Friday, January 9, 2015

Book Review: "Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men" by Mara Hvistendahl

In the year and a half (?) that I've been reading blog friend Shannon's River City Reading  I've noticed that she finds ( or knows people who find) the most interesting nonfiction reads. Of all of the recommendations I've taken from  her I think that this book was the best one that I've read. Which is not to say that this book didn't make me angry or sad or frustrated - because it did - but holy cow was it interesting and did I learn a lot.

There's a lot of talk about abortion in this book.I think that no matter no matter how you feel about abortion that some or all of these stories will sicken you. I know it did for me. I'm pro-life,but even if I wasn't I think my heart would ache for these lost lives and the squandered potential. I kept thinking "What if that little girl could have cured AIDS? Or developed a cancer vaccine? Or was a wonderful human being/daughter/sister/wife/friend that people loved to be around?" It just made me sick to my stomach. 

Though occasionally the scenarios and stories were hard to stomach I am so glad I read this book. I learned so much. And it answered the question that I always think of when I think of "boycentric" societies; "Who are these little boys grow up to marry and reproduce with if all there are are other little boys?!"

This book covers a huge array of topics in a really thorough but well paced way. There's no way to cover it all in a efficient manner so I'll just spotlight a couple and hope that it's enough to intrigue you!

* "Boys outnumber girls at birth, but men outnumber women in early deaths". Why? One reason, still the majority of soldiers are men. Also, motorcycles (ok, that's me editorializing a little but that has to be a reason.)

*When thinking of societies where baby boys are desired over baby girls the first countries that come to mind might be China and India. You're not wrong. What I thought was really surprising that the next 3 countries with very skewed sex ratios: Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. Many thoughts and pages go into figuring out what (if anything!) these places have in common. They also have abortion statistics from the United States that they compare with these countries and the differences are staggering.

*"Scholars have begun to calculate the impact of tens of millions of surplus men will have on everything from health care to crime. Historically, societies in which men substantially outnumber women are not nice places to live. Often they are unstable.Sometimes they are violent." No.Joke. Unfortunately we have plenty of examples.

*A doctor in Asia talks about why he performs sex-selective abortions: "You can be aborted as a conceptus, you can be killed at birth, or you can be sold into slavery and die in a slum someplace...It would be interesting to know how many females you're keeping out of hideous situations". Many girls who are born into families desperate for boys are born into bad, sometimes desperate situations. Some are sold into marriage by their families to foreign men who are already having trouble finding single women to marry due to the high favoritism towards boys. Some times families will try for girls, because the daughters who are married off (to sometimes wealthier men) will send back money to support their families back home.

I have so many more sticky notes in this book that I could talk to you about but I don't want to tell you everything. (Also, the sticky notes I was using are blue! Subliminal messages?!) This is an issue that could potentially affect millions of people and life as we know it. My husband and I aren't planning on having kids, but after reading this book I was like "No! We have to have a whole mess of little girls to even things out!" But then I remembered that I am 4th in a family of four girls so I feel like my family has done their part :) A high 4 out of 5 stars!

Have you ever read a book that really saddened or maddened you but you are still really happy you read it anyway?



  1. Haha, I'm still debating kids...but sometimes I think I totally need a little girl to skew things over, too!

    I'm so glad this was such a good read for you! I still haven't read it, actually. This was one of the books I found from Leslie ( ) during Nonfiction November that I totally wanted to read and now you've moved it way up my list.I actually think my book club would love it.

    1. I think it would make a great book club book. Lots of good discussions I bet! I have to get in on Nonfiction November this year (not that I want to be thinking about November right now,ha!)


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