Friday, July 20, 2012

The Pregnancy Project: A Memoir by Gaby Rodriguez with Jenna Glatzer

It's difficult to talk about teen pregnancy in a public way. Too often it takes either one of two routes: teen parents are either villainized, judged, and written off or glamourized and placed in situations that become so unlike the majority of teen parents. For her senior project, Gaby Rodriguez wanted to look beyond those portrayals to the real people that the pregnancy involves.Teen pregnancy was something that was very present in her life: her mother had been a teen mom, her brothers and sisters had faced teen pregnancy or young parenthood, and people always told her how she was destined to follow in their footsteps. For her project, Gaby decided to get pregnant - a fake pregnancy - and see how people reacted to her. Would they think that she was living down to expectations? Would the pregnancy nullify all of her good grades and her previous reputation? What would her friends say? What would people who didn't even know her say? Gaby wanted to compile their reactions and talk about the way that pregnant teens are treated. With only her mom, her boyfriend, and a few teachers in on the assignment, she had no idea what she was heading into.

The book is divided into three parts: before, during, and after the 'pregnancy.' I had expected most of the story to focus on pretending to be pregnant, so I was surprised when so much time was spent talking about her family and detailing her relationship with her brothers and sisters. This backstory, however, was crucial to understanding how passionate Gaby was about this project. She didn't just see teen pregnancy in the abstract; she saw it as part of her life. Equally interesting was the media reaction to the story. Almost overnight Gaby was courted by major television networks wanting to tell her story. Many people would think that it would be cool to have The Today Show or Good Morning America wanting to interview you, but when Gaby describes the way that the media hounded her and, for lack of a better word, stalked her, it's not the glamorous story that you might have had in mind. I did wonder how much of this was an attempt at shaping a story - in order to make it clear that she didn't want fame or a book deal or a Lifetime movie, does she go overboard in describing how she tried to hide from the media? Possibly. But I truly do believe that the project came from a very real place, a place that was determined to make a difference and change how people think about teen pregnancy. I do think that the book would have benefited from pictures, especially ones that show what Gaby looked like during her experiment, but the words can stand on their own. At just over two-hundred pages, it's not a long book, but it does tell an incredible story.

Gaby's story is also a Lifetime movie.

Find it at IndieBound. 

Read it with:
Not Afraid of Life by Bristol Palin
Science Fair Season by Judy Dutton
Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky

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