Milk and Cake

Milk and Cake

beauty child at the blackboard

By Sarah Bousquet

Last week it occurred to me, I’ve stopped counting my daughter’s age in months. It wasn’t a conscious decision. It just tapered off, which I suppose is typical after age two. This morning I measured her height on the pantry door frame. She’s grown an entire inch since we last measured her on her birthday in January. Then I started counting days on the calendar and discovered her half-birthday is exactly halfway between her dad’s birthday and mine. I told her we’ll bake a half-birthday cake.

Her legs suddenly look so long. “She’s stretching out,” my mom says. That’s what it feels like too, stretching, both of us. Drifting from our perfect dyad, stretching toward autonomy. The evolution of nursing newborn to nursing toddler-the dramatic growth and change, the intimacy and beauty-is almost impossible to capture. From balled fists to dexterous hands. From curled toes to toddler feet flung in my face. It feels like only months ago I sat glassy-eyed and thirsty, nursing my newborn, so voracious, it felt like she was sucking milk from the bones of my back.

There is the magic of that transition from cut umbilical cord to latched breast; nine months of nourishment invisible, now suddenly right before your eyes. And you see how perfect the design. For us, breastfeeding was that easy. Instant and harmonious. Nursing my baby evolved almost as unconsciously as my heart pumping blood.

The triumph of a body doing what a body does was packed with meaning. After nearly three years of struggling to conceive, I became pregnant naturally, much to my surprise and elation. For months and then years I had worried, wondered, researched—why wasn’t my body working? My pregnancy was an answered prayer, but one fraught with anxiety. The act of breastfeeding, just moments after giving birth, my daughter’s perfect latch, allowed me to see my body in action. It was the assurance I was providing everything she needed, the empowerment of a body at work.

When my daughter was six months old, a hyper clarity bloomed. I would listen to conversations, observe the behavior of others, and have sudden insights, new depths of understanding. I remember saying to my husband, “It’s the strangest thing, I feel like I can almost see right through people.” I called them popcorn epiphanies, these realizations that came in quick succession like kernels popping in the pot. I tried to write a few down, but they felt indescribable and came too quickly.  The lactating brain is plastic and creative; new neurochemical pathways are forged during the process of breastfeeding. I felt the changes in myself as surely as I saw the changes in my daughter. As she awakened to the world around her, taking in sights and sounds, babbling and laughing, intelligent eyes holding my gaze, I too became more alert and aware, both of us growing together.

I more often use the term nursing, which feels all-encompassing and true. Because breastfeeding is about much more than nourishment. It is medicine, comfort, bonding, security. You have only to nurse a toddler who has just finished a breakfast of banana pancakes to understand that nursing is pure contentment. Pure peace.

And sometimes pure hilarity. When she’s in her father’s arms calling out, “Goodnight, Mommy! Goodnight, milks!” When she charms and cajoles, “How about milks on the couch? Sound like a plan?” Or when I step out of the shower, and she’s there handing me a towel, her face so full of glee, calling out, “My milks! My milks!” Such celebration of my body. Such love.

I’ve been reflecting as it begins to taper. I’d never set any specific goals around nursing, no timelines or numbers. I have followed my baby’s cues and my body’s cues. And I will follow that wisdom into the next phase, as we grow together, celebrating the glittering increments, marking the door frame, baking half-birthday cakes.

Sarah Bousquet is Brain Child’s 2016 New Voice of the Year. She lives in coastal Connecticut with her husband, daughter and two cats. She is currently at work on a memoir. She blogs daily truths at Follow her on Twitter @sarah_bousquet.


My Most Honored Guests Were the Ones Who Never Came

My Most Honored Guests Were the Ones Who Never Came

By Shabnam Samuel Thakar

Portrait of Indian family at home. Grandparent and grandchild eating butter cake. Asian people living lifestyle. Grandfather and granddaughter.

As a child in India, the day before my birthday (March 31st) was always a day filled with excitement – it was the day the tailor brought home my new tailored clothes, the day the baker brought home my cake, and the day the household help went shopping for the tea party held in my honor on April 1st. I would sit on the porch steps and wonder who would give me what as a present. Would Mrs. Tucker give me the fourth book on the Famous Five by Enid Blyton? How much money might Aunty Radha put in my birthday card? Why did Papa and Granny insist on giving clothes as presents?

