What We're Reading… Recommended Resources From Our Library

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From Barbara Bourrier-LaCroix, Information Centre Coordinator, with Siobhan Kari, Danielle Allard and Alex Merrill

All the Way: Sex for the First Time
Kim Martyn (Sumach Press, 2003)

Many teens make the decision to have sex without accurate information and even with misguided knowledge. This book is written to provide information to teens who are thinking about “going all the way”; it is also written for parents who are concerned about their kids' safety and sexual health. Using plain, youth-friendly language, the author strives to provide wisdom to teens and parents about “doing it” in order to teach teens sexual smarts, reassure parents that their children have accurate and empowering information, and open up the lines of communication between kids and parents. Chapters deal with such topics as figuring out whether you're ready for intercourse, how to have the best sex possible, protecting yourself, and concerns held by parents. The book also contains a list of resources for further exploration and a glossary of terms filled with important contemporary slang, as well as medical sexual terms.

Martyn has written a frank and honest book about sex, one that will provide teens with the skills, information and confidence to make empowering and smart decisions about going all the way.

Origins of Phobias and Anxiety Disorders: Why More Women than Men?
Michelle G. Craske (Elsevier, 2003)

Everyone feels anxious at times. Challenges such as workplace pressures, public speaking, highly demanding schedules or writing an exam can lead to a sense of worry, even fear. These sensations are different from the ones associated with an anxiety disorder. People suffering from an anxiety disorder are subject to intense, prolonged feelings of fright and distress for no obvious reason. Anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental health problems. It is estimated that they affect approximately 1 in 10 people, and they are more prevalent among women than among men. The author of this work not only provides us with a comprehensive review of factors that contribute to excessive fear and anxiety, more importantly, she develops a model for understanding the gender differences in anxiety disorders.

Caring for Lesbian and Gay People: A Clinical Guide
Allan Peterkin and Cathy Risdon (University of Toronto Press, 2003)

The health of a nation can only be as good as the health of its most vulnerable and stigmatized citizens. While culture, class, ability and religion are known to affect how illness may appear and be understood, sexual orientation has been less well researched or understood as a mediator of health and illness. The authors of this textbook offer health practitioners a comprehensive reference work in order to better treat and serve lesbian, gay and bisexual patients. A chapter has been set aside to deal with special populations within this community, including people from ethno-racial and cultural minorities, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, people living in rural communities, and transsexual and transgendered individuals.

Taking It Off, Putting It On: Women in the Strip Trade
Chris Bruckert(Women's Press, 2002)

The experiences and lived realities of sex workers have been marginalized, silenced and objectified in popular texts and, until recently, in much feminist work on pornography. Chris Bruckert worked as a stripper for a time to support herself and her family before she went to university. Unable to reconcile her experiences as a stripper with what academia said (and didn't say) about sex work, Bruckert set out to document the stories of the women who work as strippers. Taking It Off is a feminist ethnography that tackles the strip trade's regulations and organization, power relations, stigmas and labour processes. Bruckert uses the words of the strippers that she interviewed as a point of departure to explore this industry. Taking It Off is richly textured because Bruckert also worked in a strip club as a bartender and waitress as part of her research process. Her work as this “outsider within” adds layers of insight into the complex dynamics between strippers, club staff and the patrons.

Taking It Off begins with descriptions of the inner workings and atmosphere of a strip club, its “Champagne Rooms” and the working routines of club staff. It documents the strategies strippers use to “work the club.” These descriptions and the interviews reveal that strip club labour is much like any other non-unionized working-class employment. Through these stories, Bruckert explores the politics of an industry that sells sexuality embroiled in exploitation and oppression. She explores the ways strippers resist and challenge power relations and stereotypes, and the ways that they define and negotiate their identity.

Female Genital Mutilation and Obstetric Care
Beverley Chalmers and Kowser Omer-Hasi (Trafford, 2003)

Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons. Long-term consequences of FGM include cysts and abscesses, keloid scar formation, damage to the urethra resulting in urinary incontinence, dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse) and sexual dysfunction, and difficulties with childbirth. While not practiced legally in Canada, health care providers have patients who have been subjected to FGM, and who seek health care for pregnancy and childbirth. Chalmers and Omer-Hasi provide detailed instruction and recommendations to ensure quality, sensitive and culturally appropriate prenatal care, and birth and post-partum care, for women who have experienced FGM.

A Woman's Guide to Living with HIV Infection
Rebecca A. Clark, Robert T. Maupin, Jr. and Jill Hayes Hammer (John's Hopkins University Press, 2004)

When HIV/AIDS first appeared in North America in the early 1980s, it was predominantly within the gay community. As a result, most of the initial research on HIV/AIDS focused on men having sex with men; women were left out of HIV/AIDS research until very recently. Women with immune disorders or other illnesses that we now know are AIDS-related were also often misdiagnosed. In fact, women had little or no access to information, treatment, counselling or support about HIV/AIDS. Yet women with HIV have unique concerns regarding gynaecologic disorders, reproductive choices, contraception and pregnancy. Clark, Maupin and Hammer provide answers to many of these concerns with this guide, designed to prepare HIV-positive women for clinic visits, and to help make these visits more productive for both the patients and their health care provider. Some of the topics addressed in this work include: testing for HIV and coping with the diagnosis; preparing for the first physician visit; recognizing symptoms and preventing complications; understanding the latest treatment options; coping with gynaecological infections and STIs; considering pregnancy and birth control; assuring breast, bone and heart health; and many more.

