Tracking an Author

I went old school for this post! This post will focus on Talbot’s earliest articles for the New York Times. One of her earliest works is called “The Bad Mother” which describes Munchausen syndrome by proxy where mothers would purposefully harm their kids to get attention from the medical staff. One prominent physician, David Southall, would install covert video cameras in the rooms and watch as mothers attempted to smother their babies with pillows, disconnect their oxygen tubes, or manually choke them. In the early 2000s, authors asserted that doctors and care providers must be mistrustful of mothers and “come to terms with the that the implicit trust expected on either side of a medical engagement may very well be misplaced.”

At twelve hundred cases a year in the U.S. at the time the article is written, while horrifying,  MSBP is less common than other forms of child abuse. Talbot also broaches the larger question of whether MSBP should be considered a disorder or a criminal act. She describes how having a child with a rare illness can inspire the admiration of friends, revive marriages with feeble partners, and provide a temporary residence that comforts an inadequate mother. A book called “Hurting for Love” describes how MSBP sufferers see their actions as a way to break out of the limiting role of caretaker and assert power over physicians to gain access to society. However, Talbot believes this depiction to be derived from the dated notion of isolated woman enticing the fantasies of powerful male doctors. Talbot also describes the issues in MSBP diagnosis–how warning signs are also signs of good parenting (such as sufferers denying wrongdoing and being overly invested in their child’s health or being overly familiar with the child’s medical history). It would be easy to conflate MSBP with the coinciding rise of parental anxiety; however, the notion that a parent can protect a child too much dates back to Puritan New England. Simply, there are many complexities of the disease that arise from improper diagnosis and dated conceptions about motherhood and mental illness.

Very long article but a good read!

Tracking an Author

Back to Margaret Talbot, I read one of her articles entitled “Why It’s Become So Hard To Get An Abortion.” Talbot first begins with the political nature of the issue. explaining how President Trump agreed that women who have had abortions should be punished on MSNBC. She then gave a brief history of anti-abortion laws through the work of Carol Sanger, a professor of law at Columbia. Sanger explains how the Right to Know laws have yielded a new form of modern consent–ultrasound laws. However, these laws, which require a woman to look at the fetus before having an abortion are both senseless and ineffectual; nearly sixty percent of women who have abortions have already given birth once, and of those who view sonograms, ninety-eight percent continue with the abortion anyway. In fact, sonograms often have the opposite effect (since most abortions occur in the first trimester, women feel often feel relieved when they are unable to see anything more than fluid in a sac). Talbot also recounts Sanger’s history of SCOTUS’s interpretation of abortion laws and the court process necessary to get “approval” for an abortion when a woman does not have viable parental guardians or is a ward of the state.

She then turns to her own tale, revealing that she had an abortion when she was eighteen and attending UC Berkeley.  A year later, she went undercover as a journalist for the university paper to a crisis pregnancy center. Only she learned that the crisis center was just another form of anti-abortion campaigning; instead of unconditional support, she was told that she might have to take some years off of school but at least she would not have to endure a lifetime of guilt.

Talbot raises interesting questions for abortion law, specifically abortion law on campus. During high school, I knew exactly where to go if I required one and what level of confidentiality I would be afforded. But years later, now in college, I could not tell you where I would go at U of M or in Ann Arbor. Hmmm.

Tracking an Author

As an offshoot of my last post, I am examining the work of photographer Philip Montgomery. One of the first things I looked at was his photo collection in Harper’s Magazine of the day President Trump was elected. The pictures are very interesting, but maybe more amazing was his use of language. He accompanies each photo with simple and potent captions. They are factual; yet, at the same time they attempt to comment on the political climate and sentiments of the election. For example, one photo caption reads, “The view from the crowd as Trump gives his inaugural address. As he started speaking, it began to rain.”

I then looked at his photo slideshow “Inside New York City’s Mosques.” The first picture is a man praying inside a vacant Burger King. An unique aspect of his collections are the continuities between the photos–how not only the content, but the shadowing and emotion are consistent between images as the viewer progresses.

Finally, I read a photo interview of Mr. Montgomery in the Lovely Daze. He describes something that I thought might be useful for my own final project:

“Photograph what you feel & not what you “think” is good. Everything has been photographed especially today where cameras are more or less accessible to everyone. It’s how YOU personally approach a topic and how you successfully convey your true voice as a photographer.”