But another thought persisted above all the others: maybe, just maybe, the joke would finally be over. My parents would come to my party as a surprise, scoop me up in their arms and wish me a happy birthday.

Maybe I could finally go to school and not have my friends ask questions about Papa and Granny that filled me with embarrassment and shame: “Why is your father so old?” or “How come your mother wears a dress and has blue eyes?”

The embarrassment and shame I experienced as a child over my parents’ absence made me a person who spun exceptional tales about my life: “My parents?” I would say, “They are spies for the Indian Army and live abroad, most likely London.”

The truth was sadder: I did not know my parents. I had not heard their voices or even seen a picture of my mother and father. I was raised by my bi-racial grandparents, an Indian grandfather and my Russian grandmother, in a small town in India in the 1960s. We lived in a house where, at one time, fifteen people had lived comfortably in their own space. When I was growing up, the only people who lived in the home were my grandparents and me. There was always a sense of emptiness both inside and outside of me.

When extended family came to stay, on most days you would find me sitting behind a curtain or perched precariously on a balcony, sometimes even hiding under the bed to listen. Eavesdropping to glean information from conversations was how I related to my family. I tried to piece together my history from the hushed-tone phrases I could string together: poor childorphanagewhat a trauma… how could a mother do such a thing?

I knew better than to ask – no one would explain anything to me. It seemed that my grandparents’ plan was that the words mother, father, mummy or daddy were never to be mentioned in front of me.

Still, I persisted with my hope of a birthday surprise. I wanted my parents – the young, age-appropriate ones. I wanted a normal dad who would drive a car and take me to school. A mother who was beautiful and ethereal in a sari, who would drop everything she was doing and hug me when I came back from school. I knew other, younger parents did this. I had seen my friends. I carried around a lot of envy and sadness.

But maybe, just maybe, this was the year.

The 1st of April comes, the only day I was allowed to sleep late. Schools was closed on April 1st because it was a government holiday: Orissa Day, a celebration to mark the state of Odisha as a separate province. I wasn’t able to give out toffees to my classmates, as I would have been allowed if my birthday fell on a school day. On my birthday, there was no special breakfast, no phone calls from relatives – mostly because we didn’t have a phone.

All of my focus fell to the grandfather clock in the dining room, waiting for the clock to strike 4:00pm. As the cucumber finger sandwiches were being made and the meat patties were warmed, I would excitedly put on my new clothes. My favorites were a forty-inch wide bell bottom set – I was a real trendsetter in those days. And then I would wait for friends to show up. The ones who came, though, were mostly family friends, hardly anyone in my age group.

One by one, they wished me a happy birthday and handed over their wrapped presents. In my mind, I sized up the package while speculating on the gift. Darn, that is a box of chocolates, why? Couldn’t she give me like a book or a dress or something? This would go on for a little while. In between silly talk and little foods, I would sneak back and forth into my room and open the presents one by one. Always glimpsing out of the window, always with ears perked for new voices, I kept hoping and dreaming. But they never came.

Slowly, year after year, the same old routine became boring. Of course, once I hit twelve, the party was over. “Too old to have a birthday party,” my grandparents would say. The clothes, the sandwiches, the meat patties, the cake – all gone. What never went away was the longing, the hope and the sadness that “they” never came.

Here I am, forty years later, feeling nostalgic for those days of excitement – the moments of being carefree, the future of endless possibilities, the anticipation, the innocence, the dreams.

The one flame that has never died and carries with it a ray of hope: they will come and they will say they are sorry we left you and went away – and they will, at last, finally wish me a happy birthday.

Shabnam Samuel Thakar is a writer, a business coach for low income, immigrant women entrepreneurs and is the founder of the Panchgani Writers’ Retreat in India. She has called the suburbs of Washington D.C home for the last 30 years.

Love, I Mean Like(s), Conquers All

Love, I Mean Like(s), Conquers All

By Francie Arenson Dickman         


We had a crisis in our house this morning. It hit during the thirty seconds my daughters allot for breakfast. Instead of sitting stone still and staring at the counter, I noticed some last minute scrambling—not the physical kind, but the virtual—a frenzy with the phones, which I assumed had to do with school. They had math and science tests. A forgotten formula, maybe? Worse, it turned out. An almost forgotten birthday.The birthday of a good friend, no less, brought to their attention by another friend’s Instagram post…or maybe it was Facebook. I can’t keep track anymore.     

