Small Animals
"Part memoir, part history, part documentary, part impassioned manifesto...it might be the most important book about being a parent that you will ever read." --Emily Rapp Black, New York Times bestselling author of The Still Point of the Turning World"A beautifully told, harrowing story..."--Heather HavrileskyOne morning, Kim Brooks made a split-second decision to leave her four-year old son in the car while she ran into a store. What happened would consume the next several years of her life and spur her to investigate the broader role America's culture of fear plays in parenthood. In Small Animals, Brooks asks, Of all the emotions inherent in parenting, is there any more universal or profound than fear? Why have our notions of what it means to be a good parent changed so radically? In what ways do these changes impact the lives of parents, children, and the structure of society at large? And what, in the end, does the rise of fearful parenting tell us about ourselves?Fueled by urgency and the emotional intensity of Brooks's own story, Small Animals is a riveting examination of the ways our culture of competitive, anxious, and judgmental parenting has profoundly altered the experiences of parents and children. In her signature style--by turns funny, penetrating, and always illuminating--which has dazzled millions of fans and been called "striking" by New York Times Book Review and "beautiful" by the National Book Critics Circle, Brooks offers a provocative, compelling portrait of parenthood in America and calls us to examine what we most value in our relationships with our children and one another.

Small Animals Details

TitleSmall Animals
Author
ReleaseAug 21st, 2018
PublisherFlatiron Books
ISBN-139781250089557
Rating
GenreParenting, Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Family, Biography Memoir

Small Animals Review

  • Shelley
    January 1, 1970
    True story 1: When my daughter was about eight, we walked past a car where a tween was reading a book with the windows down. My daughter gasped, worried about the kid being alone in the car, in the middle of a Safeway parking lot. "That was normal when I was growing up," I said. "I used to ask to stay in the car so I could read." True story 2: Every female lawyer I know is terrified of her jurisdiction's version of child protective services. None of the male lawyers I know are. We all have the s True story 1: When my daughter was about eight, we walked past a car where a tween was reading a book with the windows down. My daughter gasped, worried about the kid being alone in the car, in the middle of a Safeway parking lot. "That was normal when I was growing up," I said. "I used to ask to stay in the car so I could read." True story 2: Every female lawyer I know is terrified of her jurisdiction's version of child protective services. None of the male lawyers I know are. We all have the same due process rights and know the system, so why the difference? I chalked it up to women being more anxious than men and let it go. After reading this and reflecting, I think there's more to it. As women we are more anxious about being labeled bad parents...but only because it's much more likely that someone's going to come along and tell a woman she's a bad parent than someone's going to come along and tell a man he's a bad parent. A mom leaves a kid in the car for five minutes while she goes to the store? Bad mom who doesn't deserve to have a child. A dad leaves a kid in the car for five minutes while he goes to the store? Ah, he just didn't know better. The kid's okay, so no harm, no foul, right? It was emotionally tough, reading this book (not that it stopped me from zipping through it as soon as it arrived). It made me anxious--these are some of my biggest fears--but also angry and frustrated; I whole-heartedly agree in the idea of free range parenting but am too chicken to put it in practice.
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  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    Having kids has always seemed to me to be a form of madness. Kim Brooks' book shows that if you were not already a little bonkers when you had kids, then virtually every feature of America's fear-filled, outrage-driven, misogynistic culture and hyper-competitive dedication to capitalism are structured to drive you to that point. "Unfortunately, just as there is little individual Americans feel that they can do about the threats of climate change, rising income inequality, and the dehumanizing ef Having kids has always seemed to me to be a form of madness. Kim Brooks' book shows that if you were not already a little bonkers when you had kids, then virtually every feature of America's fear-filled, outrage-driven, misogynistic culture and hyper-competitive dedication to capitalism are structured to drive you to that point. "Unfortunately, just as there is little individual Americans feel that they can do about the threats of climate change, rising income inequality, and the dehumanizing effects of automation and globalization, people in the 1970s and 1980s felt they could do little to protect themselves from what seemed to be the encroaching threats of the day. 'Focusing on threats to children,' [Steven] Mintz suggests, 'may have provided a solution to this psychological dilemma. Anxiety about the future could be expressed in terms of concerns for children's safety,' which, after all, feels more manageable" (89).
