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.
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.
Disclosure: I was given a copy of the audiobook by the author for review consideration.
Redefining Realness – by Janet Mock
Narrated by Janet Mock
I 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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