George Estreich, Fables and Futures
Corvallis author George Estreich joins us to talk about his new book from MIT Press: Fables and Futures: Biotechnology, Disability, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves. The book explores how new biomedical technologies require us to imagine who counts as human and what it means to belong. From next-generation prenatal tests, to virtual children, to the genome-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9, new biotechnologies grant us unprecedented power to predict and shape future people. That power implies a question about belonging: which people, which variations, will we welcome? How will we square advances in biotechnology with the real but fragile gains for people with disabilities -- especially when their voices are all but absent from the conversation?
The book explores the troubled territory where biotechnology and disability meet. Estreich, an award-winning poet and memoirist -- and the father of a young woman with Down syndrome -- delves into popular representations of cutting-edge biotech: websites advertising next-generation prenatal tests, feature articles on "three-parent IVF," a scientist's memoir of constructing a semisynthetic cell, and more. As Estreich shows, each new application of biotechnology is accompanied by a persuasive story, one that minimizes downsides and promises enormous benefits. In chapters that blend personal narrative and scholarship, Estreich restores disability to our narratives of technology. He also considers broader themes: the place of people with disabilities in a world built for the able; the echoes of eugenic history in the genomic present; and the equation of intellect and human value. In the words of one reviewer, "Fables and Futures is a well-researched, original, and engaging book. Estreich explores new biotechnologies by considering the person rather the condition. He weaves together claims of science with popular culture, personal experiences, and history. Beautifully written, the book calls for a conversation about the promises and perils of the new biotechnologies."
George Estreich is the author of The Shape of the Eye: A Memoir, winner of the Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction in 2012. His poetry collection Textbook Illustrations of the Human Body, won the Gorsline Prize from Cloudbank Books. His writing has appeared in Tin House, the New York Times, Salon, and other publications. Estreich teaches creative nonfiction for the MFA program in creative writing at Oregon State University.