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  • Lindsey
    January 1, 1970
    Although I appreciated, in part, the message of this book, I am also conflicted in my feelings towards the author's view of her actions, which led to a pretty lengthy involvement with child welfare services. The premise of the book is that we treat our children as if they were made of glass, and want to protect them from every little injury instead of allowing them to experience the world in all its forms, good and bad. Putting kids in a bubble stunts their ability to interact meaningfully with Although I appreciated, in part, the message of this book, I am also conflicted in my feelings towards the author's view of her actions, which led to a pretty lengthy involvement with child welfare services. The premise of the book is that we treat our children as if they were made of glass, and want to protect them from every little injury instead of allowing them to experience the world in all its forms, good and bad. Putting kids in a bubble stunts their ability to interact meaningfully with the world around them. I wholeheartedly agree, and letting my 7-year old daughter explore even if she might get hurt is hard for me. But, but, but. There is a HUGE difference between saying "we can't protect our children from everything, accidents will happen" and saying "because I can't protect them from everything, why bother trying to protect them from anything." I can't keep my daughter from scraping her knee after falling off her bike but I can protect her from being hurt as a result of improper supervision. I do that by not leaving her home alone, where she could hurt herself on the stove, with the knives, with the cleaning chemicals, by wandering out into the street. My level of supervision will change as she gets older. What isn't age appropriate now may be appropriate when she's 10, 12, 16. We have to be able to judge our child's limits in their ability to protect themselves under certain circumstances. We have to be able to judge a situation, not by the statistical probability of an injury or negative incident occurring, but by whether we could have protected our children in a particular circumstance by changing our behavior. This is where my feelings about the author's actions and her feelings toward them diverge. Kim's story is that, while visiting her parents, she and her husband were in a rush to make it to the airport on time so as not to miss their flight. They were traveling with two small children, and one of them had misplaced a pair of headphones, the absence of which would have caused a meltdown in said child. In order to avoid the meltdown and skip the step of having to search for them unsuccessfully, Kim decided to just run to Target and buy a new pair. Her 4-year old son said he wanted to go with her and, even though she was in a huge hurry, in order to avoid an argument she said yes. She drove to Target, parked, and, when her son said he didn't want to go in the store, she said okay and left him in the car. She says she was only in the store for 10 or 15 minutes (which I have a hard time believing but we'll go with her version of events) and when she came out there was a woman taking pictures of her car with her son in it. She later finds out that there is a child welfare investigation and that she is potentially facing charges (I assume of child endangerment). Her life is a nightmare for the next year or so, and she doesn't understand why what she did warrants such an intense reaction. She spends an untold number of pages trying to justify her actions - she was young, she was in a hurry, they were in a safe neighborhood, it was only a few minutes, the weather was mild, it was more convenient, the likelihood of her child actually getting kidnapped is minimal, her son couldn't unbuckle himself, etc. And anyway, nothing did happen, so what's the big deal? I'm a child welfare attorney. I represent parents whose children have been removed from them by DHS because of negligence. I have heard every single excuse she comes up with. Negligence doesn't only include actions (or inactions) that actually cause injury. It also includes behavior that COULD HAVE resulted in injury. If you allow a child molester to babysit your child and your child doesn't get molested you don't get to say your behavior wasn't negligent just because the injury didn't happen. THANK GOD it didn't, but your child never would have been put in that position if not for your behavior. Negligence isn't comparable to accidental injuries during the course of normal childhood activities like riding a bike. When deciding whether your child is old enough to stay in the car alone while you run into a store you have to ask yourself if your child is capable of protecting himself if something, ANYTHING, were to happen while you were away. The fact that her son couldn't get himself out of his seat makes it worse, not better, for her to have left him in the car alone. Kidnapping isn't the only possibility. The parked car could be hit by another car speeding through the parking lot. It could catch on fire. It could become unbearably hot. And though you can't predict whether something like that might happen, you can predict your child's ability to help himself. If you know your child can't get himself out of his seat, and the car somehow catches on fire or rolls into a ditch, and your child gets injured, YOU HAVE BEHAVED NEGLIGENTLY TOWARD YOUR CHILD. But for your actions, your child would not have been injured. Causation is sometimes difficult to understand in child neglect cases but if you are having to bend the laws of time and space in order to justify yourself then you know, deep down, that what you did was wrong and you're just trying to minimize how harshly people judge you for it. Saying that, in hindsight, you would do things differently in order to avoid the negative consequences you had to face doesn't acknowledge the actual issue at stake here, which is that you made a poor decision that put your child in harm's way. It's important to make the distinction because it dictates your future behavior in regards to whether you are able to keep your children safe. I don't think Kim gets that distinction. Probably just because she doesn't want to.My final problem with the book is its glaring omission of any mention of the author's privilege due to her race and class. The consequences she had to face were actually pretty mild compared to what a woman of color or a woman in poverty would have faced. Not only is this assertion supported by research, I witness it every day. The readers find a way to forgive or justify her actions, just like she has, without ever considering that if you change the race or income level of the person engaging in the behavior society has no problem branding them a bad mother.I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Kevin Clouther
    January 1, 1970
    Structurally, this book is more effective than what I've seen in other parenting books, though one needn't be a parent to be moved. Because the author is a fiction writer, the narratives are thoughtful, well paced, and selective in detail. She complements these stories with interviews and research, and in these instances, she allows the authorities to articulate their positions at length, rather than fit their arguments into her own worldview. The cumulative effect is a readable, sobering, hones Structurally, this book is more effective than what I've seen in other parenting books, though one needn't be a parent to be moved. Because the author is a fiction writer, the narratives are thoughtful, well paced, and selective in detail. She complements these stories with interviews and research, and in these instances, she allows the authorities to articulate their positions at length, rather than fit their arguments into her own worldview. The cumulative effect is a readable, sobering, honest book, sociological in nature and literary in spirit. It's also pretty funny.
