THE ART OF WAITING

Belle Boggs

A brilliant cultural and personal exploration of the natural, medical, psychological, and political facets of fertility.

In The Art of Waiting, Belle Boggs eloquently recounts her realization that she might never be able to conceive. She searches the apparently fertile world around her—the emergence of thirteen-year cicadas, the birth of eaglets near her rural home, and an unusual gorilla pregnancy at a local zoo—for signs that she is not alone. Boggs also explores other aspects of fertility and infertility: the way longing for a child plays out in the classic Coen brothers film Raising Arizona;

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A brilliant cultural and personal exploration of the natural, medical, psychological, and political facets of fertility.

In The Art of Waiting, Belle Boggs eloquently recounts her realization that she might never be able to conceive. She searches the apparently fertile world around her—the emergence of thirteen-year cicadas, the birth of eaglets near her rural home, and an unusual gorilla pregnancy at a local zoo—for signs that she is not alone. Boggs also explores other aspects of fertility and infertility: the way longing for a child plays out in the classic Coen brothers film Raising Arizona; the depiction of childlessness in literature, from Macbeth to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; the financial and legal complications that accompany alternative means of family making; the expressions of iconic writers grappling with motherhood and fertility. She reports, with great empathy, complex stories of couples who adopted domestically and from overseas, LGBT couples considering assisted reproduction and surrogacy, and women and men reflecting on childless or childfree lives.

Boggs distills her time of waiting into an expansive contemplation of fertility, choice, and the many possible roads to making a life and making a family.

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  • Graywolf Press
  • Paperback
  • September 2016
  • 242 Pages
  • 9781555977498

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$16.00

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About Belle Boggs

Belle Boggs is the author of Mattaponi Queen. Her work has appeared in Orion, Harper’s, the Paris Review, Ecotone, Slate, and elsewhere. She lives in North Carolina.

Praise

“In this profound, deeply moving study of fertility and motherhood, Belle Boggs takes us on a remarkable journey. Her book ponders the nature of reproduction in modern America, which is of necessity a means of pondering the nature of family, which is in turn a means of pondering the nature of intimacy and love.” —Andrew Solomon

“In this lovely meditation, Belle Boggs explores a landscape suddenly illuminated by the bright light of her own uncertain future … What The Art of Waiting suggests to me is that all our moments that feel fruitless may be bearing their own sort of fruit, in their own time.” —Eula Biss

Discussion Questions

1. How do you define the words “family” and “parent”?

2. How do ideas about luck, fate, and “nature” influence our perceptions about a person’s ability to have a child?

3. The Art of Waiting looks at other cultural and literary representations of infertility and childlessness, including Macbeth, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and the Coen brothers film Raising Arizona. Are you familiar with any of these examples, and if so, did The Art of Waiting change your perception of these works? Can you think of other cultural narratives that portray infertility or childlessness?

4. It is often incorrectly assumed that the majority of infertility patients are older, highly educated, wealthy white women. How do these misconceptions connect to larger problems of racial and social inequity? What unique obstacles do LGBT people face when trying to start a family?

5. How has scientists’ understanding of the term “biological” changed, and what does that mean for adoptive families and families created using donor eggs, sperm, or embryos?

6. How can Assisted Reproductive Technology be seen as empowering?

7. According to Boggs’s research, how does the health insurance industry influence whether Assistive Reproductive Technology is a viable option?

8. Why do you think Boggs uses examples of reproductive stories from other species, such as the lowland gorillas at the North Carolina Zoo, to frame the story of human reproductive longing?

9. It is clear early on in the book that Boggs’s story will include the birth of her daughter, but the broader narrative of the book includes the other paths she could have taken and the outcomes she could have experienced. How do you think your experience of the book would have changed if Boggs had decided to focus only on her personal narrative? How do you think your experience would have been different if this memoir aspect was omitted?

10. On one level the book’s title is a literal reference to the patience required for anyone hoping to become a parent. How does “The Art of Waiting” evoke an even deeper philosophical meaning?