Joshua Prager at Harvard Book Store
The Family Roe:
An American Story
in conversation with CALLIE CROSSLEY
January 19, 2023
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes award-winning author JOSHUA PRAGER for a discussion of his Pulitzer Prize-finalist book The Family Roe: An American Story. He will be joined in conversation by Emmy Award-winning producer and Boston-based radio show host CALLIE CROSSLEY.
A Return to In-Person Events
Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Harvard Book Store events until further notice:
- Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the store. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth.
About The Family Roe
Despite her famous pseudonym, “Jane Roe,” no one knows the truth about Norma McCorvey (1947–2017), whose unwanted pregnancy in 1969 opened a great fracture in American life. Journalist Joshua Prager spent hundreds of hours with Norma, discovered her personal papers―a previously unseen trove―and witnessed her final moments. The Family Roe presents her life in full. Propelled by the crosscurrents of sex and religion, gender and class, it is a life that tells the story of abortion in America.
Prager begins that story on the banks of Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River where Norma was born, and where unplanned pregnancies upended generations of her forebears. A pregnancy then upended Norma’s life too, and the Dallas waitress became Jane Roe.
Drawing on a decade of research, Prager reveals the woman behind the pseudonym, writing in novelistic detail of her unknown life from her time as a sex worker in Dallas, to her private thoughts on family and abortion, to her dealings with feminist and Christian leaders, to the three daughters she placed for adoption.
Prager found those women, including the youngest―Baby Roe―now fifty years old. She shares her story in The Family Roe for the first time, from her tortured interactions with her birth mother, to her emotional first meeting with her sisters, to the burden that was uniquely hers from conception.
The Family Roe abounds in such revelations―not only about Norma and her children but about the broader “family” connected to the case. Prager tells the stories of activists and bystanders alike whose lives intertwined with Roe. In particular, he introduces three figures as important as they are unknown: feminist lawyer Linda Coffee, who filed the original Texas lawsuit yet now lives in obscurity; Curtis Boyd, a former fundamentalist Christian, today a leading provider of third-trimester abortions; and Mildred Jefferson, the first black female Harvard Medical School graduate, who became a pro-life leader with great secrets.
An epic work spanning fifty years of American history, The Family Roe will change the way you think about our enduring American divide: the right to choose or the right to life.
Praise for The Family Roe
"[A]n honest glimpse into the American soul...a sweeping, granular, century-deep case for women’s sovereignty over themselves." ―Anand Giridharadas, New York Times Book Review
"The Family Roe is a work of deep empathy without sentimentality, a recovery of fact over myth, a quintessentially American story." ―Linda Greenhouse, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Joseph M. Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School
"A prizeworthy masterpiece of poignant history, an emotionally compelling account of the profound issues that surround reproductive choice." ―David J. Garrow, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Liberty and Sexuality
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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