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  • Jake
    January 1, 1970
    I got a free copy of this one from a goodreads giveaway. As a parent of three elementary school children whose parenting style has gone from helicopter (not necessarily by my choice, being a dad) to free-range over the last nine years, this book resonated. The author tells her story of being a do-everything-and-be-constantly-stressed-out mom who once left her child in a car for a few minutes while running an errand and was filmed by a "good Samaritan" and turned in to the cops and subsequently m I got a free copy of this one from a goodreads giveaway. As a parent of three elementary school children whose parenting style has gone from helicopter (not necessarily by my choice, being a dad) to free-range over the last nine years, this book resonated. The author tells her story of being a do-everything-and-be-constantly-stressed-out mom who once left her child in a car for a few minutes while running an errand and was filmed by a "good Samaritan" and turned in to the cops and subsequently made a criminal (this is not a spoiler-you'll find out in the first paragraph). This forced her to think about 21st century American style parenting in which children are protected from everything as parents live in a constant state of fear; of injury, kidnapping, lack of opportunity if each child is not enrolled in every bankrupting summer and after school program, and maybe most importantly is the fear of the judgment of other parents when you tell them you let the kids walk around the neighborhood or go to the park by themselves. This is a timely book for parents who love their children so much that they will protect them from everything including the ability to be a functional adult. This dad liked the book a lot, but I think moms will like it much more since they are generally harder on themselves.
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  • Devorah Heitner
    January 1, 1970
    Essential reading in our panic-filled historical moment. Filled with great research and a compelling voice, this book explores how crazy things have gotten, how we got here and offers some thoughts on how we might make things better. Any parent or anyone who was a kid and remembers other times, will find provocative questions and thoughtful reflection here. Highly recommended!
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  • Estelle Erasmus
    January 1, 1970
    This book, like Kim Brooks's deft writing (she's also an essayist and novelist) grabs you by the throat and doesn't let you go till the final page. Much more than a memoir (although Brooks shares her personal story that led to the book), this book is a treatise on what happens when we tighten the reigns of protection around our children to the point where it affects their upbringing, and their parents' state of mind. She has a special skill that allows her to tell a story, while digging deep int This book, like Kim Brooks's deft writing (she's also an essayist and novelist) grabs you by the throat and doesn't let you go till the final page. Much more than a memoir (although Brooks shares her personal story that led to the book), this book is a treatise on what happens when we tighten the reigns of protection around our children to the point where it affects their upbringing, and their parents' state of mind. She has a special skill that allows her to tell a story, while digging deep into supporting facts, statistics, interviews and research that illuminate instead of bog down the book. The happy result is a book that provokes, unveils, and breaks down the messages that we receive and the prices we pay, and maybe even a way to get through it. I've read a lot of parenting books, and while many are just a bunch of talking heads, I feel like this author gets inside your head for maximum impact.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    This is an excellent book for parents of children of any age. It's part memoir as the idea for the book starts with the author's personal story of getting arrested for leaving her son in the car alone for a few minutes. It then explores the history of parenting in America, and the psychology of parenting and how parenting effects the psychology of our children. It is well researched, interesting, and an easy, at times funny read. I highly recommend it for all parents.I received an ARC from NetGa This is an excellent book for parents of children of any age. It's part memoir as the idea for the book starts with the author's personal story of getting arrested for leaving her son in the car alone for a few minutes. It then explores the history of parenting in America, and the psychology of parenting and how parenting effects the psychology of our children. It is well researched, interesting, and an easy, at times funny read. I highly recommend it for all parents.I received an ARC from NetGalley. The book will be released on August 1, 2018.
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  • Susan Banner
    January 1, 1970
    Well researched and riveting. I would recommend this book to parents and grandparents both, providing insight into shaming and success.