I’m sure if you are a parent of a girl who has finished breast feeding and is therefore old enough to have an online presence, you know where I’m going with this. You’re already aware of the online protocol required to appropriately acknowledge the birthday of a friend (defined broadly to encompass anyone they’ve ever met) via social media.     

The formula for online well-wishing for middle schoolers is complex and as incomprehensible to me as the formulas in my kids’ geometry books. It centers around “the post.” I’m not talking about a run-of-the-mill Facebook birthday wish. A simple, “Have a great day,” apparently won’t do. An acceptable birthday post is a multi-step venture. Step one involves digging. Deep and focused digging, one by one, through the eight trillion selfies and other shots in your child’s camera roll in search of pictures that show any sign of the birthday girl. (“Oh look, there’s her elbow.”)    

Not all photos, I’m afraid, are created equal. I’m fairly certain (though if I’m wrong, perhaps one of my children’s friends who are now on Facebook will correct me) but the further back in time the picture goes, the better. As the adage (updated for social media) goes, new friends are silver, old friends are gold and old photos of old friends are even golder. In other words, a picture speaks a thousand words and if you’ve got a photo with the birthday girl from preschool, you have said, “I’ve been friends with the birthday girl longer than you,” without uttering a sound.   

When we were kids, moms used to send their birthday kids to school with cupcakes that the birthday kid got to pass out with the help of a few chosen friends. Today, allergies have done away with the homemade cupcake tradition, but nothing will ever do away with the middle school girls’ ability to jockey for position. Human nature is alive and kicking: A one picture post (unless, as stated above, it’s a picture from way, way back), means you probably aren’t the girl who would have been called up to help with the cupcakes. But if you can amass 25 pictures or more, and then take the time to lay them all out in a collage, you are in the running.      

I’m not talking about the kind of collages we used to make. The ones that required hours of combing through magazines, cutting out photos and words that related to your friend or your friendship, laying it all out on cardboard and then carefully gluing it down. The modern day collage is similar, except it is, naturally, done in an app. If a kid has the technical know-how and the eyesight, she can kick out a hundred picture collage during the two minute ride to school, which is really all the time she has because, according to what I’ve gathered, a post must be live by the time the well-wisher arrives at school.  

To pass muster, the posts also incorporate words, or at least parts of them. Letters. Like H14BD ILYSM. While grammar lessons do not seem to be hitting home these days, kids really understand the value of the hyperbole. Sweeping statements like, “You are my best friend in the entire universe,” “I don’t know how I’d ever live without you,” or “I’d do anything for you,” are thrown about with abandon. On the one hand, I’ve got to hand it to these girls. They’re sure not stingy with the love, which is refreshing in a political climate plagued by constant hate and heckling. Furthermore, the unending love is not wasted on one birthday girl. Rest assured, the exact outpourings given to the birthday girl of today will be bestowed on the birthday girl of tomorrow. When it comes to effusiveness, today’s teens are equal opportunity employers.       

Yes, one may contend that it’s impossible to actually harbor so much love for so many people. Those who know better (i.e. parents) might say that there’s an element of disingenuousness to this free love business, and that perhaps all of this online PDA is indeed for the benefit of public consumption. One might be inclined to invoke the adage, empty tins cans rattle the loudest and those truly close to the BDG shouldn’t have to take such grandiose measures to prove it. After all, the reality is that behind all the birthday love, there is a quiet sting felt by the other girls (yours, of course) who look at their screens and see that the person they thought was their BFF is now labeling herself BFF with the birthday girl. Love hurts, even if it is spread too thin to have any meaning.

The good news is, the hurt doesn’t last—well the hurt may but the post itself doesn’t. Unlike the collages we used to make and receive (some of mine still occupy space in my attic), the modern day collage is ephemeral. Blink and you’ll miss the outpouring of affection. The unstated rule is that birthday posts are only meant to last the length of the birthday itself. My kids, when asked, didn’t give a reason for this but my guess is (and again, my kids and their friends can correct me if I’m wrong) that birthday posts don’t garner that many likes since they are only of interest to the birthday girl and the BFF who posted. As much as all the BFFs would do anything for the birthday girl, anything does not include leaving up a post that isn’t popular.                   

