"It might be the most important book about being a parent that you will ever read." —Emily Rapp Black, New York Times bestselling author of The Still Point of the Turning World
"Brooks's own personal experience provides the narrative thrust for the book — she writes unflinchingly about her own experience.... Readers who want to know what happened to Brooks will keep reading to learn how the case against her proceeds, but it's Brooks's questions about why mothers are so judgmental and competitive that give the book its heft." —NPR
One morning, Kim Brooks made a split-second decision to leave her four-year old son in the car while she ran into a store. What happened would consume the next several years of her life and spur her to investigate the broader role America’s culture of fear plays in parenthood. In Small Animals, Brooks asks, Of all the emotions inherent in parenting, is there any more universal or profound than fear? Why have our notions of what it means to be a good parent changed so radically? In what ways do these changes impact the lives of parents, children, and the structure of society at large? And what, in the end, does the rise of fearful parenting tell us about ourselves?
Fueled by urgency and the emotional intensity of Brooks’s own story, Small Animals is a riveting examination of the ways our culture of competitive, anxious, and judgmental parenting has profoundly altered the experiences of parents and children. In her signature style—by turns funny, penetrating, and always illuminating—which has dazzled millions of fans and been called "striking" by New York Times Book Review and "beautiful" by the National Book Critics Circle, Brooks offers a provocative, compelling portrait of parenthood in America and calls us to examine what we most value in our relationships with our children and one another.
Repercussions pummel essayist and fiction writer Brooks after she leaves her toddler in her minivan to run an errand and is reported to the police, in this disturbing, ultimately affirming look at why parenting in the contemporary United States is defined by fear. With her personal journey which included facing charges of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" providing the book's narrative spine, she asks why mothers are competitive and judgmental with one another when they should be supportive of each other through such a "fundamentally anxious endeavor" as parenting. Consulting social psychology research, she discovers Lerner's Just World Hypothesis, the cognitive bias toward assuming that advantageous consequences will follow from one's own moral actions. She also reaches out to Lenore Skenazy, famous for her "free-range" parenting philosophy, who emphasizes the irrationality of parents' fears, and to other mothers arrested for leaving their children unattended. What is clear, she says, is that "motherhood has become a battleground on which prejudice and class resentment can be waged without ever admitting that's what we're doing." After casting outward for reasons, the author faces her own anxiety, knowing change comes from within. Throughout this book, readers will be eager to reach the conclusion and discover the ultimate outcome of the author's misstep, and along the way, will learn much about U.S. culture today.