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Borrowed Babies: Apprenticing for motherhood

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Until the 1960s, infants were plucked from orphanages and maternity wards and used as “practice babies” in college home economics department across the country. Award-winning writer Jill Christman was determined to find out what happened to them. Along the way, five months pregnant herself, with her hormones (and anxiety) raging, she also hoped to discover what it means to Until the 1960s, infants were plucked from orphanages and maternity wards and used as “practice babies” in college home economics department across the country. Award-winning writer Jill Christman was determined to find out what happened to them. Along the way, five months pregnant herself, with her hormones (and anxiety) raging, she also hoped to discover what it means to be a mother. Jill Christman’s memoir, Darkroom: A Family Exposure, won the AWP Award Series in Creative Nonfiction. Recent essays have appeared in Barrelhouse, Brevity, Fourth Genre, Iron Horse Literary Review, and other journals, magazines, and anthologies. She teaches creative nonfiction writing in Ashland University’s low-residency MFA program and at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where she lives with her husband, writer Mark Neely, and their two children. Visit her at Jillchristman.com. This is a short e-book published by Shebooks--high quality fiction, memoir, and journalism for women, by women. For more information, visit http://shebooks.net.


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Until the 1960s, infants were plucked from orphanages and maternity wards and used as “practice babies” in college home economics department across the country. Award-winning writer Jill Christman was determined to find out what happened to them. Along the way, five months pregnant herself, with her hormones (and anxiety) raging, she also hoped to discover what it means to Until the 1960s, infants were plucked from orphanages and maternity wards and used as “practice babies” in college home economics department across the country. Award-winning writer Jill Christman was determined to find out what happened to them. Along the way, five months pregnant herself, with her hormones (and anxiety) raging, she also hoped to discover what it means to be a mother. Jill Christman’s memoir, Darkroom: A Family Exposure, won the AWP Award Series in Creative Nonfiction. Recent essays have appeared in Barrelhouse, Brevity, Fourth Genre, Iron Horse Literary Review, and other journals, magazines, and anthologies. She teaches creative nonfiction writing in Ashland University’s low-residency MFA program and at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where she lives with her husband, writer Mark Neely, and their two children. Visit her at Jillchristman.com. This is a short e-book published by Shebooks--high quality fiction, memoir, and journalism for women, by women. For more information, visit http://shebooks.net.

33 review for Borrowed Babies: Apprenticing for motherhood

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I read this as part of a deep dive into the Practice Houses of the 1920s-1950s. I'm so glad I did and I'm so glad that it was mostly about Jill's reflection of her own impending motherhood and the subject position of mother. Really lovely, short piece. I have the pleasure of knowing Jill in real life and it made the reading experience all the more meaningful. So generous to herself, which I absolutely loved. I read this as part of a deep dive into the Practice Houses of the 1920s-1950s. I'm so glad I did and I'm so glad that it was mostly about Jill's reflection of her own impending motherhood and the subject position of mother. Really lovely, short piece. I have the pleasure of knowing Jill in real life and it made the reading experience all the more meaningful. So generous to herself, which I absolutely loved.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cher

    I was appalled at the fact that this was nonfiction! Really? How have I never heard of this before? After reading this book, I want to know more...I want to know what effect being "practice babies" had on these children in the years afterwards. I want to know how prevalent this practice was. I want to know what a typical day, week or month was like in these children's lives and how did they ever develop attachments and trust and well, everything!! I have so many questions and the author implies I was appalled at the fact that this was nonfiction! Really? How have I never heard of this before? After reading this book, I want to know more...I want to know what effect being "practice babies" had on these children in the years afterwards. I want to know how prevalent this practice was. I want to know what a typical day, week or month was like in these children's lives and how did they ever develop attachments and trust and well, everything!! I have so many questions and the author implies she was unable to find more information during her research. I plan to search for more books on this subject now that I have become aware of "borrowed babies". One more small note, the book end quite abruptly...I am not ready for the end when the last words are done.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Steven Harvey

    It is Jill Christman's voice--honest, funny, serious, open to making mistakes, self-corrective, self-revealing--that wins me over to this book. I care about her subject--the babies and those who nurture them--but I also care for the mother-to-be, who is Christman herself, anxiously making her way through this world of maternity which she is about to enter. It is Jill Christman's voice--honest, funny, serious, open to making mistakes, self-corrective, self-revealing--that wins me over to this book. I care about her subject--the babies and those who nurture them--but I also care for the mother-to-be, who is Christman herself, anxiously making her way through this world of maternity which she is about to enter.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Wells

    Fascinating account of a soon-to-be mother considering what it takes to be a mom alongside the story of a home economics program to teach young women how to be "the best" mothers. Jill's voice comes through strong and with her usual grace and power. Fascinating account of a soon-to-be mother considering what it takes to be a mom alongside the story of a home economics program to teach young women how to be "the best" mothers. Jill's voice comes through strong and with her usual grace and power.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sheri Fresonke Harper

    Jill Christman writes a plush, emotional story of her search for understanding how to be a good mother by examining a program in Home Economics run by Cornell U. The tale of babies adopted or borrowed for use in the program is different from the usual university study.

  6. 5 out of 5

    ellen

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sheryll

  8. 5 out of 5

    Abigail Oldham

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robin Mandell

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cindie

  11. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Stewart

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alice

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Cross

  15. 5 out of 5

    Taylor Brown

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  17. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Grunow

  19. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

  20. 4 out of 5

    Christine Morton

  21. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sherri Landis

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ash

  24. 5 out of 5

    Pennygale

  25. 4 out of 5

    Arielle

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cora

  27. 5 out of 5

    Molly Ferguson

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ellie I

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robert Young

  30. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

  31. 5 out of 5

    Katie Ellington

  32. 5 out of 5

    Rani

  33. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

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