It’s truly a strange new world, this world of social media. The only place I know where love seems to know no bounds except when measured by likes.

Francie Arenson Dickman is a contributing blogger to Brain, Child. Her essays have appeared in publications including, The Examined Life, A University of Iowa Literary Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, and Literary Mama. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and twin daughters and has just completing her first novel. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


The Christmas Birthday Conundrum

The Christmas Birthday Conundrum

By Barbara Brockway

After the initial joy of finding out I was expecting my first baby, a dark thought crossed my mind. This was in addition to all the concerns first-time parents have; will my baby be healthy, will I make a good mom, will I survive labor?

“I’m worried about the baby’s birthday being so close to Christmas,” I said to my husband, Matt. The December 19th due date was determined after an early sonogram, and declared to be extremely accurate by our doctor.

“Honey, I know how you feel about your birthday being right after the holidays,” Matt said, wrapping me up in a hug. “We’ll do things differently than your parents.”

“We have to always make a big deal out of the baby’s birthday, to not let it be overshadowed by Christmas” I said, thinking about a young me feeling hurt that my special day was treated as an afterthought.

“I promise,” Matt said, smiling a goofy expectant-father smile.

I secretly vowed to hold him to that, more importantly, to hold myself to that.

I had first hand knowledge of the disappointment that comes with having a birthday so close to the holidays. Raised in a small, midwestern town with no diversity, Christmas was my end-all, be-all of holidays, followed by runner-up New Year’s Eve. My birthday, coming on January 2nd, was at the tail end of this bacchanalia. After all the rich food, expense, and parties of the holiday season, who wanted to celebrate a birthday–my birthday?

As a kid, my presents were always wrapped in leftover Christmas paper, my birthday cake eaten begrudgingly by my parents on what should have been the second day of their New Year’s resolutions. My friends were no better. Amidst the excitement of returning to school after the long break and exchanging stories about what Santa had brought, they rarely remembered to wish me happy birthday. What should have been my special day was celebrated as a half-hearted afterthought or forgotten altogether.  

I pledged to do things differently for my child.

The weeks leading up to my due date flew by, filled with an ambitious home remodel, gearing up to turn over my job to a co-worker, and frenetic nesting. I stopped working on December 18th and picked my mom up from the airport on my due date.

“Any signs this baby is coming?” she asked as she happily clutched my big belly.

“The doctor says it could be anytime,” I replied. I unfurled a big list from my purse.

“In the meantime, let’s do some last minute shopping,” I said.

I dragged my mom around Atlanta the next few days, running Christmas errands and buying last minute things for the baby’s room. I delighted when someone asked me when I was due.

“Last Tuesday,” I’d say with a big grin. My mom and I loved the shocked responses. Inside, my worry grew. Each passing day meant future birthdays would be that much closer to the “big” day.

I took to walking around our neighborhood for hours, as walking was supposed to induce labor. Not one contraction. I ate spicy foods. Nada. On December 22nd the three of us walked up and down Stone Mountain. The baby didn’t budge. On December 23rd, Matt and I dined at Indigo, requesting the locally famous “labor table.” I kept the fingers of my left hand crossed all during dessert. I woke up the next morning feeling no different.

With each passing day I worried not only about the baby’s birthday being one day closer to Christmas, but about the health of my overdue child. The doctor started to talk about inducing labor.

On Christmas Eve, the three of us went to see the Live Nativity at East Rock Springs Presbyterian. Matt grabbed my gloved hand and held it in both of his. “You know, honey, at this point, I’m almost hoping the baby is born on Christmas,” he whispered.

My heart swelled as the tinny first notes of “Silent Night” strained through the outdoor speakers. “Me, too,” I confessed. “If it’s this close anyway, it might be better if it’s actually on the same day.”

We stared into each other’s eyes, grinning like two fools who didn’t know what was about to hit them.

At about 3am on Christmas morning, I woke with a start. Was that a contraction? I waited a few minutes. It was definitely a contraction. My heart pounding, I woke Matt.

He flipped on the light and started timing them. At about 6am, we took a two-hour walk around the neighborhood, reveling in the perfect quiet that is Christmas morning. I spent the day alternating rest with walking, squeezing in Christmas dinner, present opening and It’s A Wonderful Life.