Tracking an Author

Also very overdue for one of these posts…

I have been looking at Margaret Talbot, and on my first post regarding to her work, I read an article talking about the opioid crisis in West Virginia. Since then, she contributed to a photo collection by Philip Montgomery. The collection, called “Faces of an Epidemic” depicts the Opioid crisis in Montgomery County, Ohio. She leads by describing how President Trump was planning to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency. Her text accompanies pictures of the lives of people affected. As readers click across the display, they are introduced to the families of deceased addicts, watch as overdosing people receive care, and listen to the Sheriff’s insight regarding the most common time for an overdose.

Before reading this text/photo/video compilation, I hadn’t seen anything like this–I am even thinking about incorporating this into my final project somehow.  I am so blown away by the power of her words, and how the compilation is structures. I would encourage everyone to check it out!

Trust vs. Authority

John Yoo, a current law professor at the University of Berkeley, California, represents an author I find authoritative but do not trust. His previous role as the Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel inform and legitimize his publications, especially The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs after 9/11. While his literature demonstrates his profound expertise in foreign affairs, constitutional powers, and international law, it’s hard to trust a man who authored the Torture Memos (which advised the CIA and the executive on use of enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding). I am ideologically opposed to many of his views but also agree with some others—yet the benumbed tone of his writing makes me, as a reader, very cautious.

In contrast, Max Ehrenfreund’s article for The Washington Post on Private Schools being a waste of money for white middle class kids is trustworthy, but not authoritative. I trust what he is saying about given his own experience at Yale (although I am not sure why, then, he would Harvard as a doctoral candidate with those beliefs). However, he hasn’t experienced the other side of his assertion (attending a public university). I also believe/ trust his statistics about minorities in colleges, but he does not have the authority, based on his race, to propose what is best for minorities when applying to college (as he does in the article).

Tracking an Author: Margaret Talbot

Margaret Talbot hasn’t published anything new recently—so I decided to dive into her older work. I knew that she contributed to the Atlantic before she started publishing in the New Yorker in 2003. The first piece I looked at was “Jack and Jill” an era of consumer eugenics has begun. The article centered around an infertility clinic in Fairfax, Virginia whose technology allowed consumers to choose the sex of their baby. A reason for this is the prevention of  X or Y linked genetic diseases. However, a more popular reason is for social reasons—to choose the gender the family considers to be ideal for its goals. The institute only engages in family balancing, meaning that it only allows parents to choose the sex if they have one or more kids of one gender and want to have a child of the other gender. This is to ameliorate and balance gender discrimination in countries that prefer male-children and often abort female pregnancies. Talbot argues that these procedures go beyond gender discrimination and are a gateway to picking embryos of “superior stock.” This article diverges from her later work in many ways—it is less descriptive and more informative, and its tone is less conversational and accessible. However, this could be due to the nature of the article form. This seems to be a theme of these articles, which all focus on less politically-charged concepts. In her earlier works, she even does a review of a movie—something I doubt the later Talbot publishes.

Stalking Nonfiction, Living Writers…Margaret Talbot!

I turned to The New Yorker in search of a great writer—and I found too many! However, the one that resounded in my mind a few days later was Margaret Talbot. She is an essayist and non-fiction writer and has been published in many platforms other than The New Yorker. The first piece I read by her was called “The Addicts Next Door” which chronicled the experiences of people in America’s most overdosed state—West Virginia. Her everyday encounters and rides in a paramedics vehicle expose how overdoses have become commonplace in the state. She discusses the idea of social vacancy, that small town shame forces people to find an escape from the reality of life. I was especially impressed with how Talbot layered her article—how she had a balanced and often alternating agenda of anecdote and fact—and how well organized it was. Talbot also wrote a fascinating profile on Carrie Goldberg, who is a pioneering attorney in the area of revenge porn. She describes the alarming absence of non-consensual porn laws and the barriers Goldberg faces in a judicial system that refuses to protect victims. One really interesting thing Talbot illuminated is that victims often face a framing problem, meaning that they don’t know how to phrase their issues in a way that would impact the police most. Talbot is especially good at summarizing things succinctly but seminally.