Let Them Eat Prozac
David Healy (James Lorimer, 2003)

Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Zoloft -- we all recognize these names, and probably know at least one or two people who have been prescribed these medications. With sales in the billions of dollars, we have to ask ourselves: is North America experiencing a depression epidemic, or are the pharmaceutical companies getting better at marketing drugs than making them?

David Healy explores these difficult questions, taking us on a scary journey through the practices of the pharmaceutical industry. We soon learn that drug companies and researchers still do not know exactly how these drugs work, or what their potential side-effects are. Healy also reveals – and subsequent health warnings from both Britain and Canada have confirmed his findings -- that some patients taking new anti-depressants may become suicidal, and may be committing suicide at a much higher rate than if they had been left untreated.

Let Them Eat Prozac is also a history of Healy's career, both working for the big pharmaceutical companies, and criticizing them.

Women Need Safe, Stable, Affordable Housing: A Study of Social Housing, Private Rental Housing and Co-op Housing in Winnipeg
Molly McCracken and Gail Watson (Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence, 2004)

Mounting evidence shows that women with low incomes have acute housing needs, are at greater risk of living in unsafe and unhealthy environments, and require specific supports to achieve stable and affordable housing. This stems from the high incidence of poverty among women; one in five Canadian women live in poverty. Women who are Aboriginal, visible minorities, immigrants or refugees, disabled, senior or youth have higher levels of poverty, and therefore have more difficulties finding and affording suitable housing. This report documents the effects of different housing policies on Winnipeg women's health and well being, economic security, and skills. The authors provide recommendations to governments, policy-makers and community leaders on which housing models and practices better meet women's needs, and which do not.

Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpetriere
Georges Didi-Huberman (MIT Press, 2003)

Considered a foundational text in cultural studies since 1981, this book has recently been translated from French into English, much to the delight of those of us eagerly awaiting its arrival. Through the analysis of infamous photographs taken by Charcot at the Salpetriere hospital for insane and incurable women during the late 19th century, Didi-Huberman draws parallels between the then newly emerging fields of psychology and psychoanalysis, and the “hysterical” women in Charcot's photographs. He carefully demonstrates the way in which the concept of hysteria was created out of the visual representations created by Charcot. During his research Didi-Huberman discovered that Charcot's photos are not objective representations of hysteria, but were achieved through patient coercion. Patients were forced to perform their hysteria on command – and these performances have subsequently informed modern psychology.

Invention of Hysteria has significant resonance in the field of women's health today, both in the construction of mental illness in women, and in women's over-representation in mental illness. This complex and compelling read points to the impact that historical ideas of medicine and illness still have on the practice of contemporary medicine.

The New Truth About Menopause: Straight Talk About Treatments and Choices from Two Leading Women Doctors
Carol Landau and Michele G. Cyr (St Martin's Griffin, 2003)

“It's time to dispense with the negativism…Almost every book or popular article on menopause has an undercurrent of pessimism and dread.”

Yes, it is high time. With all the dismal hype about menopause, women approaching mid-life can hardly help feeling dread. The New Truth About Menopause is a refreshing and engrossing read -- a welcome gift for those of us who want to hear that menopause is the beginning, not the end, of the rest of our lives. Published in November 2003, it is also timely, and that is no easy feat given that new research on menopause surfaces just about every week.

The authors write from their experience as clinicians and educators who work with women in menopause. They first review the myths of menopause as portrayed through questionable science and the mass media over the past 50 years, and look at the rise of hormone therapy use, as well as the implication of pharmaceutical companies in promoting it. They note that drug companies backed the author of the highly influential book Feminine Forever (published in the ‘60s) who painted a devastating picture of menopause as a time of “withering reproductive organs,” “ovarian failure,” and ”shriveling breasts,” a time when women become crazy and depressed and sexless. The solution to all this decay was, of course, hormone therapy.

They describe current evidence for treatments for menopausal symptoms, heart disease and osteoporosis since the Women's Health Initiative study in June 2002 overturned prevailing wisdom on taking hormone therapy for menopause. They discuss the pros and cons of treatments and use case studies of several women to take us through their decision-making processes. The reader is left to make her own decision, armed with clearly-stated information and an extensive list of resources and organizations for reference.

New publication
Caring For/Caring About: Women, Home Care and Unpaid Caregiving

by Karen R. Grant, Carol Amaratunga, Pat Armstrong, Madeline Boscoe, Ann Pederson and Kay Willson (eds), with the National Coordinating Group on Health Care Reform and Women (Garamond Press, 2004)

While the Canadian health care system has been undergoing steady change, the one thing that has remained constant is the key role that women play in providing care. Women are estimated to comprise nearly 80% of both the paid and unpaid care workers in this country. Yet our numbers do not coincide with our influence even as our unpaid workload increases with health care reforms.

In a newly published book, Caring For/Caring About: Women, Home Care and Unpaid Caregiving, edited by the National Coordinating Group on Health Care Reform and Women, academics and community health educators from across Canada examine models for home care, and the impact of health reform on women’s lives.

The increasing transfer of patients into community care may mean that individuals are able to convalesce in more familiar surroundings and with the people they love, but the added burden on family members — usually women – may have serious economic implications for those who provide the care.

According to lead editor, Karen Grant, Vice-Provost of the University of Manitoba, “home care has become a ‘hidden health system’ and it is women who are providing the essential services in that system. Given our current demographics, a comprehensive national home care program that addresses the very gendered nature of care is needed now more than ever.”

Caring For/Caring About makes it clear that making home care a national priority will benefit all Canadians, and especially the women who most often provide this care. As Grant says, “we cannot consider this optional any longer. It is an essential health service.”