George Estreich's "Fables and Futures: Biotechnology, Disability, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves"

Please join us for a reading and discussion of


GEORGE ESTREICH, the author, will be in conversation with Professor JOSH LUKIN!


How new biomedical technologies—from prenatal testing to gene-editing techniques—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 new biotech advances with the real but fragile gains for people with disabilities—especially when their voices are all but absent from the conversation?

This book explores that conversation, the troubled territory where biotechnology and disability meet. In it, George 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 this story, people with disabilities are both invisible and essential: a key promise of new technologies is that disability will be repaired or prevented.

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. Examining the stories we tell ourselves, the fables already creating our futures, Estreich argues that, given biotech that can select and shape who we are, we need to imagine, as broadly as possible, what it means to belong.

GEORGE ESTREICH’s publications include a chapbook, Elegy for Dan Rabinowitz (Intertext, 1993), and a full-length poetry collection, Textbook Illustrations of the Human Body, which won the Gorsline Prize from Cloudbank Books (2003). The Shape of the Eye (SMU Press, 2011; Penguin, 2013), his memoir about raising a daughter with Down syndrome, received the 2012 Oregon Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. Estreich has published essays and articles in The New York Times, The Oregonian, Avidly, The American Medical Association Journal of Ethics, Salon, Tin House, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. He teaches writing at Oregon State University.

JOSH LUKIN teaches in Temple University’s English Department and its award-winning First Year Writing Program. His scholarly pursuits include mid-twentieth century U.S. fiction and disability studies. Josh has given presentations on issues affecting the disability movement at a wide range of venues: the Pennsylvania Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, UPenn, Occupy Philly, the University of Delaware, and Temple’s Intellectual Heritage program. He has served on the Black Disability Studies Committee of the National Black Disability Coalition, attempting to promote the teaching of Black Disability History in colleges. Josh is the editor of Invisible Suburbs: Recovering Protest Fiction in the 1950s United States (University Press of Mississippi, 2008). His most recently published essay is “Science Fiction, Affect, and Crip Self-Invention—Or, How Philip K. Dick Made Me Disabled.”

Event date: 
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Event address: 
Penn Book Center
130 S. 34th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Fables and Futures: Biotechnology, Disability, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves Cover Image
ISBN: 9780262039567
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Mit Press - March 19th, 2019