So you’ve published your book. Its been edited and published, and now you’re trying to figure out how to get to your potential readers. While starting your marketing campaign usually happens well before your book is completed, getting your first reviews can’t begin until your book is done or in a final draft status.
Many stores won’t carry a small press or self-published book that doesn’t have reviews from a recognizable publishing. So how do you get someone to pay attention to your book among all of the hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions they see every month?
City Book Review, publishers of the San Francisco Book Review, Manhattan Book Review and Kids’ BookBuzz all have programs to help you. Kids BookBuzz is only for kids, tweens and young adult books, but the other two will take almost any book you have (including children’s stories).
So how do you get your book reviewed by the San Francisco Book Review?
If your book is within 90 days of the publications date, you can submit it for general review (at no cost). The closer you are to the 90 days, the less of a chance it will have to be reviewed, but you can still start there. The SFBR gets more than 1000 submissions a month, and only reviews 300 or less, so your opportunities of getting your book reviewed in this way is less than 33%. But you can give it a try and see if it gets reviewed.
If your book is more than 90 days past its publication date, or you really want to have it reviewed and don’t want to just hope it’ll get picked up through the general review, you can go through the Sponsored Review program. While there is some controversy about paying for a review, SFBR is a respected publication like Kirkus or Foreward Reviews and doesn’t offer vanity reviews for payment. You can expect the same level of professionalism from their standard reviews. And they don’t mark sponsored reviews any different than the other reviews.
Get My Book Reviewed from the San Francisco Book Review
There are a lot of different options for getting your book reviewed, mostly around how long it takes to get your review back, and if you want more than one or an interview as well.
Standard Reviews Take 8-10 weeks for turnaround from the time they receive your book Start at
Expedited Reviews Take 3-5 weeks for turnaround from the time they receive your book Start at
Get more than one review for the same book you’ll get a discount on the normal cost of 2 or 3 reviews. Reviews range in price from $150 to $299.
Getting a podcast interview for Audible Authors to promote yourself and your book, and you can add an interview to a review package at a discount.
And if you really like your review, you can have it posted on the other publication’s website for $99, or get a new review from a different reviewer. Both can help with your marketing and search engine optimization.
So how do you get your book reviewed by the Manhattan Book Review?
The Manhattan Book Review uses the same format for the San Francisco Book Review. Different audience, so if you’re an East Coast writer, you might be more interested in having the credit from MBR over SFBR. Personal taste is the only difference between the two for reviews. If you are a local SF or Manhattan writer, they will also flag that in your review.
So how do you get your book reviewed by Kids’ BookBuzz?
First thing, all of the reviews for Kids’ BookBuzz are done by kids. They are assigned age appropriate books, but the kids read them and write the reviews themselves. The younger kids have some help from their parents, but the words are all theirs. Don’t expect any easy reviews either. These kids see a lot of stories, so they know good books when they read them.
An elegantly made attempt to transport the Pulitzer prize-winning novel to the screen boasts a strong cast but a confused emotional focus
Is Donna Tartts Pulitzer prize-wining novel The Goldfinch unadaptable? Is it possible to condense 784 globetrotting pages of romance, terrorism, grief, drug addiction and art world espionage into a coherent and dramatically satisfying movie? After 149 minutes of Brooklyn director John Crowleys much-anticipated, and much-feared, attempt, the answer appears to be shrug emoji?
Because its neither a rousing success nor an embarrassing failure, falling somewhere in between, closer to admirable attempt. Most importantly, its nowhere near the ungainly mess some had expected, its many, many moving parts stitched together with an elegant hand and unlike some weighty adaptations, theres a motivation behind it that seems to stretch further than because we should? While it shifts tone, genre and location, the focus remains on Theo (Oakes Fegley and then Ansel Elgort), whose mother dies in a terrorist attack when hes 13 and whose life is forever wounded as a result. His father absent, Theo is sent to temporarily live with the family of a schoolfriend and he grows close to the matriarch Samantha (Nicole Kidman), a chilly woman who bonds with him over their mutual love of art. When his father Larry (Luke Wilson) re-emerges, Theo is sent to live with him, and his uncaring girlfriend Xandra (Sarah Paulson) and so begins a journey from carer to carer and place to place as Theo struggles to figure out who he is and where he belongs.
Theres a sturdy engine motoring us through the strong opening scenes, the work of a storyteller in confident control of his narrative but once Wilson and Paulson barrel into view, playing cartoonish and arguably classist caricatures, were immediately taken out of the film. Its just two well-known stars doing a rather tiresome bit and their performances are distracting and clash against the smooth work done by both Kidman and an impressive Fegley up until that point. Theyre not painted with quite such grotesque strokes as say Margo Martindale in Million Dollar Baby but theres a similar snobbishness in how the film, and perhaps Tartt, seems to view those who dont live on the Upper East Side and who dont frequent galleries.
Crowleys film is one of vignettes, some of which possess more power than others, and its to his credit that despite the fractured nature of the story, were compelled to know where hes taking us and what will happen to Theo, an often unknowable protagonist. Some might have sniffed at the casting of Elgort, who received similar head scratches when he was cast as Tony in Steven Spielbergs forthcoming adaptation of West Side Story, but hes surprisingly convincing here, quietly anchoring an uneven film with poise. Theres also reliably strong character work from Jeffrey Wright as one of the many adult figures he encounters along the way while as mentioned, its yet another strong performance from an on-a-roll Kidman.
Its a handsomely made adaptation that might lack a particularly distinctive style other than studio prestige, but it shows how Crowley has progressed as a film-maker since Brooklyn, a film I found to be rather prosaic. He proves himself to be a safe hand for the most part as screenwriter Peter Straughan shows himself to be mostly adept at bringing a dense novel to the screen. But as the film enters its third act, the emotional centre never really materialises, a romantic connection fizzles out and a silly plot contrivance as well as an uninvolving lurch into thriller theatrics dampens our interest and investment. The propulsion that got us here doesnt really lead to a gratifying payoff, like taking a long road trip that reaches a dead end, and as the film starts to wrap up, theres not enough of a throughline to justify both the films mammoth length and its grand sense of self.
The Goldfinch resembles one of the many pieces of art that Theo admires during the film: its exquisite to look at but impossible to touch.
The Goldfinch is showing at the Toronto film festival and will be released in the US on 13 September and in the UK on 27 September
Working in customer service has its ups and downs. But one bookstore employee has had such an up, it felt like heaven. Some time ago, tumblr user beepboop-its-a-robot witnessed an old lady buying a complete stranger $400 worth of textbooks. Considering that the average student in the USA spends around $1,200 a year on books and supplies, that’s quite a gesture. Heck, she even tossed in some chocolates. And when you learn about her own son’s sad fate, the story becomes even more profound.
And when you thought the story couldn’t get any better…
The student who got to experience this lady’s kind heart isn’t the only one who could use her help. Textbook prices have been soaring. And that’s putting it lightly. According to NBC’s review of Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, textbook prices have risen over three times the rate of inflation from January 1977 to June 2015. A 1,041 percent increase.
