By: Felicity Landa
Kim Brooks’s book, Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear, begins with a flurry of emotions that I suspect will be as familiar to other parents as it was to me. In a rush of stress and worry mixed with the impulse to placate her child in a tense situation, Brooks made a split-second decision to leave her four-year-old son in the car while she ran into the store. She was gone for five minutes. She could see the car from the front store windows. And while her son was perfectly fine when she returned, this seemingly trivial decision led to one of the most monumental consequences of Brooks’s parenting years. Someone had filmed her, and sent the video to the police.
Small Animals weaves between memoir and research, as Brooks uncovers the social construct that catalyzed those fateful five minutes and their consequences. Parenthood has been caged and put on display, forever under the scrutiny of spectators who are not involved. Her dissection presents us with a book that expertly defines the one emotion devouring twenty-first-century parenting: Fear. And a society that perpetuates this fear is captivated by violence and failure, prone to judgment, and acts under the guise of protecting the innocent small animals its culture creates.