Bookshelf: Books by and about women top spring reading list

Baby Scoop era, a historic friendship and Army wives are among the topics.
Courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark / William Morrow / Scout Press Books

Credit: Sourcebooks Landmark / William Morrow / Scout Press Books

Credit: Sourcebooks Landmark / William Morrow / Scout Press Books

Courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark / William Morrow / Scout Press Books

For your spring reading list, here are three new books about women — past and present, fictional and true — whose circumstances are very different, but what they have in common is a strong sense of self and a desire to forge a path of their own choosing. Each one makes for excellent reading during Women’s History Month.

Baby Scoop. Growing up as a teenager in the ‘70s, I have vivid memories of me and my girlfriends discussing the Florence Crittenton Home with eyes wide and in hushed tones. We had no idea of its location, but we knew it was a place where pregnant teens and unmarried women were sent by their families to hide their growing bellies and deliver babies that were then whisked away for adoption by families deemed more deserving. It was a system built on shame, designed to shield the expectant mother’s family from public scrutiny and judgment, and to preserve the structure of the nuclear family.

It sounds practically barbaric now, but perhaps most shocking is the fact that after enduring all that projected shame by being sent away, giving birth and having her child taken away from her, the birth mother — often a teenager — was expected to return to her family, her school and her friends and pretend nothing happened. It sounds unspeakably cruel today. But it was a practice so common from the mid-1940s to the early ‘70s that it’s been given a name — the Baby Scoop era.

That is the premise of “The Girls We Sent Away” (Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.99), a novel by Meagan Church, author of “The Carolina Girl.” Set in 1960s North Carolina, Lorraine Delford is a high-achieving teenager with a steady boyfriend and dreams of traveling to space one day. Her fall from grace is swift when she becomes pregnant and is sent to a home for unwed mothers where she encounters a strict house mother and indifferent doctors. Her saving grace is the bond she builds with those going through the same ordeal.

“The Girls We Sent Away” is a heartfelt story that illustrates how far we have come in regards to teen parents (Hello “Teen Mom”!) and the postmodern family.

Ride or Die. In the early 1900s, President Theodore Roosevelt and educator Booker T. Washington were two of the most influential men in the country, but they are minor characters in Atlanta author Piper Huguley’s upcoming historical novel “American Daughters” (William Morrow, $18.99), which publishes April 5.

The title refers to the men’s daughters, Alice Roosevelt and Portia Washington, who are just teenagers when they meet at Yale when their fathers’ schedules overlap one day in 1901. Despite societal pressures against fraternizing between races, they strike up a close friendship of equals, expressed through letters and visits, that spans decades. Told from the women’s alternating viewpoints, Huguley’s story traces their lives through triumphs and tragedies as they juggle domestic life with pursuits of their own ambitions in a world that discourages it.

Huguley discusses “American Daughters” at 2 p.m. March 23 at Roswell Library. For details go to

Sisterhood. Imagine living your best life in New York City, sharing it with the love of your life and pursuing the career you’ve spent years preparing for. Then one day your spouse announces they want to join an elite unit of the Army that requires moving to Columbus and living on the military base while they are often deployed.

That’s what happened to Simone Gorrindo, and she’s written about the experience in her forthcoming memoir “The Wives” (Scout Press Books, $29.99), publishing April 9. It was not the life she signed up for and nothing could have prepared her for the culture shock. But in the process of supporting her husband, she discovers an unexpected source of strength and fulfillment in the relationships she forges with the only other people in world who understand what she’s going through – Army wives.

Described by “Maid” author Stephanie Land as “lyrical and poignant,” the book also provides an intimate look at the evolution of a marriage and offers a unique perspective on our divided country.

Suzanne Van Atten is a book critic and contributing editor to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Contact her at