“They’ve been able to keep raising prices because students are ‘captive consumers.’ They have to buy whatever books they’re assigned,” said Nicole Allen, a spokeswoman for the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition.
Some compare these numbers to a pharmaceutical sales model where the publishers spend their time wooing the decision makers to adopt their product. In this case, however, it’s professors instead of doctors. “Professors are not price-sensitive and they then assign and students have no say,” said Ariel Diaz, CEO of Boundless, a free and low-cost textbook publisher.
People were incredibly moved by this random act of kindness
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We all know the saying ‘beggars can’t be choosers?’ but time and time again people like to challenge this idea by doing the exact opposite. Here at Bored Panda, we love to share some absurd stories and nothing is quite as ridiculous as choosy beggars who take no issue with asking for handouts – but only on their own terms.
The following list is a collection of posts from the internet of the best of the worst of these types. From Asking from haggling over price points to roasting their loved ones for thoughtful gifts scroll down to check out these ridiculous posts and don’t forget to upvote your favs!
A Brilliant Way To Deal With “Influencers”
It’s a good trait to be generous – but it’s also good to know when you’re being taken advantage of. Not everyone has the skills to say “no” to moochers, users, and choosy beggars, so Bored Panda has collected some various tips. First, it is important to communicate the boundaries or conditions around what you are giving to them.
63 Sandwiches In 1 1/2 Hours!?! How Dare They!
This Groomer Is Definitely Prepared For All The Choosing Beggars
If you want to help, haggle or handout – go for it- but also know that it is ok to say “no”! Some people take generosity to mean that you can be pushed to give more and more. If someone has assumed that your niceness means that you won’t say no, respectfully remind them of your limits. In some cases, people won’t want to continue to have transactions after you turn them down, and that’s ok.
My Mechanic Telling It How It Is. Support Artists And Labor Folk!
Two years ago I saw that guy with the gas can begging for money. Tried to give him four dollars, but he said he doesn’t take anything less than five. After that I saw him there everyday for months. Turns out he’s a fraud with a new Jeep and a nice house. Been following him with this sign since.
Don’t let yourself be consumed by guilt – set your boundaries and stick to them. Just because you can be accommodating doesn’t mean you should. Most of us are taught to share what we have with those less fortunate, but giving back doesn’t mean sacrificing your worth. Sure you can afford to cut a little off a price, but you are not responsible for other people’s financial burdens. Remember if you give an inch to someone who is trying to take advantage they will want more.
I Won’t Invite You To My Baby Shower, But You Better Get Me A Gift
This Guy Gets It
Lastly, don’t feel bad when you shame a freeloader. We should always treat others with respect but in some cases, you need to be extra firm. “A freeloader really cares nothing for your needs and thoughts, even if they convince you that they do. They also rarely care for normal social etiquette.”
Ungrateful Man Shames His Wife On A Public Forum Because The Dinner She Cooked Him Wasn’t To His Liking
The expression ‘Beggars can’t be choosers’? first recorded into print in 1546, when it appeared in a book of proverbs compiled by John Heywood. The first form was written as ‘Folk say alway, beggars should be no choosers.’ Another similar proverb from a different angle is, ‘If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride,’ which is more rarely used.
Lady Wants Barely-Used Computer For $25
I Have To Pay For My Food?
Mom Thinks Her Son Needs My Service Dog, Not Just Any Service Dog
Seems Like Indonesia Is Not Choosing Any Of Them Begpackers
Thought On Exposure
Everyone Named Sheldon Gets A Free Laptop
So You Want Me To Unsell My Car And Are Offering Me Less Than It Sold For…
Youtube Musician Donates Guitar
Can You Draw Me For Free?
It’s Free Pool
But I Only Have 800 Dollars
Just To Persuade Him
No Uggos. Next!
This Store Knows
If You Think It’s Simple
“Fortunately I’m Not In A Position Where I Need To Pay To Work”
“But It’s My Shift”
Sister, Can You Spare A Dime?
A Friend Of Mine Just Sent Me This. Why Is It That “Cash Ready” Means You Should Get An Incredible Deal?
See Also on Bored Panda
Sign At My Local Tattoo Shop
Sorry I Dont Have Ca-
He Is Always Asking For People To Help Pay For Rent And Bills. He Complains About Not Being Able To Afford Food… But He Thinks He Can Care For A Kitten…
Woman Angry Book Pirating Site Is Being Sued, Complains To Author Whose Books She’d Been Stealing On Their Fan Page
We’ve known for a long time that men — especially rich white men — are held to different standards than everyone else, but never has the difference been so nakedly clear.
There are now two court jesters leading two of the world’s major democracies: Boris Johnson, a known fabulist considered charming for running late and having mussy hair, just became the prime minister of Great Britain. And here in the U.S., President Donald Trump is a former reality TV star, accused sexual assaulter and known scam artist.
Could you imagine a woman or man of color getting away with any of that?
Female politicians can’t make mistakes ― with their emails, DNA tests or knowledge of world affairs or economics. A black male politician couldn’t even wear a tan suit or hoist a latte without turning heads. None of these people can lie repeatedly and get away with it.
But here we are, supposedly in an era of progress when it comes to gender and race, watching these buffoons land the highest offices in the world.
Basic gender theory explains a lot of this: Men, particularly straight, white wealthy ones, are expected to be competent in male-dominated arenas like politics and business. Even when they screw up, that expectation holds, said Dr. Stefanie K. Johnson, a management professor at the University of Colorado who specializes in the intersection between leadership and diversity.
“You’re starting with a baseline assumption that he knows what he’s doing, so whatever he’s doing must be thoughtful or strategic,” she said.
Women, on the other hand, are expected to be warm but not particularly competent. “Any strange behavior confirms that she was incompetent all along,” according to Dr. Johnson.
With Boris Johnson and Trump, though, there’s another phenomenon at play, she said. These guys have built up something called “idiosyncratic credit.”
It’s a term from sociology that refers to the credibility conferred on someone based on meeting certain societal norms. In Trump and Johnson’s case, they’re white men who fit the “leader” stereotype.
Thanks to their maleness, their whiteness, an Oxford accent (in Johnson’s case), or money (in Trump’s case, and to a lesser extent, Johnson’s), these men have already built up a certain amount of credibility. That credibility allows them to deviate from other social norms — like telling the truth orgetting through the day without publicly insulting someone.
Johnson’s been able to escape relatively unscathed from a bunch of scandals ― multiple marital affairs, a plagiarism charge, racist comments. Trump gets a pass for seemingly everything, from attempted obstruction of justice toallegations of sexual assault from more than a dozen women and more than 10,000 documented lies or falsehoods while in office.
“By being white men, they just get credit,” said Dr. Johnson. “Then they’re allowed to use those credits and engage in deviant behavior, and people excuse it.”
If you’re a woman in a male arena like politics, you’re violating norms just by existing. You’ve got no credits. “So if you do something that could be perceived as incompetent, people will trash you,” Johnson explains.