Back to the prompt…

A deeper evaluation of Talbot shows that she has also written for The New Republic, The New York Times, and the Atlantic Monthly. She also makes regular appearances on The Slate’s The DoubleX Gabfest, a podcast featuring prominent females and the issues and misconceptions women face in society. One interesting one was her discussion of how young women are out-earning their male counterparts. It appears that The New Republic was her first official platform (where she later became senior editor). She published most of her articles there from 1996 to 1997, and her writing style is noticeably different. Her writing here features more sarcastic and more explicitly philosophical. This may be a product of it being in The New Republic, which was established as a liberal magazine out of the Progressive movement. It looks like her popularity began to after she began writing for The New Yorker in 2008, but even more so after her article “Red Sex Blue Sex.” This piece controversially examined why evangelical teens become pregnant.

Tolentino & Staid


1.) I read “How ‘Empowerment’ Became Something for Women to Buy” from the New York Times Magazine.

2.) The piece seems ideally written for a decently accomplished working woman, specifically employed in some form of corporate field. The article uses a lot of common references to popular culture (Kardashians/Miley Cyrus/sending nudes/TED) and continually references the technological and media sources Tolentino acquires her perspective on Empowerment from. The message seems to call attention to how the highly marketable concept of women’s empowerment is often manipulated by corporations and reserved to those who already have access to it.

3.) I think it is written for the audience I plan to enter into ( highly-educated working female). Therefore, while it wasn’t for me currently, it presented itself as a cautionary tale for the future.


Small Staid:

1.) I read “The 27th Letter” through the Poetry Foundation.

2.) It is hard to say what audience the article best catered to. The tone is rather informative, because it continually refers back to definitions and historical uses of the ampersand. However, there are some references that missed me. For example, I wasn’t sure what Andrew & Martha alluded to, nor what who some of the bands and TV shows were. However, Staid puts a contemporary edge on her writing by quoting former president Barack Obama’s campaign slogan. It reads more like a case study with a hint of voice–so the ideal audience would have to have some genuine interest in relatively small things (your detail-oriented people) with some poetic inclinations. This is echoed by the fact that it is published through a poetry site.

3.) I think in some ways this piece catered to me because I like nuances, but in other ways I felt too young for some of the examples. It still had me as an audience simply because I had never considered the difference between the ampersand and the word “and” before, so I felt like I had to rectify some ignorance through reading the article.


Hi everyone!

My name is Nicole Tsuno and I am a sophomore in the school of LSA. I am a Political Science major, and I hope to attend law school after graduating. I play the trumpet in the University of Michigan Marching Band (just look for the really short one on the field). I also am a reporter for the Michigan Daily. Besides music, another one of my favorite pastimes is complaining about Michigan’s cold weather and continuously being shocked every time it snows! I am from Pleasanton, California, which is about fifty minutes inland from San Francisco. One of my favorite things I did in San Francisco was help teach a citizenship class where I helped immigrants prepare for their naturalization tests and learn English as a second language. Other hobbies include running, making birthday gifts, discussing American Constitutionalism and my favorite court cases (my boyfriend says to take this out if I want to make friends!!!!!), and spending a concerning amount of time organizing my Google Calendar. 🙂

I have always considered writing to be both one of my passions and one of my strengths. However, I often unconsciously neglect writing when I get busy. The Minor in Writing Program provides a consistent way for me to maintain and enhance my writing skills. Additionally, I have also felt that in previous writing courses, I haven’t received beneficial constructive criticism from my peers. I am extremely excited to get to know you all and have you destroy my work. Finally, I am a vicious perfectionist. I am anxious but eager to learn how to fail, as Professor McDaniel has already guaranteed.

I most admire the work of Argentinian short-story writer Jorge Luis Borges. My favorite work by him is entitled the Library of Babel. In the story, the Library contains an indefinite amount of galleries and inside an infinite amount of books with every combination of letters and verbal structures so that one book might only vary from another by a single letter. The inhabitants of the library are first enthralled with the prospect of having a book to solve each problem of the world, but are later brutalized by the realization that the largeness of the library made finding their own personal vindications infinitesimal. My favorite line is “You who read me, are you sure of understanding my language?” In this way, Borges’s story is not only self-conscious of its existence as language, but also the linguistic narcissism that comes from being an outsider to art. All of Borges work is composed of overwhelming paradoxes that I don’t even know how to begin to write. The almost psychedelic yet moralistic effect of his writing is something I would hope to emulate in the future.