  • Kayo
    January 1, 1970
    This book is superb! I'd give it more stars of i could. My youngest is now 29, so I 'm not raising a little one anymore. I'm so glad that he lived in an era to go out and play with friends or ride his bike. I can see the decline in real parenting. It's more hovering than actual parenting. This book gives good examples of what is happening to parents today. Well done! So sorry that that happened to author! Thanks to author,publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the This book is superb! I'd give it more stars of i could. My youngest is now 29, so I 'm not raising a little one anymore. I'm so glad that he lived in an era to go out and play with friends or ride his bike. I can see the decline in real parenting. It's more hovering than actual parenting. This book gives good examples of what is happening to parents today. Well done! So sorry that that happened to author! Thanks to author,publisher and NetGalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free,it had no bearing on the rating i gave it.
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    Harrowing, thought-provoking and fascinating - when Brooks left her young son in the car (cool day, locked doors, safe neighborhood) while she ran into a store, a stranger videotaped the moment and shared the video with police, kicking off a legal process that lasted more than two years. It also lead Brooks to question how our understanding of what is safe and what is acceptable changes. Part memoir, part cultural analysis, part parenting book. I LOVED this and will be talking it up to every par Harrowing, thought-provoking and fascinating - when Brooks left her young son in the car (cool day, locked doors, safe neighborhood) while she ran into a store, a stranger videotaped the moment and shared the video with police, kicking off a legal process that lasted more than two years. It also lead Brooks to question how our understanding of what is safe and what is acceptable changes. Part memoir, part cultural analysis, part parenting book. I LOVED this and will be talking it up to every parent I know.
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  • Ann Taylor custance
    January 1, 1970
    I was surprised to find out the story told in thus book. I have a adult son and I still remember when he was little and I worried over every little thing I did. I just started the book but plan to take it with me to the pool as my first summer read.So far I can relate to the story and enjoy it.
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  • Liz Bartek
    January 1, 1970
    I read a couple of parenting books in any given year (despite my lack of offspring) illustratrating the current state of parenthood and child-rearing in this country. I find it to be absolutely dizzying, anxiety-inducing, extremely challenging, and fraught. So much has changed in just 20/30 years and it's hard to know where (if) things have gone wrong. To parents and mothers in particular... I sit in awe.
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  • Andrienne
    January 1, 1970
    It’s described as harrowing and I can see why. How did parenting get so out of hand? It’s hard enough as it is, but to pile on competition, guilt, fear...I can see how things can seem harder than it should. Framed by the author’s experience in leaving her child alone for a few minutes, the book talks about helicopter parenting, kids’ anxieties, and the lack of adult time for parents. It paints a pretty accurate picture of the state of parenting right now. Access to review copy provided by the pu It’s described as harrowing and I can see why. How did parenting get so out of hand? It’s hard enough as it is, but to pile on competition, guilt, fear...I can see how things can seem harder than it should. Framed by the author’s experience in leaving her child alone for a few minutes, the book talks about helicopter parenting, kids’ anxieties, and the lack of adult time for parents. It paints a pretty accurate picture of the state of parenting right now. Access to review copy provided by the publisher.
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  • Jamie
    January 1, 1970
    I read this whole thing going, "YES." And, "I've been there!" And "get out of my brain, Kim. Get out!" Well researched but still very personal and engaging.