The same holds for men of color, she adds. “To be a black man is also not stereotypical for politicians.” It’s not hard to find examples of Barack Obama being held to a different and higher standard than white presidents.
Female candidates are also expected to be attractive and put-together. Looks are extremely important for female politicians, said Amanda Hunter, research and communications director at the Barbara Lee Family Foundation, an organization that supports female politicians. “Voters decide if a woman is ready to lead based on her presentation and her personal style, tone of voice and speaking style.”
No female candidate could get away with looking like Johnson or Trump, as Bridget Read at The Cut wrote recently.
Johnson purposefully cultivates a sloppy style: crooked tie, wrinkled suits, messy hair. (This serves to make him seem less elite, despite his Eton/Oxford bonafides, Vanessa Friedman writes.) His predecessor Theresa May was rarely seen with a strand out of place.
Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg dons stilettos and perfectly tailored clothes while the company CEO Mark Zuckerberg wears hoodies. Trump did his whole slovenly thing ― Scotch-taped tie, confoundingly baggy pants ― while Hillary Clinton consulted with stylists to figure out her look. She even had a line about her sartorial choices in her Twitter bio (“Wearer of pantsuits.”)
Bernie Sanders looks a bit wrinkled, “seemingly too passionate about the issues to iron,” writes Friedman. Sen. Kamala Harris, also contending for the 2020 nomination, is always polished.
To run for office, some women now take a course ― a course! ― in how to dress.
Beyond looks, female leaders seem to be held to a higher standard in all arenas. Look at former Vice President Joe Biden, now contending for the Democratic nomination for president, catching up on policy on the fly, flubbing appearances and apologizing for myriad missteps over a decades-long career. While Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushes out detailed plan after detailed plan, running essentially her own think tank. Yet her electability is in doubt because of one possible political mistake ― DNA testing. (Oh, and also her gender, of course.)
“For decades, Biden’s schtick has sort of been he says whatever he wants and then says he’s just a straight talker,” said Jennifer Lawless, a politics professor at the University of Virginia. People just shrug it off as Joe being Joe.
Something similar happens with Boris Johnson.
“His mistakes or perceived errors were always seen as evidence of his authenticity,” Tony Travers, a professor of government at the London School of Economics, told The New York Times this week in explaining Johnson’s appeal.
Expectations are so low in Johnson’s case that, when he was mayor of London, people were “pleasantly surprised” when the city didn’t crumble under his leadership, according to the Times. It’s like when Trump reads a speech off the teleprompter and is hailed for being presidential.
Still, Johnson and Trump are extreme examples of what male privilege lets guys get away with, Lawless said.
Most politicians ― male or female ― would never allow themselves to act like those two. “Almost no male candidate would think that would be a way to succeed,” she said.
Google and its flagship search portal opened the door to the possibilities of how to build a business empire on the back of organising and navigating the world’s information, as found on the internet. Now, a startup that’s built a search engine tailored to the needs of enterprises and their own quests for information has raised a round of funding to see if it can do the same for the B2B world.
AlphaSense, which provides a way for companies to quickly amass market intelligence around specific trends, industries and more to help them make business decisions, has closed a $50 million round of funding, a Series B that it’s planning to use to continue enhancing its product and expanding to more verticals.
The company counts some 1,000 clients on its books, with a heavy emphasis on investment banks and related financial services companies. That’s in part because of how the company got its start: Finnish co-founder and CEO Jaakko (Jack) Kokko had been an analyst at Morgan Stanley in a past life and understood the labor and time pain points of doing market research, and decided to build a platform to help shorten a good part of the information-gathering process.
“My experience as an analyst on Wall Street showed me just how fragmented information really was,” he said in an interview, citing as one example how complex sites like those of the FDA are not easy to navigate to look for new information and updates — the kind of thing that a computer would be much more adept at monitoring and flagging. “Even with the best tools and services, it still was really hard to manually get the work done, in part because of market volatility and the many factors that cause it. We can now do that with orders of magnitude more efficiency. Firms can now gather information in minutes that would have taken an hour. AlphaSense does the work of the best single analyst, or even a team of them.”
(Indeed, the “alpha” of AlphaSense appears to be a reference to finance: it’s a term that refers to the ability of a trader or portfolio manager to beat the typical market return.)
The lead investor in this round is very notable and says something about the company’s ambitions. It’s Innovation Endeavors, the VC firm backed by Eric Schmidt, who had been the CEO of none other than Google (the pace-setter and pioneer of the search-as-business model) for a decade, and then stayed on as chairman and ultimately board member of Google and then Alphabet (its later holding company) until just last June.
Schmidt presided over Google at what you could argue was its most important time, gaining speed and scale and transitioning from an academic idea into a full-fledged, huge public business whose flagship product has now entered the lexicon as a verb and (through search and other services like Android and YouTube) is a mainstay of how the vast majority of the world uses the web today. As such, he is good at spotting opportunities and gaps in the market, and while enterprise-based needs will never be as prominent as those of mass-market consumers, they can be just as lucrative.
“Information is the currency of business today, but data is overwhelming and fragmented, making it difficult for business professionals to find the right insights to drive key business decisions,” he said in a statement. “We were impressed by the way AlphaSense solves this with its AI and search technology, allowing businesses to proceed with the confidence that they have the right information driving their strategy.”
This brings the total raised by AlphaSense to $90 million, with other investors in this round including Soros Fund Management LLC and other unnamed existing investors. Previous backers had included Tom Glocer (the former Reuters CEO who himself is working on his own fintech startup, a security firm called BlueVoyant), the MassChallenge incubator, Tribeca Venture Partners and others. Kokko said AlphaSense is not disclosing its valuation at this point. (I’m guessing though that it’s definitely on the up.)
There have been others that have worked to try to tackle the idea of providing more targeted, and business-focused, search portals, from the likes of Wolfram Alpha (another alpha!) through to Lexis Nexis and others like Bloomberg’s terminals, FactSet, Business Quant and many more.
One interesting aspect of AlphaSense is how it’s both focused on pulling in requests as well as set up to push information to its users based on previous search parameters. Currently these are set up to only provide information, but over time, there is a clear opportunity to build services to let the engines take on some of the actions based on that information, such as adjusting asking prices for sales and other transactions.
“There are all kinds of things we could do,” said Kokko. “This is a massive untapped opportunity. But we’re not taking the human out of the loop, ever. Humans are the right ones to be making final decisions, and we’re just about helping them make those faster.”
I had a discussion with a friend about how excited I was for my daughter to see the upcoming Little Mermaid movie.
I told her I that was I was so proud that my daughter might be able to see herself in Ariel, a beautiful Black princess.
My friend didn’t understand the big deal. She “doesn’t see color.” She thinks that it doesn’t matter what race or ethnicity characters are, because we are all the same.
I have learned a lot in the past few years. I have learned why it matters that our kids see diversity through their media. I hope I explained it well and that she heard my heart— I hope what I have learned might help change someone else’s heart as well.
