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Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis [Hardcover]

Sandra Steingraber
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

March 29 2011 0738213993 978-0738213996
Nothing could be more important than the health of our children, and no one is better suited to examine the threats against it than Sandra Steingraber. Once called "a poet with a knife," she blends precise science with lyrical memoir. In 'Living Downstream' she spoke as a biologist and cancer survivor; in 'Having Faith' she spoke as an ecologist and expectant mother, viewing her own body as a habitat. Now she speaks as the scientist mother of two young children, enjoying and celebrating their lives while searching for ways to protect them - and all children - from the toxic, climate-threatened world they inhabitEach chapter of this engaging and unique book focuses on one inevitable ingredient of childhood - everything from pizza to laundry to homework to the "Big Talk" - and explores the underlying social, political, and ecological forces behind it. Through these everyday moments, Steingraber demonstrates how closely the private, intimate world of parenting connects to the public world of policy-making and how the ongoing environmental crisis is, fundamentally, a crisis of family life.

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Review

Santa Monica Public Library, “Green Prize for Sustainable Literature,” September 2012

Booklist
, 3/15/11
“Steingraber writes passionately about the things that matter most to her, her family and the environment…smoothly shifting from events in her life to a broader view…Steingraber wants to change the world even as she remains firmly planted in the neighborhood, seeking a way to make life better than most of us have come to expect.” 

Buffalo News, 3/1/11
“Writing as both a scientist and mother of two children…Steingraber cites links between rising chronic childhood diseases and toxic chemical exposures. She takes a broad view, looking at increases in the prevalence of asthma, learning disabilities and autism, as she tries to understand her own household and life as a mom.”
 
Power of One Woman Blog, 3/29/11
“Through her newest book…Sandra has once again provided us, through well-documented case studies, the opportunity to examine our lifestyles choices and our surrounding environments…Sandra and her stories are gifts: golden information for busy parents who do not have the time for months of research.”
 
Publishers Weekly, 4/4/11
“A persuasive, personal call to action.”
 
Internet Review of Books, 3/25/11
“Terrifying and empowering…[Steingraber] skillfully weaves common domestic duties and scenes into and around the complex science, economic, and societal factors that have contributed to our current environmental crisis (and if you have any doubt that it is a crisis, you really need to read this book)…Knowledge is power. Raising Elijah is an excellent starting point for parents who want to know so they can protect their children from the dangers around them.”

New York
Journal of Books, 4/15/11
“One part memoir and one part educational treatise, and thoroughly informative and entertaining…Steingraber has taken a work that could have been a dry and didactic expository and turned it into a fluid, intimate narrative—sometimes funny, always entertaining and definitely illuminating. It’s a book that everyone—parents and otherwise—should avail themselves of for the good of those they care about.”

Ms., Spring 2011
“Steingraber’s narrative is personal and political, funny and smart. She shows us that feminism and motherhood are not at odds; combined, they make for heroes…Raising Elijah is a call to arms, a cry for the moral solidarity that we must forge to prevent environmental degradation and its assault on children’s health.”

St. Petersburg
Times, 4/17/11
“A biologist's memoir of protecting her family from a wide range of environmental hazards—and learning to make the best and cheapest organic pizza.”

SEHN Networker
, April 2011
“Read this for the kids in your life…This is a very funny book on hair-raisingly serious topics.”
 
InfoDad.com, 4/28/11
“Steingraber’s narrative structure for this book is attractive: an ecologist, she looks at the ‘ecology’ of her own family as she discusses both home-centered and public-policy issues.”

Hudson
Valley News, 4/20/11
“[A] fine book.”

Organic Valley blog, 5/11/11
“[Steingraber] has a rare knack for making dry research data come to life.”
 
Library Journal, 6/3/11
“[A] compelling and graceful call to arms…Steingraber combines the best of humorous science writers like Mary Roach with the soaring beauty of writers like Terry Tempest Williams. Fans of Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed should flock to Elijah.”
 
