Author: Myriam Steinberg (writer), Christache (art)
Publish Date: February 24, 2021
Publisher: Page Two Books
Catalog ID: ISBN13: 978-1-989603-64-2
Where to buy: https://bookshop.org/shop/graphicmedicine
Author website: https://www.cataloguebabynovel.com/
Additional info: Themes: Infertility, miscarriage, abortion, chromosomal abnormalities, In Vitro fertilization, sperm donation, egg donation, adoption, pregnancy, grief
Book Review by Alice Jaggers
Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of Infertility is the journey of Myriam Steinberg trying to get pregnant as a single woman, written by her and with art by Christache. She explores her conception options and explains each to the reader. As she goes through various choices, she faces miscarriage, trips to the hospital, and multiple surgeries. She additionally explores the stigma around abortion. Throughout the memoir, Myriam focuses on her emotions and her physical health. It is clear that she has an extensive support system carrying her through her infertility experiences.
Myriam engages the reader and conveys her emotions and pain. Christache’s art is expressive and adds to the written story. Catalogue Baby is a black and white comic except for shades of red and pink. This combination of colors works well for the memoir, because the red provides emphasis on specific images. A good example of this appears on page 58. In the first panel, her miscarriage pain bursts from her in bright pink and red with her hair being the only other non-gray color. The brightness draws the eye to what is most important in the panel, her pain. One remarkable character who shows up in the chapter headings and as inner thoughts and fears is her ticking biological clock. The biological clock wears a cowboy hat, gloves, and boots and often shows up making the negative comments that reflect much of the stigma around infertility. Representing it as an object rather than a person is a good choice. It makes it easier to acknowledge the stigma around it while mitigating the trauma these words have. There are two pages where specific comments around infertility come from various people. They are all well-meaning people in her life that want to support her, but as made clear from their words are unaware of the issues with how they express themselves. One example of an insensitive comment is, “Don’t give up. My friend is 45 and just gave birth” (p. 160). Alongside the people and their harmful words, the biological clock switches to depicting her emotional reactions to what the people are telling her. This section is difficult, especially for someone who has had infertility issues and has heard these comments firsthand. However, Catalogue Baby is a helpful addition for those people who read this book and know someone dealing with infertility. It provides a list of what not to say and why.
I highly recommend this patient perspective memoir. I especially recommend it to people who have friends and loved ones dealing with infertility and people who have had infertility issues in the past. According to a CDC survey, 12.7% of fertile women in the United States have used infertility services (CDC, 2017). The US study did not ask about male fertility. The Canadian survey reports “roughly 16%” of Canadian couples experience infertility (PHAC, 2018). If you are someone who is currently undergoing fertility treatment or is having trouble conceiving, I would advise some caution reading Catalogue Baby as it might be fairly traumatizing, particularly for those who have dealt with infertility themselves or are close to someone who has. As a pregnant person who underwent some of the fertility treatments discussed, it was important to make sure I let myself put it down when things felt overwhelming and that I had a good support system to talk about the feelings that arise from reading it.
National Center for Health Statistics. Key Statistics from the National Survey of Family Growth, 2015-2017. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nsfg/key_statistics/i_2015-2017.htm#infertility Retrieved February 25, 2021.
Public Health Agency of Canada. “Fertility,” Last Reviewed May 28, 2019. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/fertility/fertility.html Retrieved February 25, 2021.