Do you ever find yourself annoyed when you hear about “Black Miss America” or “Black superhero movies”? Do you think, why does it have to be “Black”? Isn’t that kind of racist?
I used to have similar thoughts. You may think you “don’t see color”, or that race issues aren’t as big as people make them seem.
I say this as humbly as possible. You. Are. Wrong.
Last year my kids watched “American Idol.” They discussed and voted for their their favorites. Without fail, my sweet innocent 6 year old would choose “one of the brown men” as his favorite every time.
In his simple little mind, all he wants is to know that someone who looks like him can make it. That they can win. His face lit up in a way I had never seen before when he saw Black Panther. It is important for him to see black men on TV, in movies and in books.
Can you imagine having almost no people who look like you in your bible stories, in the toy aisle, or in your storybooks?
When he sees someone who looks like him do big things, society whispers, “You can do it too! You can be whatever you want!”
When people of color don’t find adequate representation in popular culture, they pave their own way. They make a space where they can be seen and heard. It really is that simple, and it really is that important.
APRIL 24, 1990. The world had just watched a boy die, one of the most impassioned advocates of his generation. Ryan White had just died of AIDS, and I was in the midst of a desperate battle to pass a bill that would provide care to others who were suffering from the disease. I had invited Ryans mother, Jeanne, to Washington to help me gather support for the bill, and we hit the halls of Capitol Hill.
We needed to add 14 senators as co-sponsors in order to get to the needed number of 60 so that Senator Jesse Helms, the homophobic arch-right-wing senior senator from North Carolina, wouldnt be able to filibuster. One of our main targets for the day was Senator Joe Biden. When he came out of the Senate chamber he looked hurried, clearly in no mood for chitchat. But I ran up and quickly got in a word. Ryan Whites mother had just flown in the night before. She was standing right behind me, and she wanted to speak to him. He stopped in his tracks and immediately took her hand. This act of intimacy took Jeanne and me both by surprise. Joe Biden is, in many ways, the quintessential charismatic politician, yet he, too, has suffered a great loss. In 1972as he prepared to be sworn in as a senatorBidens wife and daughter were killed in a car accident on the way home from picking out the family Christmas tree. His two sons barely survived, and Biden nursed them back to full recovery as a single father.
As I stood nearby, I heard Jeanne start her request for Bidens support. He stopped her midsentence. You dont need to tell me the pain of losing a child, he told her. I have been there, and there is nothing more painful a parent can experience. They both started to cry. Hell, even I started to cry. The world around us came to a complete stop. Senators came in and out, staff bustled around, but a protective bubble seemed to envelop us. Something magical was happening.
By the end of his deeply personal conversation with Jeanne, I knew that the power of Bidens and Jeannes shared passion, grief, and hope would be an unstoppable force if it could be harnessed on behalf of all the parents and families who had lost someone to AIDS. There is a strange peace and deep authenticity that comes with such painas if there is little else in the world that can hurt so much and, thus, nothing in the world left to fear.
Grief is a powerful force, and it animated the AIDS movement. If turned inward, grief can destroy lives and create further suffering. If turned outward, however, it can heal the deepest wounds, bring together fierce enemies, and birth what some might call miracles. Perhaps that is why the height of the AIDS epidemic, which is where this story begins, was at once so tragic and so miraculous. AIDS brought fear, shame, anger, and division to this country as it arbitrarily stole friends, family members, and colleagues. Yet, AIDS created a shared suffering. It cut across race, creed, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation and introduced a degree of compassion and humility that few could have predicted. In this sense, AIDS was the great leveler of our time. Our responseas individuals and as a countrywas a test of our common humanity. This excerpt tells the story of how we fared in that test, what we learned, and how these lessons may help us address the challenges ahead.
AIDS in the 80s was a wholly different disease than the one we know today.
In 1984, a 13-year-old hemophiliac contracted a mystifying illness from a contaminated blood treatment. Ryan White was, like most people diagnosed with AIDS, given six months or less to liveit was a death sentence. Back in his hometown in Indiana, he tried to return to school but faced enormous opposition: beyond taunts, threats, and abuse, parents and teachers organized and rallied to prevent him from attending school. At the time, there were fewer than 150 cases of pediatric AIDS in the country and being diagnosed with the disease carried an enormous social stigma. But Ryan was undeterred. He and his family fought back against the school. As Ryans case gained attention, celebrities like Elton John, Michael Jackson, and Phil Donahue took up support of his legal battle. Along the way Ryan White became a national celebrity and advocate for AIDS education and research. AIDS in the 80s was a wholly different disease than the one we know today; it was not chronically managed, widely understood, or accepted. It was lethal, highly stigmatized, and characterized by a national mood of crisis, desperation, anger, and scornful discrimination.
If we had had the luxury of time, I could have spent more of it debating options and crafting compromises, but a ticking clock in 1989 was a death sentence for so many. We had made our decisions, and now it was time to get down to work.
Thankfully, we had a heavy hitter on our team: Senator Ted Kennedy had emerged as a leading AIDS advocate. In May 1987, he introduced the AIDS Federal Policy Act (S. 1220), which sought to provide funding for testing, counseling, research, and patient access to experimental drugs. It passed the Senate, but similar House bills that year didnt fare as well. Despite herculean efforts by many tireless people, at that moment we couldnt see much progress. Yet these early defeats taught us to do our homework and forced us to rework the content and language of the bills, in order to be better prepared for next time.
Ever so slowly, we could sense something start to shift: A small number of legislatorslike Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Representative Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Representative Ted Weiss (D-NY ), and Senator Alan Cranston (D-CA), whose districts were facing major public health disasters, were becoming more powerful advocates. But there was a bigger reason why 1988 was a tipping point when momentum behind the AIDS crisis quickly gathered speed: the epidemic had become much more widespread. Sadly, it was only after the death toll mounted that more and more family members and friends joined us in demanding a more effective and compassionate response to the AIDS crisis. It was during this time that AIDS began to touch my life personally; my partner, Vince, had an ex-boyfriend who suddenly became ill, an alumnus from our Mondale campaign team died, and another dear friend, unable to even tell us he had AIDS, stayed with us as he got sicker and sicker.
As painful as these deaths were, the stories of desperation and anger of hundreds of thousands of Americans (not just gay men) who were being affected by this epidemic created a powerful chorus. Stories were voiced by more and more people, at an increasing volume. These were the voices that needed to be heard on Capitol Hill. These were the people who would finally silence Helms. And so, for the next two years, we went to work on giving them the biggest amplifier we could findit was time to truly do battle.
As 1989 dawned, National Organizations Responding to AIDS (NORA) refined its efforts to focus on three measurable goals. First, win appropriations for AIDS research. Second, pass civil rights legislation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. And third, expedite the FDAs process for approving experimental AIDS drugs.