At about 10pm we headed for Northside Hospital. Sweet baby Nicholas was born at 2am on December 26th, missing Christmas by two hours. And no, he’s not named after that Nicholas. My husband is Italian; it’s practically a requirement that every Padula family has a Nick.

Was I disappointed that our baby was born the day after Christmas? In retrospect it seems so silly. Once I locked eyes with my trusting, precious little soul all else seemed insignificant. I understood the meaning of unconditional love, and, as a faithful person, felt closer to God. I understood the fuller meaning of Christmas for the first time in my life.

Have Matt and I kept our promise of always making a big deal out of Nick’s birthday? We’ve tried to, although as the years have ticked on, we might be slipping a bit. Last year, we gave him the dreaded combined birthday and Christmas gift, an expensive GoPro camera that seemed too extravagant to be given for just one special day. Did Nick think he’d been ripped off? I’d like to think not, but I can’t really be sure.

One thing I am sure of is that my perspective on having a holiday birthday has changed. Gifts and celebrations aren’t meaningful, no matter what time of year, unless you’re spending them with loved ones. My favorite birthday memories now revolve around special times: ice skating, playing board games, or just watching a movie. No need for cake or decorations, just togetherness. Maybe keeping the focus on that should have been my objective for my son, instead of trying to create space and distinction between the two events.

As for me, If I’m ever asked about a favorite Christmas, how could I say anything but the day I spent laboring with my firstborn, and how could I say my favorite present was anything but my son?

Not a cherished family tradition or a perfectly wrapped gift, my favorite Christmas memory involves sweat, panting, excruciating pain, and, of course, a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

Barbara Brockway’s work has appeared in The Maine Review, The Southern Tablet, Torrid Literature Journal, and elsewhere. She’s received writing awards from WOW-Women On Writing, the Chattahoochee Valley Writers, and the Atlanta Writers Club. Read more on her website:


Top 15 Birthday Books

Top 15 Birthday Books

By Hilary Levey Friedman

Top 15 Birthday Books in honor of Brain, Child’s 15th!

15logoBooks are the gifts that keep on giving, long past a singular birthday celebration. As we celebrate Brain, Child‘s 15th, this list suggests splendid books to gift to the parents—and the kids—in your life from that first birthday through the fifteenth. From perennial favorites to new classics, you’ll find something for your favorite Brain, Child reader (or future reader!) regardless of their sex or age.

1. Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw

With fun word play, original illustrations, and an imaginative narrative the first book in Shaw’s popular “Sheep” series will quickly become a bedtime or naptime favorite. Because of the rhymes on each page, the book also lends itself to conversation and language development with your little one. After reading it several (or 100!) times, you can pause at the end of each line and let your growing toddler supply the word, allowing you to really “read” together.


2. Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty

This clever, engaging, and creative book helps kids understand that you can always learn from a “failure.” It also draws a connection between the present and a historical figure, so you can begin talking to your kids about World War II and changing opportunities for women. You might be inclined to only gift this to little girls, but you’d be wrong! Boys love this tale about imagination and creation and it’s just as important to tell boys that girls can be engineers as it is to tell girls they can be.


3. Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules: Your 5-Step Guide to Shaping Proper Behavior by Jo Frost

Parents, forget about the “terrible twos” and start preparing yourself for a “threenager.” Frost’s book was spotlighted in the Winter 2014 issue of Brain, Child; I wrote there that I was surprised how effective the advice of a “TV nanny” was, but her clear style and no-nonsense approach makes for a crisp and useful read. Frost’s suggestions will still be helpful for the day that your threenager turns into a teenager, which will happen sooner than you might expect or like!


4. My Royal Birthday Adventure by Jennifer Dewing

What’s better than a birthday book? A personalized birthday book, of course. Dewing’s rhyming tale can be personalized for your recipient (boy, girls, age, etc.) and the book itself—with glossy, colorful pages—is a lovely present. At this age kids are on the cusp of literacy, with most recognizing their own name, so they get a real thrill out of not just seeing themselves as part of a tale, but “reading” it on their own. Plus, it can be added to a memory box someday as a treasured keepsake.


5. Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

Like Rosie Revere Engineer, Beautiful Oops imparts a life lesson about mistakes and failures. Saltzberg illustrates for kids that sometimes you can turn something bad, or unexpected, into something beautiful, or at the least pretty neat. Beautiful Oops makes use of different materials to make this point, which kids will enjoy exploring. Each page brings a new surprise and the interactive nature of reading the book makes for great back-and-forth opportunities between the reader and newly-minted five-year-old.


6. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss

You’ll usually find this book given as a graduation gift, but it also makes a great “starting grade school” gift. The beginning of an educational journey can be just as exciting as the end of one and parents will enjoy Seuss’ whimsical language even more when it’s not read through bittersweet tears. Few authors and illustrators can rival Seuss’ engaging, yet trenchant, observations about life. And if you want even more Seuss there’s always The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, Green Eggs and Ham, Yertle the Turtle, The Lorax, and the list goes on…


7. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Just because your child may be reading on his or her own there’s no need to stop reading together. Consider gifting a classic like Charlotte’s Web, which you can read aloud, or you can alternate paragraphs or pages with your proud new reader. Part of the enduring appeal of White’s book is its message of friendship, vocabulary, and of course those magical talking animals. Kids this age will still appreciate the illustrations, even if they don’t want to admit it.


8. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Oh, how I wanted to be one of the Boxcar Children when I read this series as a child. The adventure, the siblings, the mysteries, the wealthy grandfather! Warner wrote the first 19 books in the series, beginning in the 1940s and continuing through to her death in the 1970s. Books are still being added (at last count, over 150), which young readers who zip through will appreciate. This is a great age at which to start a series, which will engage budding readers for many entries over time. And like Charlotte’s Web, The Boxcar Children can be appreciated together aloud or read with relish independently. Note that the extravagant birthday gift giver might purchase a boxset…


9. This is Childhood: Those precious first years. 10 mothers. 10 essays. Edited by Marcelle Soviero and Randi Olin.

It’s the last year of having a child who isn’t double-digits. This is a great moment for parents to reflect on their journey thus far and think about what is yet to come. Brain, Child editors Olin and Soviero say it best in introducing the ten essays: “We believe you will see yourself in these pages: in the past if your children are older, in the preset if you’re right in the sweet spot of raising young children, and in the future if you’re planning to start a family, pregnant, or a brand-new mother. There is no doubt that the stories here will resonate: the tutus, the knock-knock jokes, the light-up sneakers.”


10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Can you think of a sweeter gift than the slightly miraculous miracle of first discovering Harry, Hermione, and Ron? Oh, and Dumbledore and Hagrid and butterbeer? It’s hard to believe now that our own childhoods were Harry Potter-less; thankfully that won’t be true for future generations. While the later books take a darker turn with death and destruction (and, yes, even romance) this is a good age at which to start the series—the later, longer books can be saved for another birthday treat.


11. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Koningsburg

A book filled with possibilities, especially for an eleven-year-old on the verge of independence, while still being dependent. This tale of running away, mystery, sibling love, and true adventure (amidst fine art no less!) will stay with a child for years—trust me I still think about statues with unusual markings on the bottom. If your child still lets you, read it with him or her; better yet, read it at the same time and have your own book club at home.


12. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

When I tell you this is the first book that ever made me cry you might think, “Why should I gift that book?” But it’s a remarkable tale of human-animal friendship that harkens back to another time. The story is so enduring that I can still remember some of the evocative language from when I first read the story in fifth grade (this from a girl who isn’t particularly into the outdoors, hunting, or dogs, so it shows how universal the story is as well). Another great selection to spark conversation with your birthday boy or girl.


13. Age of Opportunity: Lessons from the New Science of Adolescence by Laurence Steinberg

Congratulations, you have a new teenager in your life! While some may dread the teenage years, Steinberg reframes them in a positive way, emphasizing what is to be embraced (like the increased tendency to explore) and how to help teens develop skills during this time to help them throughout life. On second thought, perhaps you should tell your thirteen-year-old to gift you this book on your birthday. In any case, it celebrates 13 and the dawn of adolescence.


14. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

At an age when some might stop thinking reading is “cool,” Collins makes being engrossed in a book just that. Teens who want to explore more “adult” issues will relish the violence, romance, and anti-authoritarianism in the series (oh, and a lot of adults will as well). The best thing about this book is that every member of your household will likely be riveted by this original—though now much duplicated—tale.