Fit Pregnancy, June/July 2011
“[Steingraber’s] tales keep readers engaged while illustrating the relationship between our nation’s chemical regulation (or lack thereof} and our kids’ current and future health.”

Reference and Research Book News
, June 2011
“A conversational memoir about the environmental threats our children face.”
 
Alternatives Journal, June 2011
“[Steingraber is] arguably the best environment and human-health writer of our age…Like [Rachel] Carson, Steingraber is sounding alarms about chemical pollutants in the best way she knows: through her formidable talents as a writer, storyteller and explainer of things scientific.”
 
EuphoriaBaby.com, 7/6/11
“An interesting and worthwhile read…A book that shares serious, often disturbing information can at the same time be so personal and empowering…If you want to be an informed parent this book is something you won’t want to miss.”
 
The Ecologist (UK), 7/7/11
“Combining hard science with a sympathetic approach to the realities of family life; Raising Elijah is one of the most important books you’ll ever read…Meticulously researched…A genuine, all-encompassing environmental study…Raising Elijah is that rare beast that combines hard data and approachable intimacy. At heart, it is an inspirational personal journey, a tale of activism at family level. It is perhaps the most essential book a parent can read this year.”
 
Spirituality & Practice (website)
“With great bravado and a firm grasp of ecology and biology, Steingraber runs down all the challenges she and her two children, Elijah and Faith, face in the toxic environment of upstate New York over a six-year period.”
 
BookPage, August 2011
“Read this book…Steingraber’s lyrical descriptions of everyday family life and its connections to ‘urgent public health issues’ are astonishing.”
 
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Fall 2011
“Steingraber speaks here as a warrior, a parent determined to protect her children—and all children—from the polluted and climate-challenged world they have inherited.”
 
KeepTapWaterSafe.org, 9/13/11
“It might be the most important parenting book you’ll ever read….Detailed and sobering…The facts are compelling unto themselves, yet her fluid prose is animated with personal anecdotes—all the better to elucidate the connection between corporate poisoning of the biosphere and our burgeoning public health crises. Raising Elijah also raises hope.”

Metapsychology Online Reviews, 9/13/11
“A fascinating and moving story about a parent's struggle to protect her child's health and wellbeing while still planning for his future in a world full of environmental dangers…Steingraber writes in a witty, poetic fashion, easily drawing connections between the environmental crisis and children's health…The book is one of the most fascinating and well-written pieces concerning the environmental crisis that I have read.”

Metropolis, 9/20/11
“As a writer, Sandra Steingraber has the eloquence and urgency of Rachel Carson. As a biologist, she has a fiercely acute perspective on how human health is affected by the many outputs of so many clever human inventions…In 10 elegantly framed chapters, Steingraber gives both a personal account of a family attempting to live a healthy life in upstate New York and a scientist’s look at the issues that make that so very challenging. The combination is powerful.”

The Weekly Harvest, 7/29/11
“Through a combination of scientific evidence and anecdotes plucked from her family life, she demonstrates again and again how, as individuals, our efforts to safeguard our homes so that our exposure is limited are not enough.”

Valley Advocate, 10/6/11
Raising Elijah does many things, and does them well. It’s a book about science that makes the topic accessible without leaving the reader feeling as if she’s being spoken down to. That’s thanks, in no small part, to Steingraber’s gift as a writer.”

Herizons, Fall 2011
“Steingraber combines compelling statistical evidence with beautiful writing to create an inspiring read…If you despair at the state of the planet and wonder how you can understand complex environmental problems, including climate change, while taking actions against them, this book is for you.”

Story Circle Book Reviews, 12/13/11
“Part lyrical parenting memoir, part hard-hitting, meticulously researched advocacy, Raising Elijah is not a light read. But if you care about the health of our children and the planet that nourishes all of us, it's darn near essential…This is a powerful and empowering book: take it slowly and let Steingraber's facts and passion for a healthy world seep in and become part of your understanding; let them guide your daily choices in life…Steingraber uses memoir to introduce facts, and does it so effectively that the reader is sucked right in…A compelling and surprisingly hopeful work—one that will stick with you long after you've turned the final page.”
 

