"A physical, psychological, moral, spiritual, political, and cultural reality that navigates questions of life and death, abortion should be one of the great themes of literature," editor Annie Finch writes in her introduction to Choice Words: Writers on Abortion. All politics aside, it's a fair point. Having found no major literary anthology on the subject of abortion, Finch took it upon herself to create such a book, and the result, two decades in the works, is a hefty collection of generally high quality.
Contributors to Choice Words are both emerging writers and canonized authors (Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Dorothy Parker, Anne Sexton). Pieces date back as far as the 16th century; storytelling voices belong to those as young as high school age. The book's 140 contributions, fairly evenly split between poetry and prose (fiction, essays, performance pieces, tweets), are bundled into five sections--Mind, Body, Heart, Will and Spirit--although most offerings would fit in multiple categories. The anthology's contents are confessional, funny, graphic, stolid, absurdist, cagey, heartbreaking, vitriolic and on it goes, the approaches to the subject at hand as varied as human experience.
While Finch makes plain in her introduction that she and her contributors support reproductive rights, Choice Words includes work by several women who harbor some regret about having had an abortion. "The possibility of negative feelings is part of the responsibility of choice," writes Finch, with a nod to contributor Caitlin McDonnell. In McDonnell's words, "It's a grief I live with. It's my grief. I wouldn't have it any other way." --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer