Fighting to Choose: All the Reviews

I’ve pretty much recovered from the 2013 Prochoice Highway tour, phew! And all the reviews my book, Fighting to Choose: The Abortion Rights Struggle in New Zealand, is going to get are probably in, so FIghting to choose picI thought I’d close out  posts about the book with the complete (so far as I know) list of and links to all the reviews, starting with the most recent (and most negative), in the Listener. (Must say, I was pretty pleased to get a review there, bad or not! And, see, I am resisting  carping about it…just!)


Political Science (66) 1, 2014. (links to pdf) Reviewed by Jennifer Curtin.

January 18, 2014, Listener, (links to pdf) Reviewed by Rosemary McLeod (There were a couple of follow-up letters that took issue with Rosemary’s review.)

Redline: Contemporary Marxist Analysis. 4 December 2013. Reviewed by Daphna Whitmore

Women’s Studies Journal (NZ), 2013, 27:1. (Links to pdf) Reviewed by Linda Bryder.

October 2013, Pacific Journalism Review, 19 (2), (Links to pdf) Old Abortion Law Still Holds Sway, Reviewed by Sue Kedgley.

October 19, Otago Daily Times:  Abortion Rights Struggle Makes Compelling Read, by Elspeth McLean

September 2013:  (links to pdf) Journal of Primary Healthcare, Vol 5, No 3, Sept 2013, by Dr. Carol Shand

August 16: Online in the Nelson Mail, by Sarah Dunn.

July 2. Scoop Review of Books, by Megan Whelan

June 25. The International Socialist Organisation of Aotearoa/New Zealand, by Shomi Yoon.

May 23. At the Booksellers New Zealand Blog, by Nikki Whyte.

May 9. At Ideologically Impure, by Queen of Thorns.


Prochoice Highway

Busy-ness with the Prochoice Highway.  To keep track, that site is probably better than this one until the end of November. Yes, it’s the book and info tour of Aotearoa NZ which officially kicks off on 15 September. Eeeek, too soon. I haven’t even packed!

Meanwhile, I did read some more rather neat books in translation, which I reviewed for The New York Times.

Normal transmission will resume.. probably in 2014. But if you want to get regular updates from the tour, click here and sign up.

Auckland Book Launch

The Auckland launch of Fighting to Choose: The Abortion Rights Struggle in New Zealand on 24 July was rather a lot of fun, and I’m very grateful to everyone who helped make it happen, especially Linda at the Gus Fisher Gallery, Laila Harré (who gave a most generous speech!), the women of WONAAC (the Women’s National Abortion Action Campaign), ALRANZ, the Auckland Medical Aid Trust, Carole and Tanya of The Women’s Bookshop, Victoria University Press, Auckland Pro-Choice People, and of course everyone who came along. I had a seriously good time, and the collection of Double Standards were popular, with a few of the young feminists suggesting it be revived. Go for it!

The good and bad news was that we ran out of books, which was entirely my bad because I’d promised to take a supply of extras but didn’t quite have enough. Sorry Carole! But we did not run out of wine, and that’s probably more important.

Egging Me On

After campus security learned that a dozen eggs had been thrown at the Gus Fisher Gallery’s door the night before (an unprecedented occurrence so…draw your own conclusions), they posted a couple of guards outside. The best comment about the egging came from a friend in Tauranga, who’s something of an animal rights activist (besides being pro-choice of course): “I hope they were free range”, she said, followed by “what a waste”. Precisely.

Here are a couple of pix from the event, but please hop over to the Prochoice Highway site to stay up to date with the tour, which starts in September. (Same photos over there, I’m afraid. We didn’t enlist enough amateur photogs…)

Part of the display table at the Auckland launch, showing The Yellow Rabbit, and the 1980 Xmas Crossword special edition of The Double Standard.

Part of the display table at the Auckland launch, showing The Yellow Rabbit, and the 1980 Xmas Crossword special edition of The Double Standard.

Laila Harré speaking at the Auckland launch.

Laila Harré speaking at the Auckland launch.

Book Update: Events, Reviews

cover-jpeg-mediumThis is the year of the book for me, and it really hits high speed in September when the Prochoice Highway takes to the road. In the meantime, there are a few book related events percolating over the winter, and the list is kept up-to-date over at the Highway’s events page. Here’s the latest rundown:

27 June 2013: Alison McCulloch and Morgan Healey will speak at the Wellington Rape Crisis AGM. (Not a public event.)

24 July 2013: Auckland launch of Fighting to Choose. 5:30 p.m., Gus Fisher Gallery, Shortland St, central Auckland.

26-27 July 2013: An ALRANZ/Highway book and info stall at the CTU Women’s Conference in Wellington.

29 July-2 August 2013: Otago University Students’ Association Women’s Week. Details TBA.

23-25 August 2013: A Highway book and info stall at Labour Women’s Conference: Community Building Project, Onehunga, Auckland.

25 August 2013: Ladies’ Litera-Tea. From 1-5 p.m. Auckland. Details TBA.



January 18, 2014, Listener, Reviewed by Rosemary McLeod

Women’s Studies Journal (NZ), 2013, 27:1. (Links to a PDF) Reviewed by Linda Bryder.

October 19, Otago Daily Times:  Abortion Rights Struggle Makes Compelling Read, by Elspeth McLean

September 2013:  (links to pdf) Journal of Primary Healthcare, Vol 5, No 3, Sept 2013, by Dr. Carol Shand

August 16: Online in the Nelson Mail, by Sarah Dunn.

July 2. Scoop Review of Books, by Megan Whelan

June 25. The International Socialist Organisation of Aotearoa/New Zealand, by Shomi Yoon.

