"Cracked Open": New Book Looks at Fertility and Reproductive Technology

By Rachel Walden — April 30, 2013

Our Bodies Ourselves board member Miriam Zoll has a new book coming out on May 1, “Cracked Open: Liberty, Fertility and the Pursuit of High Tech Babies.”

Zoll tells her own story of infertility and IVF treatments, and shares what she learned along the way about assisted reproductive technologies.

From the book description:

When things don’t progress as she had hoped, she and her husband enter a science-fiction world of medical seduction, capitalist conception and bioethical quagmires. Desperate to conceive, they turn to unproven treatments and procedures only to learn that the odds of becoming parents through reproductive medicine are far less than they and their generation had been led to believe.

OBOS Co-Founder and Executive Director Judy Norsigian contributed to the foreword with Michele Goodwin, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota. Learn more about Zoll and “Cracked Open” as she shares her story on the My Fertility Choices site.

Zoll is also collecting stories on infertility and reproductive technology via her website. Requests to have her come speak can also be made online.

8 responses to ““Cracked Open”: New Book Looks at Fertility and Reproductive Technology”

  1. This looks like a great book, I look forward to reading it. However, I am puzzled by the photo choice on the cover. I have noticed and commented (along with other feminists) that many books on reproductive topics have cover photos or images which feature a pregnant body or silhouette SANS woman’s head/face!

    How do (or can) authors work with publishers in selecting cover photos/images for books on reproductive topics? What is the impact of showing bodies/bellies but not full women on the covers? As a feminist, I think this is an important issue and I welcome other’s thoughts.

  2. Christine – Thanks for commenting! I have heard from several authors of other books that the process of selecting and agreeing to a cover can be a challenging experience. (Authors – share your experiences here! )

    The disembodied woman (belly, torso, legs, etc. – anything but the face!) seems to turn up a lot in media – on book covers, in news stories, in advertising, and so on – I’d love to hear readers’ thoughts on that.

  3. Hi. This is Miriam Zoll, the author of Cracked Open.

    I wanted to take a moment to respond to the comment about the book cover. As a women’s health and rights advocate and someone who endured the dehumanizing aspects of fertility treatments, I feel that the cover, in this case, is actually appropriate.

    Women who sign up for treatments often say they feel “like a piece of meat” and that they rarely felt recognized by clinic staff during interactions and extremely invasive treatments.

    Here is an excerpt from my book that addresses this feeling:

    “…On top of all that, I really was losing my professional footing. No one pulled a switch and said, “Turn off Miriam’s intellect and activate only her reproductive impulses.” I did this all by myself as the process wore on, as all that poking and prodding below the hips began to dehumanize me. With so much of my time and energy focused on my gonads, I had slowly but surely neglected my brain and my career. The doctors and the nurses and the insurance agents did not care one iota about my work with African orphans or my research fellowship at MIT. The only thing that mattered was my hormones, my ovaries, and my pocketbook. Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful that they cared so much about my organs of reproduction. That was their job. But I wonder what they thought about me the human being as I lay unconscious on the gurney. Did they feel sorry for my desperation, which kept them employed? Did they admire the fine structure of my ankles and feet while they were hooked into the stirrups? Did I have a face and a husband and a life, or was I just another older woman trying to have a kid?”

    Thank you.

  4. Thanks Miriam, I appreciate the lived experience of being treated as a body on a gurney. My question was two fold, I guess, the first part being how much control do authors have over their book covers and what are the features of the negotiation with the publisher over the cover; and the second part about the impact on the viewer/reader of seeing cover after cover of women’s pregnant bodies/bellies but no face/head? Seems like the intent of your book is to underscore women’s subjectivities and so I wondered if the cover works for or against that? We are having an interesting discussion on ReproNetwork listserve about this; and I’ve posted a few covers of books on surrogacy/infertility on my tumblr blog: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/christinemorton

    My interest in the representation of women in pregnancy came during my fieldwork in childbirth education classes. Educators wanted to empower women to feel confident and competent in labor and birth – as active participants and shared decision makers. Yet it was striking to me and my co-investigator how many images were shown in childbirth classes of be-headed women. When we brought this up to the funder, Lamaze International, they reconsidered what messages (mixed) they might be sending to the women in their classes. At least one book, Giving Birth With Confidence, made the choice to include only photos of whole women.

    Hope the conversation continues!

  5. Want to get more involved?

    Join Miriam Zoll and the Center for Genetics and Society for the first of the Talking Biopolitics 2013 series, Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 11am PT / 2pm ET . In this live web-based interview and conversation, Miriam will talk with CGS’s Diane Tober – and with you – about her experiences in writing and promoting Cracked Open: Liberty, Fertility and the Pursuit of High Tech Babies, and about her thoughts on the new biopolitics.

    For more info and to RSVP see: http://www.geneticsandsociety.org/article.php?id=6843

  6. This looks like a helpful, beautiful book–I would love to read it. Thanks Miriam

  7. Thanks for the post, Rachel. This book is very interesting. I would love to read it. Is this already available online?

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