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Translator and scholar of Latin American literature Jessica Powell has added another bold voice to the chorus of authors she has ushered into English. In Nine Moons, the Peruvian journalist Gabriela Wiener offers a deeply personal and often irreverent account of her experience conceiving, carrying, and giving birth to Lena, her first child. Coming out of the Latin American tradition of crónicas, a hybrid, mostly urban genre that blends fearless truth-telling with journalistic research and comic self-awareness, Wiener delivers an account of the nine “moons” of her pregnancy that’s unsentimental and yet touching in its openness and vulnerability.
Living in Madrid with her husband, whom she identifies throughout simply as “J,” Wiener lacks most of the class-based comforts that make modern bourgeois childbearing distinctive. Both parents are only fitfully employed, either at literary magazines or odd jobs. They live in a tiny apartment next door to an abandoned building that’s been taken over by thousands of pigeons. Not having a car in particular comes to play an important role when Wiener goes into labor.
It’s not only her distance from upper middle-class privilege that gives the author her vivid, sometimes excoriating perspective on the maternity establishment. Her best-known work prior to Nine Moons is a collection of essays called Sexographies, in which she and J navigate the subculture of swingers, sex clubs, threesomes, and S & M. There are no trips to the dungeon in Nine Moons, but Wiener retains the gonzo sensibility that allowed her to access those regions as she encounters the guardians of a new realm — Barcelona Maternity hospital.
You don’t have to be pregnant to read Nine Moons. In fact, I would caution those who might consider it as a baby shower gift to read it first to be sure that it’s the message you want to send. But Wiener, and now Powell, has made a significant contribution to the growing feminist bookshelf of candid reflections on the complex and ever-changing experience to which we all owe our existence.
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