May 23. At the Booksellers New Zealand Blog, by Nikki Whyte.

May 9. At the Daily Blog, by Queen of Thorns.

Cross-Post: Who Was That Woman, Anyway?

[This was originally posted on 20 May 2013 at The Hand Mirror]

It’s trite to say that books take you places. But true nonetheless. With books, you can disappear into other times, cultures, imaginary worlds. “Foreign” fiction is better than any guide-book at introducing you to a place and its people, and sometimes even better than going there if you want to see beneath the surface.

But if you live here and read enough of the stuff (say novels from the two Anglophone powerhouses – the United States and the UK-plus-Ireland) then a different feeling starts to kick in. Like what you’re getting to know is really life inside the American novel, not life inside America. At about the same point, for me anyway, “local” fiction itself starts to feel a bit foreign. Not in the way “foreign” fiction is foreign, but in the way local fiction feels rare, like something you don’t see very often. Which, when it’s good local fiction, also makes it feel precious and exciting and new.

Who was that woman imageI felt this way reading Aorewa McLeod’s new book “Who Was That Woman, Anyway? Snapshots of a Lesbian Life.” It’s a novel, yes, but as McLeod explains in the book’s front matter, it’s inspired by real life events. “Some details happened in real life, some did not,” she writes. “The characters are fictionalised and given fictional names.” The book’s 10 chapters, ordered by date, span roughly 40 years in the life of Ngaio, McLeod’s protagonist who, like the author, is an English lecturer at a university in Auckland.

The subtitle is sweet in the way it undersells the book. These are not only snapshots of a lesbian life, but of life in New Zealand, and life in Aotearoa. Snapshots of what it can be like to grow up here, and live here.

Its starting point is the 1960s with Ngaio, a university student, heading to Nelson to spend her summer break as a nurse’s aide because “an ex-schoolmate’s father was someone high up in the mental health service and he had suggested that nurse-aiding in psychiatric hospitals was a lucrative way of earning money in the holidays”. Ngaio is put in a ward with bedridden, severely disabled children. “There were enormous hydrocephalic water heads, tiny pinheads, huge slobbering mouths, bent bodies, contorted hands waving in the air, grasping blindly, clutching as if there were something to reach for. They could grip me with such desperate strength that I had to pry their fingers off. Many were blind. I couldn’t tell how old they were.” McLeod’s writing, particularly in the first half of the novel, is like that: direct and piercing.

It’s while she’s working in Nelson that Ngaio meets Suzy, her first love. Suzy is a Māori woman from a Mormon family who works as a charge nurse at the children’s ward in town. “She only goes for white girls,” a friend tells Ngaio. “All her family’s married white. That’s what the Mormons encourage them to do, to make it in the white world.” Who cares! Ngaio is in heaven. “This was it; this was what it meant to make love. This was the transformational moment of my life.”

Continue reading


The book is launched. Phew! It was a wild ride, which included an interview with a BoP Times reporter about the new early medication abortion service in Tauranga while traveling in a taxi en route TO the launch (book about the struggle meets the struggle); dropping my room key down a storm water drain in a downpour and actually managing to fish it out, all while wearing purple pyjamas and getting soaked; going into VicBooks to do the “sign some books” thing, and being

Dame Margaret Sparrow and moi at the book launch. (Copyright is Vic Uni Press.)

Dame Margaret Sparrow and moi at the book launch. (Copyright is Vic Uni Press.)

evacuated because of some alarm. False I guess, but I didn’t wait to find out because I had to meet the lovely Zenaida, but messed that up  – we were waiting in different cafes on opposite sides of town. At the launch (thank you so much VicBooks and VUP), I met people I wish I’d found BEFORE I finished writing the book, but then again, it’s always hard to STOP researching. Scored a lovely bottle of Scotch from the WONAAC women (my request!), had an excellent ALRANZ AGM and weekend at the Women’s Studies Association Conference trying out some of the Prochoice Highway stuff. Had some orders for the Body Politics calendars and scanned some great images from Margaret Sparrow’s personal collection for said calendar. Has anyone heard of Condoman? Not sure if he’s sound as I don’t really know anything about him, but Margaret had some Condoman patches, which must be collector’s items or something. Speaking of Dame Margaret Sparrow, my all-time favourite photo of the self (and I don’t usually like them) is now the one attached to this post because I’m next to her (at the book launch). Oh, and I met the Queen of Thorns. At least, I think it was her, but can one ever really be sure? Finally, I nearly forgot (did I want to forget?) there was a Kim Hill interview on RNZ on Saturday 27th. That was pretty intense, and I haven’t plucked up the courage yet to listen back to the podcast.

Missed you Linn and Helen!

UPDATE: Thanks to for making a video of the launch, and putting the speeches (they’re short, honest!) on YouTube. Links to those are at the ALRANZ blog.



The Book and the Highway

cover-jpeg-mediumOff to Wellington today for the Women’s Studies Association conference this weekend, where I will be talking about and selling (early, because the book launch isn’t till May Day) my new book, Fighting to Choose, and introducing people to the Prochoice Highway, which is a books-cum-spread-the-word project I’m doing this year in conjunction with a few cool people including ALRANZ. Also, the ALRANZ AGM is on Tuesday 30 April,  in Wellington. It’s members only, but if you need info, write to ALRANZ at safeandlegal[at] And, yes, on May Day the book is officially being launched. Write to me if you want venue etc. details! Meanwhile, I’m on Saturday with Kim Hill tomorrow morning to talk about the book. More updates to come…