Mom’s House, Dad’s House

by Isolina Ricci

This book feels dated, and not just because it still emphasizes the importance of land lines, beepers, and snail mail for communication and doesn’t know anything about websites, cell phones, text messaging, video calls, or social media.

It feels like it was written for traditional suburban families with a dad who works full time, a mom who stays at home, and both of them can’t wait to get remarried because only a mom and a dad make a real family. (This book doesn’t know same-sex couples exist, either.) It doesn’t give examples of any custody arrangements where each parent has the kids for an equal amount of time.

I didn’t recognize myself or my own divorce in any of the examples.

In fairness, it was published in 1980 and last updated in 1997. But it still claims to be the “definitive” guide for divorcing parents. Which seems a little ambitious given all the above.

I admit I skimmed quite a lot of it.

Still, I found some useful information in this book. The road map from separation to separate healthy homes helped me locate my own divorce in the process. And the explanation of “negative intimacy” and why it is important to strive for a businesslike relationship with a former spouse resonated strongly with me.

All the same, there must be better, more up-to-date books for divorcing parents. Since that’s now me, I’d be grateful for recommendations.

What I Mean When I Say I’m Autistic

by Annie Kotowicz

When I read We’re Not Broken I felt like I understood more about autism as a public health issue, but not necessarily what it means to be autistic. It turns out this book is what I was looking for.

Through the lens of science and her own experience, Annie Kotowicz describes what it means to be autistic.

Autistic people process information differently, because our brains are hyper-connected in some places and less connected in others.

I miss what others catch, and I catch what others miss.

What I Mean When I Say I’m Autistic, pages 15 and 19.

I don’t want to tell anyone what to read (yes I do), but if you have an autistic person in your family, workplace, or circle or friends, I think this book will be really helpful. Maybe that person would even be willing to read it first and circle the parts that especially apply to them, and cross out the parts that don’t, as Kotowicz suggests.

The Order of Time

by Carlo Rovelli

A book that fascinates, confuses, and reassures in uneven measures (reassurance coming late, and perhaps in smaller measures that I would like). But a lovely little book that provides a window into the fundamental nature of our world for those of us who aren’t current on the scientific and philosophical investigations into the nature of time.

I’m still not sure if I should be surprised that the memory of reading it came after the act of reading it, instead of before. Maybe I’d better read it again.

The Dope: the Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade

by Benjamin T. Smith

I decided to visit Mexico City this year, so I thought I should try to learn more about Mexico. (This isn’t the only book on my reading list; it’s just the first one the library had available for me.)

This book attempts to tell a truer story of the Mexican-American drug trade. Here is how it starts:

[T]he driving force of the drug trade is and always has been economic. America has an enduring and enormous appetite for narcotics.

p. 6

And America’s insatiable appetite for narcotics means there is enough drug money to buy protection, torture, rape, and murder, from corrupt officials on both sides of the border.

Here is how the book ends:

As long as narcotics remain illegal, incentives to produce and smuggle them will outweigh any economic alternatives.

p. 407

Perhaps that could also read “as long as America refuses to address its drug problem at home ….”

If you want to learn more about the drug trade and get angry about it, too, I’d definitely recommend this book. It’s an easy read, even if it left me wanting more.

Dads & Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter

by Joe Kelly

A friend gave me this book years ago when I was a fairly new father. I started it, but it seemed premature given that my daughters could barely put a sentence together. Now that they are in middle school it seemed like a good idea to pick it up again.

I got some reassurance from it, even if it feels a bit dated. There is nothing about social media or gender identity/exploration, for example. And the chapter on substance abuse just feels out of touch. But if, like me, sometimes you feel a bit out of your depth as a father, maybe it will help.

The Supergirls: Fashion, Feminism, Fantasy, and the History of Comic Book Heroines

by Mike Madrid

The inclusion of females in stories is specifically discouraged. Women, when used in plot structure, should be secondary in importance …

DC Comics Editorial Policy Code in the 1950s, quoted on p. 77

Overall, a nice survey of the evolution of women and girls in mainstream comics intended for young adult readers. But …

No pictures? There is not even one panel showing the subject matter.

Also, the author never met an adjective he didn’t like—especially if he could use it to describe a woman’s body parts. In fact there is a strong whiff of chauvinism throughout. Here’s an example from the chapter “Supergirl and the Ballad of American Youth.”

Britney Spears is credited with kicking off a revival of the teen pop star, updated with a sexually mature image. An army of adolescent trollops followed Britney’s dancing footsteps to dominate the media and America’s attention. No longer relegated to teen gossip magazines, “Young Hollywood” women were now the stars of the day, and the role models for not only young girls, but for plastic-surgery addicted middle-aged women as well. Slatternly songbird Christina Aguilera, amateur porn starlet and heiress Paris Hilton, and “difficult” teen actress Lindsay Lohan entertained the nation with tales of drunken revels, dangerous eating disorders, and general rude behavior. This was the world into which a new Supergirl would arrive.

p. 95

“Adolescent trollops?” “Plastic-surgery addicted middle-aged women?” “Slatternly songbird?” I don’t know. Feels kinda gross. But then again, comic books are steeped in chauvinism. Maybe it’s inescapable when writing about them.

We’re Not Broken

by Eric Garcia

Someone close to me was recently diagnosed with autism and asked me to read this book to better understand them. I’m glad they did, because I didn’t realize how little I knew about autism or how to think about it.

Some takeaways:

  • Autism is not actually on the rise—alarmingly or otherwise. Basically, we were really bad at identifying it and now we’re better at identifying it.
  • Autism is fairly common. According to the CDC about 1 in 36 people is on the spectrum, making autistic people one of the largest minorities in America.
  • Autism is a disability, not a disease. It probably can’t be cured because, as advocate Jim Sinclair said, “it is not possible to separate the person from the autism.”
  • High functioning and low functioning are misleading, unhelpful terms. People with autism have different support needs, and the amount of support someone needs does not necessarily correspond to their ability to function.

And most important of all, autistic people must have their own say in their support options and autism policy. Even well-meaning parents and other neurotypical advocates are not a substitute for self advocacy.

The book reminded me of another disability rights advocate, Haben Girma, who I interviewed on The Lawyerist Podcast in 2019. Both Girma and the author of this book, Eric Garcia, advocate for the social model of disability—that it is society’s job to remove barriers to access by disabled people, rather than seeing them as broken people in need of mending.

Seems right to me.