15. The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton by Jerome Karabel

Here’s a fifteenth birthday gift from which you can both benefit. Sociologist Karabel’s book can double as a door-stopper (at over 700 pages), but it’s worth it. College is on the minds of many families with children this age. Many books capitalize on this fact, and many recent titles talk about how where you go to college doesn’t necessarily determine your fate. Karabel’s detailed history helps explain why college has evolved the way it has over the past 100 years or so. Not only will this book arm you with context to make sense of current admissions frenzies (which you can evaluate with a more clear perspective, and perhaps a jaded eye, after reading the book), but it will also help prepare your 15-teen-year-old for the type of reading and thinking s/he will be expected to do while in college.

And, soon, congratulations instead of happy birthday to all of you for making it through high school and adolescence! Glad Brain, Child could be part of your parenting journey.

Hilary Levey Friedman is the Book Review Editor at Brain, Child, the author of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture, and a professor in the Department of American Studies at Brown University.

Brain, Child Celebrates 15 Years

Brain, Child Celebrates 15 Years

Randi and Marcelle 201504FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Public Relations Contact:

Aline Weiller, Wordsmith, LLC




Brain, Child Magazine Hosts Literary Salon May 21, 2015


April 27, 2015 (WILTON, Conn.) — Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers ( will host its first “Literary Salon: An Evening of Conversation and Community” on Thursday, May 21 at Cobb’s Mill Inn (, 12 Old Mill Road, Weston at 7:00 p.m.

Featuring the editors of Brain, Child and some of America’s leading writers, the Salon is in celebration of Brain, Child’s 15th anniversary. Mothers, subscribers and writers from Fairfield County and beyond are invited to this “Evening of Conversation and Community.” The event will feature short readings, prizes, giveaways and a special price fixe menu. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are strongly encouraged. Please RSVP via e-mail to by Friday, May 15 with “RSVP” in the subject line.

Owned by Erielle Media LLC based in Wilton, Connecticut, Brain, Child, founded in 2000, is a multiple award-winning literary magazine dedicated to motherhood. Each issue contains personal essays, fiction, poetry, news, cartoons, debate, book reviews and an in-depth feature story. Contributors have included Cheryl Strayed, Ann Hood, and Barbara Kingsolver.

“Our readers refer to us as ‘The New York for Mothers,'” said Marcelle Soviero, President of Erielle Media and Editor-in-Chief of Brain, Child. “I am honored to work with such wonderful writers.”

An award-winning writer, author of An Iridescent Life: Essays on Motherhood, writing instructor, and mother of five, Soviero purchased Brain, Child in 2012. Since then, the magazine has expanded to include digital issues, e-books, a vibrant website and social community and its award-winning blog, run by Weston-based Managing Editor, Randi Olin.

The event will honor Tracy Mayor, the 2015 inaugural recipient of Brain, Child’s Writers’ Hall of Fame Award. Mayor is a Boston-based writer/editor who has written dozens of essays and feature stories since the magazine’s inception. In fact, Mayor’s piece, “When Good Moms Go Bawd” appeared in the magazine’s inaugural issue, and her feature story “Losing My Religion,” won a Pushcart Prize.

“As a Brain, Child writer I’ve had the honor to connect with so many amazing writers whom I admire. I’m grateful for the warm, talented community of contributors Brain, Child has fostered over the years,” said Mayor.

The magazine will also announce its partnership with a joint project of the “New York Says Thank You” (NYSTY, Foundation. Founded by Jeff Parness in the wake of 9/11, NYSTY fosters the idea of “Paying it Forward.” The Foundation’s Stars of HOPE® In-A-Box program ( empowers children to transform communities impacted by disaster through artful messages of HOPE. Brain, Child is proud to be the launch partner for Stars of HOPE ® In-A-Box.

Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers, a division of Erielle Media LLC, is an award-winning literary magazine whose mission is to connect women of different backgrounds and circumstance in a non-judgemental community based on the best writing available today. Brain, Child is available by subscription at and on newsstands.


Photo Caption: (Left to right) Brain, Child Magazine’s Editors, Randi Olin of Weston and Wilton’s Marcelle Soviero, will host their first “Literary Salon: An Evening of Conversation and Community” at Cobb’s Mill Inn, 12 Old Mill Road, Weston on Thursday, May 21 at 7:00 pm. The event will feature readings, refreshments, prizes and raffles. Admission is free and all are welcome. To RSVP, e-mail marcelle@brainchildmag by May 15th.

Photo Credit: Aline Weiller