Flashback Book Review:
The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy

The second in my Flashback Book Review series: Kimberly Seals-Allers’s The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy. NY: Amistad, 2006.

This book is awesome. Seals-Allers has filled the much-needed void of pregnancy books for Black women. On the medical side, Black women are at greater risk for certain medical conditions. Personally and socially, there are issues and concerns that are disproportionately, or specifically, relevant to the Black community, and it’s important to address them. Furthermore, readers can see themselves in the text, and be reassured that the author is speaking to them and recognizes who they are. (From my own position, these concerns are so familiar…)

The format of this book is multi-faceted. The bulk of the text is personal experience and commentary, but Seals-Allers incorporates short quotations and 2-3 page narratives by famous and everyday Black women about their pregnancy and birth experiences. In addition, when the subject matter turns technical, she calls in the big guns: guest doctors. These OB/GYNs and dermatologists weigh in on various issues, which lends credibility to the book. I especially appreciate this piece when compared to other books written by authors who are not medical professionals.

I had high hopes for this book, but was also a bit worried about the cutesy, chick-lit terminology and another reviewer’s comparison to The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy. My fears were unfounded, however. Yes, it’s still cutesy (Seals-Allers does use the word “fabulous” in the title) but the information is solid and it reads well. I would absolutely recommend this book to a client, although not as a primary resource, because other books include much more detail about the scientific medical specifics.

It is important to note that this book alone, in all my review of the literature, addressed pregnant readers who are HIV positive. Important because this is a huge omission from every other book out there, because it highlights the disparity in HIV rates in the Black community, and also because that omission is indicative of the fact that other “general audience” books are actually written for the white reader.

As for relevance to my research, I noticed many similarities between this book and my own work: both are devoted to making visible an erroneous assumption in other pregnancy books. Seals-Allers writes because Black women do not necessarily have the same pregnancy experience as the “default” white woman; I write because trans people do not necessarily have the same pregnancy experience as cisgender women. I certainly appreciate Seals-Allers’s perspective, and can learn from her approach to introducing these topics. Her voice is a crucial piece of the pregnancy resource literature.