About the Author

Sandra Steingraber , PhD, biologist, activist, and author, is Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Ithaca College in New York.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Straight to a mom's heart Jan. 16 2012
By Turtle
Format:Hardcover
I was afraid this book would be a collection of sombre facts concerning the perils awaiting our children in a not so distant future. Not quite so. I'm impressed at how the auther weaves together fact and anecdote so that facts are tied to wisdom and thought. Instead of bearing on my shoulders more guilt and "things to do to save the planet", she takes into account the overwhelmingly busy rhythm of parenthood and - finally - the urgent need for helpful changes at higher levels than individual action. I'm really enjoying this book. So far (I'm on the third chapter) it really speaks to my mommy-heart; I'm learning a few facts concerning specific environmental dangers while digesting much organic food for thought.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  38 reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Look at Environmental Issues Heart First April 3 2011
By June - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I should preface this to say that, usually, I do not read books about the environment. I do not let people tell me things that might scare me about what is happening in the environment. That said, I read this book, and I loved it. The reason why I love this book is because it came at me from the heart, and while the author engaged my heart, she then fed my mind what it NEEDS TO KNOW about the environmental risks of which we must be aware. I don't like reading statistics and pages of data and conclusions about science-y stuff. But while the author tells me about raising her children, and her whole-hearted effort to keep them safe, I am willing to hear the data that influenced her thinking. This is a book for those of us who are NOT the converted. I imagine, though I don't know this to be true, that many environmental books are written and then preach to the choir. I am not the choir. I don't wash my vegetables most of the time. I don't always buy organic. (Though, by the way, after reading this book I will do both of those things.) I'm saying...this is the book for the rest of us...not in the choir. It's beautifully written and engaging and careful and NOT hysterical and deliberate and lovely to read.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read! I couldn't set it down. March 30 2011
By Dad of Two - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Sandra Steingraber is a voice of reason with strong fact-based arguments for strengthening our environmental protections to more adequately protect children's health. Using her own experiences as a parent she brings to life the dilemmas parents face trying to protect children from harms that are dispersed by industrial practices and chemical-intensive farming. A PhD scientist, she sources her material flawlessly, giving potent ammunition to those committed to help make our children's lives safer. She shows us that the potent hazards to children of lead paint were well known by 1936, 40 years prior to the US ban on lead paint was enacted in 1976. But more than just a historical work showing the alarming rise in pre-natal and early childhood exposures to a range of carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, and asthma inducing substances; she shows us some parenting methods and grassroots activism to lead us towards a more healthy world for all children. This book is an inspiring call-to-arms which should rightfully be feared by chemical industry executives and Halliburton frackers looking to tear up the Marcellus Shale from New York to Ohio. As a parent of two young children I share Dr Steingrabers assessment that protecting my children is primary. I will be giving copies of this book to my elected representatives in the hope that it doesn't take another 40 years to implement policy that is clearly needed to protect children. Well worth reading and sharing with friends. This would be a good choice for book groups and for every school and community library.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Raising a Healthier Planet Dec 15 2011
By Story Circle Book Reviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Part lyrical parenting memoir, part hard-hitting, meticulously researched advocacy, Raising Elijah is not a light read. But if you care about the health of our children and the planet that nourishes all of us, it's darn near essential. Just don't try to read it all at once. This is a powerful and empowering book: take it slowly and let Steingraber's facts and passion for a healthy world seep in and become part of your understanding; let them guide your daily choices in life.

