate competing ideals of fatherhood and masculinity. More broadly, Goldberg illustrates how gay dads both shatter and accommodate heteronormative definitions of parenthood. With Goldberg’s research and future work that this book should inspire, it’s my hope that when we talk about parenthood, sexual normativities will be absent from the conversation.
[Full disclosure: Goldberg has not only written a terrific book; she teaches at my alma mater Clark University!]
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