  • Jen Wood
    January 1, 1970
    I devoured this book in one day yesterday and kept waking up during the night thinking about it. Small Animals is part memoir and part sociological analysis. It’s an honest, well-researched look at how batshit crazy modern American parenting has become. The book starts when Kim Brooks decides it’s not worth the fight to get her son out of the car to run into Target for one thing so she leaves him in the car, locked, not too hot, happily occupied by a game on a tablet, for 5 minutes to grab headp I devoured this book in one day yesterday and kept waking up during the night thinking about it. Small Animals is part memoir and part sociological analysis. It’s an honest, well-researched look at how batshit crazy modern American parenting has become. The book starts when Kim Brooks decides it’s not worth the fight to get her son out of the car to run into Target for one thing so she leaves him in the car, locked, not too hot, happily occupied by a game on a tablet, for 5 minutes to grab headphones for a plane trip. He was fine and perfectly happy when she returned. Interspersed in the rest of the book are the two years following, when she gets home and finds someone had taken video of her son in the car and called the police. The bulk of this book is a mixture of interviews and case studies, conversations, and her own thoughts about the fear drives modern parenting: Judgement, avoidance of judgement, Irrational and improbable what-if scenarios, competition, social pressures, class and race. Brooks does the research and takes the time to uncover why parents, and mothers in particular, are overwhelmed, frenetic, unhappy, and forced to parent as a competitive sport. The writing is easy and friendly, and doesn’t read like a textbook. I felt like it was a conversation with a friend and found myself identifying with nearly every chapter, like it was an echo of my own feelings and conversations with other moms. If you’re a parent you should read this book, it will change the way you think about raising your kids and what it’s doing to them, to you, to our society. 5/5 stars ⭐️ I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Goodreads giveaways in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Kaitie
    January 1, 1970
    These days, older generations bemoan the fact that kids don't play outside - but was anybody aware of the pressure that is placed on modern-day mothers to constantly coddle and stifle their kids, to supervise them almost every second of every day? Kim Brooks opens the eyes of anyone who has ever considered being a parent in this captivating memoir, which is chock-full of shocking anecdotes and fascinating statistics. Small Animals sheds light on the fact that communities of mothers tend to be co These days, older generations bemoan the fact that kids don't play outside - but was anybody aware of the pressure that is placed on modern-day mothers to constantly coddle and stifle their kids, to supervise them almost every second of every day? Kim Brooks opens the eyes of anyone who has ever considered being a parent in this captivating memoir, which is chock-full of shocking anecdotes and fascinating statistics. Small Animals sheds light on the fact that communities of mothers tend to be competitive rather than supportive, hoping to get a leg up on the women around them rather than lifting them up and choosing to support their children in becoming independent individuals. This was a fascinating, heart-wrenching read that will hopefully change the tide of parenting in generations to come.
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  • Kristin Lee Williams
    January 1, 1970
    I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.Kim Brooks opens the book with her own story, a story of leaving her 5 year old son in the car when she ran into Target for 10 minutes and having CPS called on her. The story was used to anchor interviews and research about parenting in a modern fear-based culture run by the outrage machine. I related to many things she said and can see how my own fear struggles impact my parenting. I believe in the concept of giving kids I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.Kim Brooks opens the book with her own story, a story of leaving her 5 year old son in the car when she ran into Target for 10 minutes and having CPS called on her. The story was used to anchor interviews and research about parenting in a modern fear-based culture run by the outrage machine. I related to many things she said and can see how my own fear struggles impact my parenting. I believe in the concept of giving kids freedom to roam and discover (part of the reason I enjoy living in a small town) but often have difficulty putting that belief into practice. The book is thought-provoking and I mostly enjoyed it.
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  • Monika
    January 1, 1970
    This book didn't live up to its blurb. It seems to speak more to parents who lack confidence in their parenting, who really worry about keeping up with (and how they appear to) others. Although the author acknowledges her own privilege, there's still an icky layer of ableism and classism throughout. Her points felt scattered and unfocused. When a significant point/angle did come up, it wasn't fleshed out before moving on. Overall, not a satisfying read.
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  • Bryan Summers
    January 1, 1970
    The author left her son in a car for five minutes while she ran into a store. He son was playing games on the I-pad. He was old enough to get out of the car. And the windows were down. The cops were called and she was arrested. This is a fascinating exploration of helicopter parenting and how our society protects children and whether it is ultimately healthy for the children. It was thought provoking.
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  • Betsy
    January 1, 1970
    An honest personal story set within thoughtful commentary about parenting today. Hit home as a new mom.
  • Jody Allard
    January 1, 1970
    Such an important book. Kim does a wonderful job of weaving her story into a thoughtful examination of parenthood. I couldn’t put it down.
  • Leanne Ellis
    January 1, 1970
    So true! Wish she had added a few more examples of other cases and given a bit more backstory to how parenting has evolved (or not) in America.
  • Jason Park
    January 1, 1970
    Half memoir, half deeply-researched dive, Brooks exposes a radical and damaging status quo in American parenthood. My full review: https://medium.com/@jpark_21/small-an...
  • Emilie
    January 1, 1970
    Smart, sensible, and important. My new baby shower gifts will now be AND NOW WE HAVE EVERYTHING by Meaghan O’Connell and this. SMALL ANIMALS is a comfort and a wake-up call.
  • Jane Roper
    January 1, 1970
    This is a book that's long overdue: A beautifully written, thoughtful, compelling and well researched account of how our current culture of fear (and fear-based parenting) overprotects kids and over-punishes parents, particularly mothers, to the detriment of all of us. A riveting read, to boot!
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  • Mark CC
    January 1, 1970
    Reading this book started out as an exercise in dread because it was so easy to identify with the over-stressed and over-worried person the author describes. After I managed to get through that, I think I managed to learn something. I'm sure if I read this with a kid a couple years older it would blow my mind even more.
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