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~Library Journal Best Book of 1999~
Maternal instinct--the all-consuming, utterly selfless love that mothers lavish on their children--has long been assumed to be an innate, indeed defining element of a woman's nature. But is it? In this provocative, groundbreaking book, renowned anthropologist (and mother) Sarah Blaffer Hrdy shares a radical new vision of motherhood and its crucial role in human evolution.
Hrdy strips away stereotypes and gender-biased myths to demonstrate that traditional views of maternal behavior are essentially wishful thinking codified as objective observation. As Hrdy argues, far from being "selfless," successful primate mothers have always combined nurturing with ambition, mother love with sexual love, ambivalence with devotion. In fact all mothers, in the struggle to guarantee both their own survival and that of their offspring, deal nimbly with competing demands and conflicting strategies.
In her nuanced, stunningly original interpretation of the relationships between mothers and fathers, mothers and babies, and mothers and their social groups, Hrdy offers not only a revolutionary new meaning to motherhood but an important new understanding of human evolution. Written with grace and clarity, suffused with the wisdom of a long and distinguished career, Mother Nature is a profound contribution to our understanding of who we are as a species--and why we have become this way.
PRAISE FOR MOTHER NATURE:
"This is a brilliant, liberating book on a profoundly important subject. Sarah Hrdy, the leading scientific authority on motherhood, is also, to the benefit of us all, one of the best stylists now writing on any subject in science."—E.O. Wilson, Harvard University, author of Sociobiology and Consilience
"Sarah Hrdy's scholarly but readable book on motherhood demonstrates once and for all the power of a Darwinian approach, when combined with an appreciation of cultural differences, for the understanding of human behavior. Providing a comprehensive discussion of diverse aspects of motherhood ranging from the physiological to the sociological, it also faces a crucial problem for many women today-the clash between career and motherhood."—Robert Hinde, Royal Society Research Professor, Cambridge University, author of Individuals, Relationships and Culture
"Thorough, thoughtful, and clearly written . . . A trove of factual treasures . . . A cornucopia of data and ideas about the biology and behavior of mothers great and small."--Scientific American
"A truly monumental work, as elegant as it is insightful."--Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs
"A Brilliant, liberating book on a profoundly important subject."--E.O. Wilson, author of Consilience
"Hrdy's book is a balanced and scholarly overview of the scientific and social research on maternity."--Professor Caitilyn Allen, Women's Studies, The University of Wisconsin-Madison
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Preface; Look to the Animals; Motherhood as a Minefield; A New View of Mothers; Underlying Mysteries of Development; Unimaginable Variation; The Variable Environments of Evolutionary; Relevance; Mothers and Allomothers; The Milky Way; From Here to Maternity; Family Planning Primate-Style; Three Men and a Baby; The Optimal Number of Fathers; Who Cared?; Unnatural Mothers; Daughters or Sons? It All Depends; Old Tradeoffs, New Contexts; An Infant's-Eye View; Born to Attach; Meeting the Eyes of Love; "Secure from What?" or "Secure from Whom?" Empowering the Embryo; Why Be Adorable?; How to Be "An Infant Worth Rearing"; A Matter of Fat; Of Human Bondage; Alternate Paths of Development; Devising Better Lullabies; Notes; Acknowledgments; Bibliography; Index