That year also marked the beginning of a new Congress (the 101st) and a new administration under President George H. W. Bush. In December 1988, the NORA leadership arrived early to a large conference room in the transition teams offices in D.C. The doors finally swung open, and in walked the president-elect. We were shockedwe had not expected to see him in person; we had prepared to meet with some of his staff. We gathered ourselves and made our pitch. He listened intently and then pledged to do better on this issue. The bizarre moment seemed to offer a glimmer of hope toward opening a dialogue.
But contrary to his pledge to do better, Bush allotted no new money for AIDS in his proposed fiscal year 1990 budget. This was largely a continuation of Reagans policy of avoiding AIDS, but it also perpetuated the previous eight years of slashing and burning the domestic budget. The budget and appropriations process in this kind of environment was going to be brutal. All the AIDS bills in the world wouldnt mean anything if they never got funded.
Prevention was a trickier matter because it meant talking about condoms and homosexuality and drug abuse.
There was also growing concern by other health groups that we (the AIDS lobby) were going to take some of their funding especially at the NIH.
We soon started to realize that we couldnt just keep funding research. We had to get out of the white coats and stethoscope modewhich was the only safe place to be politicallyand start helping the organizations trying to care for people with AIDS. The practical measure of successful public policy is always public benefit, and that was singularly missing from the AIDS policy debate up until that moment. Thus, we began a conversation with a small group of AIDS policy experts. One of the first recommendations from these discussions was that we take on entitlement reformthat is, we should make Medicare and Medicaid more accessible for AIDS patients so they would not have to wait 24 months to be considered disabled to qualify for Medicare or to spend down all their money to poverty levels to qualify for Medicaid.
Prevention was a trickier matter because it meant talking about condoms and homosexuality and drug abuse. Any attempt at a serious and meaningful prevention strategy was sure to bring Helms and company to the party. We knew an all-out confrontation over AIDS prevention was unlikely to be winnable. Practicalities are not always easy to embrace, especially when shelving a critical element of your public health strategy will result in more people infected with HIV. But, in the final analysis, care offered our best and possibly only chance to win.
Part of the process we used to reach this conclusion was a strategic meeting with key members of Congress and their senior staff. When I would discuss the matter with Orrin Hatch, he told me frankly that he couldnt support us on most of the prevention issues but that he did care about how these people [AIDS patients] were treatedespecially in their final days. This sort of care for sinner without condoning the sin philosophy was fairly typical of Christian conservatives, who were at their apex of power at the time.
I started to realize that we could win over these pragmatic and more compassionate conservatives like Orrin Hatch (as well as the fiscal conservatives who hated entitlement programs) if we could create a cost-effective model that relied on early intervention and outpatient/community/home-based care, one that could act as a bridge from work to disability. If we could get conservatives to come to our side strictly on the merits of public health and fiscal arguments, then this could really be the next frontier for a major AIDS bill. However, first we had to know what was really needed in terms of care on the front lines.
In February 1990, Kennedy, Hatch, and 26 other co-sponsors introduced S.2240, the Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act of 1990. Elizabeth Taylor joined Kennedy and Hatch for a widely covered introductory hearing and press conference to announce the bill and promote its swift passage.
The next day, we sent out an action alert to the NORA coalition, requesting letters in support of CARE. It seems so antiquated now, but back then it was cutting-edge stuff: in a few hours we could inform organizations and individuals around the nation that an important action was getting ready to happen (mostly thanks to our knowledge of votes in committee or on the floor). Once our action alerts hit the fax machines, massive phone trees, and phone banks were deployed to help fill up phone lines and message pads with our support or opposition. When NORA got big that meant one action alert would go to 120 organizations who would then fax the alert to their field and they would begin the phone or letter campaign. At our best we could put a few hundred calls or letters in a congressional office within 48 hours. It was considered revolutionary back then.
All during March and April, letters poured in from AIDS service organizations all around the country. Efforts like this in other issue areas would have cost millions of dollars and taken years to create, so in this sense, the structure of the coalition worked brilliantly.
In early April 1990, the battle over AIDS funding had reached its zenith in the Senate. We were poised for CAREs markup hearing before the Senate Committee on Labor, Health, and Welfare. Despite Kennedy and Hatch as co-sponsors, the long-term prospects didnt look good. Even though we hadnt yet realized it, we needed help. We needed a superstar. And we found him in Ryan White.
It was Senator Hatch who suggested the bill be named in honor of Ryan.At this point, Ryan was dying. A week earlier, Ryan had been admitted to the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis with a severe respiratory infection. He had to be placed on a ventilator and sedated.
While we immediately agreed that this was a noble idea, I remember worrying that we might offend Jeanne by using the publics sympathy for her son to gain political traction. I suggested that Senator Kennedy call Jeanne to ask her permission. I had no idea how she would react. Here she was, this young single mother from small-town Indiana, whose family had been thrust into the national spotlight just five years earlier. Now she was at her sons deathbed about to be interrupted by a relative stranger (albeit one of the most powerful politicians in the country) six hundred miles away in Washington who wanted to use her dying sons name to help win a fierce political battle over AIDS policy.
Senator Kennedy and Senator Hatch each spoke with Jeanne briefly and explained the situation. Well, Im not sure what to say, I remember her saying. I mean, I guess that would be great. Ryan would be honoredwe would be honored. That would be terrific. Can you do that? Will this really help? Secretly, I wondered if Jeanne truly understood the enormous act of generosity she was committing and the legacy that Ryans name would bear. But Senator Kennedy hung up with a satisfied smile. Lets get to work, he said as he stood up abruptly and headed toward the committee room. He strode in, called the committee to order, and without hesitation, they renamed the bill for Ryan and put the final touches on the most important AIDS legislation ever considered by the U.S. Congress.
It wasnt until we were ready to bring the bill to the full Senate the following week that we ran into problems. Senators Jesse Helms, Gordon Humphrey, and Malcolm Wallop and a handful of other Republicans said they would immediately block it from going to the floor, and George Mitchell, then Senate majority leader, acquiesced, saying he just didnt know if he could find time in the Senate calendar to withstand a filibuster.
In the 90s, filibusters were rarely used, and they were considered an extreme tactic in legislative negotiation. Those 72 hours represented precious time, which would not be squandered for a losing cause. The clock was ticking: we had to pass the bill in the Senate, get it through the House, and then get it through a conference committee by September in order to get it signed before the federal budget was completed for the year. We might well get the entire Congress to agree on a huge new AIDS programonly to miss the budget negotiation and therefore lose out on funding.
I went to Senator Bob Doles officehe was then Republican minority leaderand met with his chief of staff, Sheila Burke, to see what could be done. Sheila had been a nurse and understood the severity and human toll of the AIDS crisis. She was also in charge of the very delicate task of protecting the rights of Republicans as the minority party. Though she was harshly criticized for iteven years laterSheila helped us figure out how to isolate Helms and his colleagues so we could get the majority of Republicans to go along with Ryan White. Sheila assured me that we had to prove that we could mobilize a super majority (60 senators) to break any attempt at a filibuster by Helms. As it stood, we had barely 40 co-sponsors, and the list was largely Democratic. I buried my head in my hands and sighed. I had a queasy feeling that good might not prevail this time.
The rest of the day flowed in a surreal fashion: as senators came out of the chamber, we picked them off one by one. By 7 oclock that evening, we had gone from 42 senators co-sponsoring the bill to 61.
Then, something both tragic and miraculous happened. That Sunday, April 8, Ryan White died. News of his death reached the major news outlets before I even had a chance to call Jeanne. Knowing she would be flooded with calls of sympathy and with the painful business of funeral arrangements, I decided to wait a week before reaching out. Finally, on April 16, I called her and listened to her describe her last few days at Ryans bedside. She finished, and I remained quiet for a moment. Then, I began, Jeanne, I know this is a difficult time and Im not sure how to even ask this but we need you here in Washington. We dont have the support we need yet for the CARE bill, for Ryans bill, and I need you to come and talk to some senators here.
With little hesitation, she said, Okay, Ill comebut I cant leave now; I have to do laundry. We agreed shed leave the next day. I hung up and called the airline to book her ticket for the next flight from Indianapolis. Realizing suddenly that we didnt have a working credit card anywhere in our possession, I ran around frantically asking everyone I could think of for their credit card number. They must have thought I had finally lost my mind. Thankfully, a donor to AIDS Action came through.
I picked Jeanne up late the next day. With no organizational funds for hotels, we hosted her in our guest room that night, and the next day we took a cab straight to the Capitol. I briefed her on the way over. She asked only a few questions and was calm and quiet. I sensed something had shifted in her. She seemed stoic and anxious. We arrived at the Senate entrance to the Capitol Building and began to climb the sprawling marble steps that lead to the main Senate chamber. It was then that she had that first incredible conversation with Senator Biden.
The rest of the day flowed in a surreal fashion: as senators came out of the chamber, we picked them off one by one. By 7 oclock that evening, we had gone from 42 senators co-sponsoring the bill to 61one more than the magic number we needed.
We gained more than just Ryans bravery, or his sudden celebrity, when he lent his name and spirit to the CARE Act. It helped us circumvent the misinformation, hysteria, and rampant homophobia associated by many with the disease, since most Americans viewed Ryan as an innocent who contracted this deadly illness despite doing nothing wrong. These are not and were not my thoughts, but those prejudices mattered in the politics of the moment. Even so, Ryan and his family embraced the gay community and rejected this dichotomy of innocent versus guilty. Ryan made it clear that AIDS was no divine retribution for immoral acts of homosexuals, and he made it impossible for legislators to ignore the disease. Looking back, I wonder if there were forces at work beyond our understanding. I cant help but think that Ryan Whites deathand the grief of so many other losses that we spotlighted on the Hillwere sacrifices that took CARE from a pipe dream to a reality and changed history.
Despite Jeannes heroic efforts in building a filibuster-proof majority, we still had a ways to go. I asked Jeanne if she could stay a few more days. She agreed. Then I called Tim Sweeney in New York. He said he would send out an alert immediately to GMHC clients family members to see how many would be willing to come to Washington on short notice. We bought 75 seats on an Amtrak train car and started loading people up in Boston, then continued on to New York, Philly, Baltimore, and then finally D.C. At each stop the car filled with friends and family members of people who were living with, or had died from, AIDS. Jeanne White marched the group of mostly middle-aged and elderly women straight to the Senate visitors gallery, where they stayed until Senator Mitchell came to the floor around 7 p.m. and announced that he would call up the CARE Act. We had survived the first several rounds of political wrangling. When the final vote came on May 16, it passed hands down95 to 4 in favor, with one not voting. But we were far from cracking open the champagne. Once CARE suddenly looked even more viable, people started coming out of the woodwork with requests.
These were very explosive times. The high-stakes dynamic created political theater and opportunity. One major source of drama was the group ACT UP, an extreme left-wing activist group. The stunts they orchestrated that spring as CARE was weaving its way through Congress were legendary.
On May 21, 1990, ACT UP stormed the campus of the National Institutes of Health, throwing blood around the lobby and breaking down the door of the directors office. It was unclear to all but the ACT UP members if this blood was human and if it was infected with HIV. In fact, it was pigs blood and posed no threat, but it horrified NIH scientists and bureaucrats. I got a good talking-to by members of Congress, who reminded me that they were inclined to be supportive but not if the community continued these kinds of antics. The following September a group of ACT UP members created a giant condom (out of latex balloon), rented a cherry picker truck, and stretched it over Senator Jesse Helmss home in suburban Virginia. This stunt got me more than a few tongue-lashings from senators in both parties.
Sometimes, ACT UP would even target us. The job of the activist is to demand and push the margins; the job of the lobbyist is to get a majority while holding on to key principles but knowing you have to compromise to get the votes to win. This understandably resulted in some tension between our two groups. Once, when Pat Christen was pregnant and giving a presentation, an activist ran onto the stage and dumped a box of used cat litter on her head (an obvious attempt to scare her, since toxoplasmosis, which cats can carry, can be harmful to fetuses). On another occasion, at a meeting at AIDS Actions offices, the local ACT UP group burst through the doors and handcuffed all of us to the conference tabletrying to symbolize the fact that we were complicit in handcuffing people with AIDS to outdated regulations that kept lifesaving treatments off the market.
Every time ACT UP pulled something new, I tried to use the opportunity to remind members of Congress that unless I could work with them to produce some modicum of progress on AIDS policy, actions like this were likely to persist. While the left wing was mostly about street theater and rage, about disrupting ambivalence by shocking people into attention, the right wing expressed its opposition in an overtly political fashion aimed mostly at fund-raising and winning elections. Over time, as I spoke with more members and their constituents, I began to realize how turned off most people were by both extremes. The crazier the crazies became, the more members wished to be associated with a moderate middle ground.
In the case of the Ryan White Act, allowing the left to shout and the right to make demands made both sides feel like they were being heard.
I began to develop what I call the airplane theory, which is a simple rule for managing issue-based campaigns. It goes like this: To fly an airplane, you need a left wing and a right wing. If either wing is missing, the plane wont fly. The smart strategist recognizes that they are the pilot. The pilots job is to manage the rage by allowingeven facilitating, if necessaryan irrational left wing in order to pressure the right wing to make concessions. Meanwhile, the pilot can use the presence of right-wing ideologues to encourage politicians to support a more moderate position. Novice strategists frequently spend too much time and create too much drama trying to control the extremes. My advice is simple; you cant control it, so use it!
In the case of the Ryan White Act, allowing the left to shout and the right to make demands made both sides feel like they were being heard. This ultimately allowed the bill to represent a true moral consensus in a way that few other bills have since then. Orrin Hatch wanted to help people who were dying, even though he is a fiscally and socially conservative Republican; Kennedy saw the great injustice of the AIDS epidemic and used his considerable skill and reputation to address it.
