Mini-Reviews: The Surrogate by Caille Millner & Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

The Surrogate – by Caille Millner

Narrated by Emily Caudwell

The Surrogate is a short story that opens thus:

Cecily is six months pregnant with someone else’s child when her husband tells her that he wants a baby of his own. It’s not a complete surprise — if he never grew jealous of all the other babies she’s carried, she’d wonder.

The Surrogate by Caille Millner

Right off the bat, The Surrogate grabs the reader with a direct and memorable line that throws you off a little despite knowing the subject matter of the story. And it is indeed about a woman who is a surrogate mother for wealthy couples who want to have children, but for whatever reason do not or cannot do so themselves. Cecily is initially drawn to surrogacy because money is tight, her husband Franco can’t find a steady job, and also because it pays relatively well. If she carries a child to term, Cecily can earn $30,000 or perhaps more. Her husband does not object, at least not initially.

I’ve never read a story or book about surrogate mothers before, and certainly not any that star a Mexican-American family.  So all of that was new and fascinating to me because, of course Latinas practice surrogacy! But is not often discussed or explored in stories. Upon finishing The Surrogate, I was curious to learn more about surrogacy and pondered the many reasons why a woman would willingly undergo such an experience. This short story offers one circumstance during which surrogacy would be a viable option for a family, which I found to be realistic. It also explores how the relationship and family dynamics of a married couple are affected by this decision.

Will Cecily want to experience motherhood on her own after growing accustomed to carrying children she will give up to other couples? Will she be amenable to her husband’s wishes to start a family of their own? The opening sentence brings this question to mind and it lingers in the background until, in the story’s resolution, it becomes clear Cecily will exercise her agency and make this decision for herself.

 Buy on Audible

Disclosure: I was given a copy of the audiobook by the author for review consideration.

Redefining Realness – by Janet Mock

Narrated by Janet Mock

Redefining Realness, by Janet MockI openly admit that I have much to learn about trans issues, experiences, and narratives. But as always, I am open to and willing to learn as much as I can and will do so with respect. Redefining Realness serves as an excellent introductory text on trans identity. Mock is careful to explain many concepts she rightfully assumes many readers will not be aware of, which I appreciated, even if I am more knowledgeable about trans issues than the average person. However, this book should not be read as the definitive text on trans issues because it recounts the experiences and perspective of one individual. Sure, it is a very smart individual whose judgment and knowledge we can trust, but there is no single trans experience/narrative that applies to all trans people. So please keep that in mind as you read.

This book is a memoir, which means sections of it are extremely personal and offer an intimate look into the life of a woman exploring and discovering her gender identity from childhood to adulthood. In 8 hours, this audiobook covers many topics: from LGBT rights and issues, to gender identity, poverty, race (and the intersection of all of these) drug addiction, sex work, education, family, love, and much more. While some of topics covered are serious and dark, Mock wrote the memoir to offer hope and demonstrate that even when life is full of adversity it is possible to triumph over it to live a happy and authentic life.

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25 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews: The Surrogate by Caille Millner & Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

  1. This sounds like a fascinating story. There is so much talk around surrogacy, yet it’s a huge taboo, but what sounds interesting here is the effect of it on a family and a married couple. I’m definitely buying the audiobook today!

  2. Random trivia from Cee’s errant brain: surrogacy is legal in the UK, paying the surrogate mother for it is not. You are permitted to pay her expenses, but that’s all. The surrogate also has the right to keep the child if she changes her mind, and surrogacy contracts are not binding under English/Welsh law.

    I have no idea how I know this. Actually, slightly concerned that I have so much legal information with no apparent basis for this in my head. XD

    1. That’s really interesting. I guess the story I reviewed couldn’t happen in in the UK. I never considered that it’d be illegal in other places, but of course, it’s such a controversial topic so it makes sense that there are laws around it.
      Thanks for the insight and info!

  3. Naz, when you have a chance, do check out blogging for books fictiin: you will be pleasantly surprised. I will not be reading or reviewing that particular book, but hopefully I will get a chance to read niven’s book

  4. I find the topic of surrogacy absolutely fascinating! Having experienced pregnancy myself, I just don’t know surrogates can detach themselves from the life growing inside them for 9 months. Talk about an emotional roller coaster! I am not criticizing, I’m just in awe that there are woman who are strong enough to do it.

    I’ve read a few fiction books with transgendered characters, but I really need to read a nonfiction account too. Redefining Realness seems like a good starting point.

  5. What an interesting pair of books, each putting you into an intensely physical experience, which obviously has a huge emotional core element too. Always a pleasure to see what you’re reading, Naz!

  6. Love mini reviews even if they are horrible for my tbr😁 Still need to read Mocks memoir it sounds amazing and I love the work she does. The first book sounds really good too, hadn’t even heard of it so thank you for putting it on my radar, Naz!

    1. Oh, I loved her narration! I’ve been a fan of Mock for a while and used to watch her show on MSNBC regularly, so hearing her voice was so familiar. The audiobook is definitely the way to go with memoirs written by celebrities or by any author, really! I figure most authors would like to narrate their story themselves and hope more of them start to do it.

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