book review: The Radical Doula Guide: A Political Primer

Miriam Zoila Pérez’s The Radical Doula Guide: A Political Primer just came out a few months ago, back in August. I hesitate to call it a book: at 52 pages long, and stapled rather than bound, it’s really closer to a pamphlet. But … a really good pamphlet, you know?

Although its length prevents it from achieving much depth in any particular topic, that’s not its aim: as Pérez establishes clearly and frankly, idea is to raise questions and encourage further exploration. That purpose is served well. This is a worthwhile supplement to doula trainings, which typically overlook the ‘political’ issues Pérez addresses. The reality is that no births happen outside a politicized institutional framework and a politicized set of intertwined identity categories.

The Radical Doula Guide covers a few main areas:

  • It discusses access to doula services, framing ‘radical’ doula work in terms of reaching out to those who might not otherwise be able to have this kind of support.
  • It introduces the idea of “full-spectrum” doula work, which encompasses abortion and miscarriage support as well as birth support. Even a person who would not choose to attend an abortion procedure as a doula would do well to think compassionately about the full range of pregnancy outcomes. After all, not every client’s pregnancy ends in birth.
  • It suggests that doulas should be aware of and educated about the inequalities and histories that affect pregnant/birthing individuals (as well as doulas themselves): race, nationality and citizenship, dis/ability, sexuality, gender, and so forth. And it gestures toward some of the major issues and experiences at play.

This guide is a very quick read, not only because of its brevity but also because of its accessible, friendly, thoughtful tone. It’s well-written and engaging. It never talks down to its readers. In sum: an interesting and thought-provoking read for anyone doing or thinking about birthwork.

It’s self-published and therefore, sadly, unlikely to appear at your local library. You can buy a copy online for $12 (or be like me and have a generous friend lend you a copy).

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3 Comments

  1. Posted 17 December 2012 at 5:38 PM | Permalink

    I just got my copy and am cheering each section. I LOVE the emphasis on access, and historical inequalities. These are points that are SO important, and so often ignored in the birth community. (Of course, when I say “birth community” I’m referring to the one that I know of, but am not really a part of in town. And the more visible birth advocates I “see” around social media. Obviously, Perez is talking about these issues, so people somewhere are listening.)

  2. Posted 18 December 2012 at 12:50 AM | Permalink

    Sounds very interesting!

  3. Posted 18 December 2012 at 8:15 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for this! I had a feeling it was something I wanted to invest in, but now I know for sure.

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