A provocative examination of reproductive technologies that questions our understanding of fertility, motherhood, and the female body
Since the world’s first test-tube baby was born in 1978, in vitro fertilization has made the unimaginable possible for millions of people, but its revolutionary potential remains unrealized. Today, fertility centers continue to reinforce conservative norms of motherhood and family, and infertility remains a deeply emotional experience many women are reluctant to discuss.
In this vivid and incisive personal and cultural history, Jenni Quilter explores what it is like to be one of those women, both the site of a bold experiment and a potential mother caught between fearing and yearning. Quilter observes her own experience with the eye of a critic, recounting the pleasures and pains of objectification: how medicine mediates between women and their bodies, how marketing redefines pregnancy and early parenthood as a set of products, how we celebrate the “natural” and denigrate the artificial.
With nuance, empathy, and a fierce intellect, Quilter asks urgent questions about what it means to desire a child and how much freedom reproductive technologies actually offer. Her writing embraces the complexities of motherhood and the humanity of IVF: the waiting rooms, the message boards, and the genetic permutations of what a thoroughly modern family might mean.
Jenni Quilter teaches at New York University. Her most recent book is New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight, for which she was a finalist for the 2014 AICA Award for Best Criticism. She has written for the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement (London), Poetry Review, and the London Review of Books.