... an ambitious, elegant meditation ... Klass describes inequality and racism with a quiet, powerful rage that underscores the shameful political truths that continue during our contemporary plague ... In the acknowledgments of this book is an almost apologetic disclaimer that Klass does not consider herself a historian or expert in any sense — yet she clearly is an expert in narrative and in medicine. In A Good Time to Be Born, she takes the most complex human patterns of all — history, medicine, politics, art — and knits them into something unique and beautiful ... I did find myself wanting more of Klass’s own story, both the sorrow and hope of a doctor’s work. But this is not a memoir, so she cedes her time to other trailblazing doctors ... This is an important book for many reasons, but that Klass has given voice to the voiceless is perhaps the most significant ... From start to finish, her book reminds us what it means to survive, and just how precious and precarious a state that is.
Klass brings exceptional and compassionate writing skills to an exploration of the hazards of early life, using stories of both rich and poor families before the 20th century to show how precarious children’s lives were at that time ... The author provides insight into the importance of vaccinations and health checks along with touching upon vital subjects such as child rearing, child safety seats, breastfeeding, and other concerns of childhood that have seen changes over time ... Klass masterfully introduces readers to the people coming up with solutions for many of the dangers of childhood and shows how the pediatric specialty over time has worked to improve children’s lives. Essential reading for parents.
The author, a smooth storyteller, traces the arc of medical advancement targeted at that vulnerable population, suggesting that no segment of society was exempt. However, it was also clear that the poor, immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and African Americans would suffer the most ... With steady narrative momentum, the author follows the long road that led to germ theory and the growing belief that it was 'not just a parental obligation to prevent [childhood death] but a social responsibility.' Klass also chronicles the egregious missteps: eugenics, social Darwinism, and the racist, classist beliefs that hampered treatment for the poor and people of color. The author completes the picture with a range of subjects, including the dangers of childbirth; ethical issues in the neonatal unit; parents who don’t believe in vaccinations; psychosocial problems, including the shaming of 'refrigerator mothers'; and the scourges of measles, chickenpox, polio, and tuberculosis ... A powerful story of the right of children to live and thrive from birth.