After CARE passed the Senate, we waged a similar battle on the House side. The process for moving legislation in the House is much simpler than the Senate. House bills go through the Rules Committee, and they decide how a bill will be called to the floor, what amendments will be in order, and what the time and debate allocations will be. When a bill leaves the Rules Committee, all the legislative maneuvering is planned. In this context especially, the powerful Democratic chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, Henry Waxman, was a master. He got the bill out of his subcommittee past a Helms-like Republican named Bill Dannemeyer. He got the powerful Democratic chairman of the full committee, John Dingell, to push the bill through committee, which is one of the most intense moments when negotiating a bill to its final version.
After several more days of back and forth, the House and Senate approved the final version of the Ryan White CARE Act of 1990 on August 4. The only thing left was to make sure President Bush signed itwhich was still far from a given. Some members of the Bush administration didnt like the way the CARE Act was crafted. It was very prescriptive, and it forced federal action in very fast time frames. There had been times in writing the bill when I had deep cooperation from people embedded in the agencies, but Id also had some of the more political types threaten me with veto warnings. Up until that moment Id ignored them; now I could not. In a very matter-of-fact way, I told Bushs chief counsel Boyden Gray that, should the president choose to veto or threaten to veto the bill, ACT UP would join forces with Jeanne White and all of the mothers whod come to the Senate, and theyd meet at the front gates of the White House to express their outrage. He listened politely, and I never heard any more objections.
Bush finally signed the bill on August 18 while on Air Force One somewhere over Missouri on his way to Texas. The administration had refused to do a public signing in the White House or to let Jeanne come to the private signing. I will never know whether President Bush was determined to spite us or if his staff recommended that he not sign the bill publicly. The pettiness of it all left us with a bitter taste, but we didnt need White House fanfare to understand the magnitude of what we had accomplished.
The day the Ryan White CARE Act was signed into law, I left my office at AIDS Action and drove with Vince down to our summer home in Lewes, Delaware. I go to Lewes often to gather myself, rest a little, and think. I remember arriving that late summer afternoon, getting a glass of wine, sitting down on the front porch with our golden retriever, Crosbyand crying. I honestly dont know why I cried. Im Irish; we dont cry unless its watching coffee commercials at Christmastime. I think it was mostly happiness, a sense of pride and relief, and an expression of the grief I felt for so many but didnt have time to reveal. All of it came over me in that one quiet moment. I knew that what we did was remarkable, but the awareness that is was historic would come later. At the final moments of this great victory, I was only looking at the future and hoping to do more.
From the book Helping the Good Do Better. Copyright (c) 2019 by Tom Sheridan. Reprinted by permission of Twelve/Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved
Thankfully, Amy is a professional writer — and when the Internet asked, she delivered a spectacular backstory behind the viral pic.
So, a couple people have asked for the story behind The Dress. Sorry for the delay! I have four kids (yes, I married him) on summer break, so my permanent state of being is “frazzled.” I called my daughter “mom” the other day.
LOLz! Been there!
But she was up to the task and delivered a Twitter tale complete with twists and turns.
I didn’t know what my mother-in-law planned to wear. I didn’t think to ask.
The morning of the wedding, all the women in the bridal party cram into a tiny room in the church. You know, body glitter and hairspray everywhere. Fifteen coats of mascara. Putting napkins under your pits so you don’t sweat on your dress.
She walks in. I see it.
I don’t remember much about the day. Most people say their wedding is a blur, and that’s true for me, too. But I know I said this: “You… You could be the bride…”
Later, my sister (matron of honor) said she didn’t pull me aside and talk about it because she hoped I was too distracted to notice. My college roommate (bridesmaid) said the same thing.
But secretly, they both spent the reception looking at me, then each other, then MIL, then me, then the cop the venue made us hire—hoping I didn’t go for his taser.
I’m happy to report the wedding unfolded without bloodshed, or anyone being shoved into the champagne fountain.
Not only that, the marriage has gone well — so well Amy now has a much better understanding of her mother-in-law.
Here’s the thing: My mother-in-law is extremely frugal. And I don’t mean she just enjoys a good bargain. To understand her, you have to know where she comes from.
She grew up in extreme poverty. As a child, she used to sneak into the kitchen and eat match heads. That’s a pica craving, and kids do it when they’re malnourished.
When you grow up with nothing, it stays with you. Forever, I think. No matter how much money you earn, there’s always that little fear in the back of your mind that someone might take it all away.
But her upbringing didn’t make her hard. Or cruel. Or selfish.
Not the type to try to steal her daughter-in-law’s big day, in other words…
However, she’s a bargain hunter to the bone. Her money saving strategies are legend—and often hilarious. At family gatherings, we amuse ourselves telling stories of crazy shit she’s done to save money.
For example, she takes the olives and celery out of a Bloody Mary and saves them for salads.
She once walked casually to the table where I was eating a subway sandwich and put my discarded cold cuts in a baggie because “someone will eat them.”
Sound like any mommas you know?
When Sally Jesse Raphael was popular, she didn’t have the money to buy red glasses, so she painted hers with red nail polish.
“I still have those,” she says.
She was so excited to turn 60, so she could claim her discounts. As long as there’s a bargain involved, she doesn’t care about getting older.
When my husband and his sisters were young, and they went to dinner, she’d try to get coupons back from the server so they could reuse them.
She always has a plastic water bottle in her purse. At restaurants, she’ll fill up her bottle with water from the table. “Why not? I’m paying for it.”
She brings her own mint and lime to restaurants because “the bartenders don’t know how to make a good Mojito.”
That one isn’t so much about money, it’s about taste.
When my daughter drinks ice water, my mother-in-law makes her put the empty glass on the counter. “Leave the ice in there…it’ll melt and make more water.”
And the dress? You guessed it. It was a great deal.
So when she spotted The Dress at an incredible bargain, she couldn’t turn it down. If you ask her now, she says she feels terrible about it.
Although, she also told me, “I think I’ve still got it. We should raffle it off.”
She’s frugal. But she’s also incredibly generous. When my twins were newborns, she drove across town every night, slept on the sofa, and did three feedings. For two babies. Every night for months.
She regularly shows up at my house with bags of new clothes for the kids. (Because she’s a kick ass bargain hunter.)
When I got my first job, she hemmed all my work pants because I can’t sew for shit. And because she was proud of me.
She never misses a band concert, sports event, talent show, science fair…you name it. She’d walk over hot coals for her grandchildren. She gives them everything. Because, you know, she grew up with nothing.
This is so sweet! You guys, we did NOT expect that when we started reading!
So, yeah, the wedding dress was a shock. But it gave me a pretty funny memory. No one who attended has ever forgotten it. And, you have to admit, weddings can be forgettable.
Sure, she wore a wedding dress to my wedding. But she has more than made up for it since. When I told her about this getting a lot of attention, and said I worried it might hurt her feelings, she waved it off. “Whatever makes me famous.”
And, because I’m a romance author, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add: And they lived happily ever after.
Awwwww! So sweet!
And, after her mother-in-law’s heart, way to segue into a shameless plug! We got you, gurl!