In ten chapters Ranging from "Milk (and Terror)" to "Bicycles on Main Street (and Slickwater Hydraulic Fracking)," Steingraber takes an articulate and passionate look at the environment in which we raise our children. She covers PCBs and the effect of terrorist attacks on nursing mothers; arsenic in the treated wood of playground equipment; food choices and their effect not only on developing children's bodies, but on the world they'll inhabit as adults; PVC, asbestos, lead paint and other toxic building products; bats and our personal, everyday contributions to climate change; common neurotoxins (there are far more than you'll imagine) and their effect on developing brains; endocrine disruptors and children's genderedness; and fracking, the fracturing of shale layers (using toxic chemicals) to release trapped natural gas for our voracious energy consumption.

In one of my favorite chapters, "Pizza (and Ecosystem Services)," Steingraber considers whether organic food is really worth the extra expense to her household's meager budget. She analyzes the cost of the ingredients in her family's favorite meal: pizza (recipe included at the end of the chapter). Here's part of what she discovers about the cost of food:

Driven by concerns about childhood obesity, the high price of cheap food is currently receiving well-deserved attention. And therein lies growing public acknowledgement that the money we hand to supermarket cashiers is only part of the price we pay for a form of agriculture that makes a twelve-pack of Ding Dongs cheaper than a bag of apples. Not appearing on the cash register receipt that flutters from a bag of groceries are the costs of treating obesity-related cancers, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Right behind this critique lies another one: This same system of agriculture that fills store shelves with Ding Dongs requires pesticides and synthetic fertilizers to function, and this dependency, too, carries hidden economic price tags. These include higher utility bills triggered by the need to filter farm chemicals out of tap water; lost productivity caused by the pesticide poisoning of farmer workers; higher taxes to pay for elaborate systems to monitor pesticides; loss of revenues prompted by poisoned honeybees, contaminated sport fish, and closed swimming beaches; and higher insurance premiums stoked by antibiotic-resistant infections and increased cancers caused by a thinning ozone layer.

Considering all that, she concludes, "buying organic food is a good deal."

Each chapter begins and ends with a parenting vignette, and many of them are poignant, illustrating the clear-eyed wisdom of children, a powerful innocence we forget about--or dismiss--as we grow up. Steingraber uses memoir to introduce facts, and does it so effectively that the reader is sucked right in, regardless of whether we really wanted to know what she's going to tell us. That makes the book an instructive one for writers as well, especially those of use who tell life stories. How does she keep the balance between memoir and journalism? How does she make bad news lyrical and wise?

She does it by searching for the beauty in her subject, and being self-aware, as this response to an interview question shows: "I discovered that composing in the past tense offered me more flexibility to move through time and provide commentary on the action. The past tense is a roomier house. And we are a messy family."

Raising Elijah is ultimately a compelling and surprisingly hopeful work--one that will stick with you long after you've turned the final page.

by Susan J. Tweit
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for all parents July 9 2011
By NY Antonia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"Raising Elijah" weaves intriguing personal stories with the latest scientific facts. Elijah's mom is a famous author, speaker, biologist and environmental activist who happens to "know too much" about the toxins we're exposed to everyday. How much does she tell her kids about that? What does she feed them? How does she manage to be a one-car family, and do more on foot, eat locally-produced goods as much as possible, and conserve energy? How does she balance traveling for speaking engagements with parenting? Every parent can learn a lot from this book: how to minimize your kids' exposure to toxins; how to balance work and family life when you work full-time; how to be a role model for civic responsibility and activism without making your kids feel TOO worried about global warming; plus get a clear bird's eye view, from a scientist's perspective, on pollution and how we can try to turn things around -- together.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and written, but just not my favorite Dec 12 2013
By whatever - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well written, but I ran out of steam after a couple of chapters. I'm an environmental scientist, so perhaps it is just that I already had a pretty good grasp on the material, but I just lost interest. There were also some self-aggrandizing parts with which I had a difficult time. The author mentions she is a researcher for a Level 1 research institution several times; I suppose to give legitimacy to her writings. But she is not an academic and she's not publishing in peer-reviewed journals. That is not a problem, and I respect her work. She just seemed to overstate her position, and it wore on my nerves.
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