Amy Pennza is a romance writer alright! Though we doubt her work has anything as wholesome as the tale you just read…
She’s the author of some choice looking erotica, including sexy werewolf books called the Lux Catena series.
The only place Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has time to read anything that isn’t one of her briefing books is when she’s on a plane. In April 2018, Harris saw a harrowing story in The New York Times Magazine detailing the unique horrors of maternal mortality for black women.
“For black women in America,” the article reads, “an inescapable atmosphere of societal and systemic racism can create a kind of toxic physiological stress, resulting in conditions — including hypertension and pre-eclampsia — that lead directly to higher rates of infant and maternal death.”
“It was devastating,” recalled Harris to HuffPost this week. “When I was able to see to the numbers, it propelled me. It prompted me to do something.”
Women living in the U.S. have higher rates of maternal mortality than those in other high-income countries, due, in part, to the disproportionate rates of pregnancy-related deaths for black women. A recent CDC study found that black women are 3.3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. This means that for every 100,000 live births, nearly 43 black women will die.
Harris forwarded the Times article to her staffers and encouraged them to read it with the intent of figuring out what could be done legislatively. Nearly a year before, in the summer of 2017, Harris had read a Vox article about Stanford University’s California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative, an initiative that collects data on maternal health, identifies preventable complications and then figures out next steps. She sent her staff that one, too.
Every day we wait, every day we don’t address it, is a day that a mother could possibly die.Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)
Her team got to work on what would evolve into the Maternal CARE Act, a bill comprising three key components that address the issue of black maternal mortality through a systemic lens. The legislation aims to make providers aware of any underlying racial biases they hold via implicit bias training, to commission a national study to develop ways to institute that training more broadly and to establish care programs that provide integrated services to pregnant women and new moms.
The bill, to be reintroduced in the coming weeks, is part of a current onslaught of legislation attempting to address the issue of black maternal mortality. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) reintroduced the MOMS Act, a complement to Harris’ bill, in January. In March, Illinois Democrats Rep. Robin Kelly and Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth reintroduced the MOMMA’s Act.
“I can’t sit by, knowing this is something that is happening, and not do something about it,” Harris said.
Harris didn’t simply send the articles out to her staff and sit back waiting on someone to hand her a finished piece of legislation.
“She made sure we all read it,” said Rohini Kosoglu, Harris’ Senate chief of staff. “‘This article came out, have people seen it?’ We sent it around, then she would follow up: ‘Have you guys read it?’ [and] have a conversation about it.”
The senator wasn’t checking in every day. But every few weeks, often when it was least expected, she would inquire as to the status of the bill. “She wanted to make sure that we’ve identified an issue — people are hurting who are vulnerable people — and that we are sticking to a decent timeline to get this all done and out,” said Kosoglu.
“Every day we wait, every day we don’t address it, is a day that a mother could possibly die,” Harris said. “Or just not receive the kind of health care that can lead to the best outcomes in terms of her health and the health of her baby. I take it very seriously.”
Harris has always been acutely aware of disparities in women’s health. Throughout her life, she listened to her mother, breast cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan, discuss how health issues affecting women of color aren’t given the same level of attention.
“The fact of it is not shocking, but to see … the documentation of it and the unfairness of it — it’s just so wrong,” said Harris. “You don’t have to scratch the surface of this issue very deep to know it is literally all about racial bias.”
You don’t have to scratch the surface of this issue very deep to know it is literally all about racial bias.Kamala Harris
Whenever a policy issue pertains to vulnerable populations — particularly women and children of color — Harris’ zeal becomes more apparent. In one instance, she went up to Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) on the Senate floor to discuss black maternal mortality. Harris wants other lawmakers to be aware that socioeconomic status and educational attainment doesn’t prevent black mothers from dying.
“It’s literally all about race,” reiterates Harris while noting that Scott was “surprised and concerned.” (Scott’s office did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.)
“I think of that as being a part of my role and my responsibility as a leader,” she continued, “which is to help educate people about issues that they should know about and that if they knew about would prompt them to act.”
Jamila Taylor, a senior fellow and the director of Women’s Health and Rights at the Center for American Progress, reached out to Harris’ office to collaborate on the issue after the senator tweeted out a column Taylor had written about black maternal mortality for Mother’s Day. This sparked a series of meetings and conversations that took place throughout 2018 and 2019. Taylor, who helped write the legislation, continues to work with Harris and her office today.
“They were attentive. They were always seeking to learn more about the issue,” said Taylor of Harris’ staff. “They really wanted to get a grounding — and also wanted to make sure that she had a grounding — before they decided how they would enter into the space and what kind of legislation they would introduce.”
After months of research, the bill began to take shape. The first piece of the Maternal CARE Act focuses on establishing a $25 million grant program — $5 million each for fiscal years 2019 through 2023 — for medical, nursing and other health professional schools and training programs to institute implicit bias training.
The second part of the legislation provides $25 million in grants to up to 10 states so that they can establish pregnancy medical home programs that would deliver health care services to pregnant women and new mothers in hopes of reducing adverse outcomes. (Stanford’s CMQCC initiative would help inform the second piece of Harris’ bill, the Pregnancy Medical Home Demonstration Project, said Kosoglu. And working on that piece alone took about a year.)
The third calls on the pregnancy home medical programs to circulate their practices and commissions a National Academy of Medicine study that would provide recommendations for incorporating implicitbias recognition into clinical skills testing for all accredited medical schools.
Including bias training in the bill was of high personal importance to Harris. She had studied the issue and how it relates to policing during her tenure as California attorney general — under her directive, California police underwent implicit bias training following high-profile shootings of unarmed black people that, she says, reinforced her understanding that implicit bias has fatal consequences.
“When those women walk into a clinic or doctor’s office or a hospital, they are not taken as seriously as other women simply because they are black,” said Harris. “And that is about racial bias. It is about the bias that the person they are talking with brings to a decision about the legitimacy of their complaint or concern. So I wanted to address it at that root.”
When Harris’ team ran the idea of including implicit bias training by professors, medical professionals and experts, Kosoglu said they agreed it was necessary. “We were able to take that concept with her guidance on directing us how to do it, and have our experts say, ‘Yeah, we should be doing that here in this field,’” said Kosoglu.
It wasn’t easy to pin down those specifics. Staff still had to ensure that there’s accountability for the fact that black women are treated differently within the medical system.
The Center for American Progress’ Taylor hasn’t seen any recent drafts of the bill, but she has provided feedback on which components her team thinks should be strengthened. “All people who are interacting with women in the health care system … should be trained — not just the docs, not just the nurses,” she said.
“What are the other sort of training or educational entities for health care professionals and other support staff that could use training like this?” she continued. “And also not just implicit bias. It’s also explicit bias. So how do we get at some of those pieces and aspects of what is happening and how these things manifest in the health care system?”
Harris echoed this sentiment to HuffPost. “People should not consider it something that affects ‘them,’ as in the ‘other.’ The health status and the well-being of a black mother is an issue that should concern everyone — just like the maternal health of any woman should concern everyone.”