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Behave
by Andromeda Romano-Lax

Published: 2016-03-01
Hardcover : 400 pages
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From the author of The Spanish Bow comes a lush, harrowing novel based on the real life story of Rosalie Rayner Watson, one of the most controversial scientists—and mothers—of the 20th century

“The mother begins to destroy the child the moment it’s born,”
wrote the founder of ...
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Introduction

From the author of The Spanish Bow comes a lush, harrowing novel based on the real life story of Rosalie Rayner Watson, one of the most controversial scientists—and mothers—of the 20th century

“The mother begins to destroy the child the moment it’s born,”
wrote the founder of behaviorist psychology, John B. Watson, whose 1928 parenting guide was revered as the child-rearing bible. For their dangerous and “mawkish” impulses to kiss and hug their child, “most mothers should be indicted for psychological murder.”

Behave is the story of Rosalie Rayner, Watson’s ambitious young wife and the mother of two of his children.

In 1920, when she graduated from Vassar College, Rayner was ready to make her mark on the world. Intelligent, beautiful, and unflappable, she won a coveted research position at Johns Hopkins assisting the charismatic celebrity psychologist John B. Watson. Together, Watson and Rayner conducted controversial experiments on hundreds of babies to prove behaviorist principles. They also embarked on a scandalous affair that cost them both their jobs—and recast the sparkling young Rosalie Rayner, scientist and thinker, as Mrs. John Watson, wife and conflicted, maligned mother, just another “woman behind a great man.”

With Behave, Andromeda Romano-Lax offers a provocative fictional biography of Rosalie Rayner Watson, a woman whose work influenced generations of Americans, and whose legacy has been lost in the shadow of her husband’s. In turns moving and horrifying, Behave is a richly nuanced and disturbing novel about science, progress, love, marriage, motherhood, and what all those things cost a passionate, promising young woman.

Editorial Review

(In)famous psychologist John Watson—the founder of the school of behaviorism--penned a popular parenting guide in 1928 that warned against the perils of…showing affection toward your children! Society is cruel, you see, so if you coddle your kids they will be ill-prepared to face life’s challenges, or so his theory went. To what degree did Watson’s wife and the mother of his children agree? Andromeda Romano-Lax’s slyly provocative historical novel, Behave, answers this question, which isn’t clear-cut despite the fact that said spouse, Rosalie Rayner, was also Watson’s research associate, an active participatant in not only the writing of Psychological Care of Infant and Child, but Watson’s controversial “Little Albert” experiment (Google it—it’s the stuff of dystopian nightmares). This novel also grapples with some very modern conundrums. Rayner was obviously learned and ambitious in her own right, but felt pressured to put her career aside to advance her husband’s, and to raise their children in such a way as to prove his veracity as an expert in child development (and therefore be complicit if he wasn’t). Behaving, staying in “one’s place,” isn’t always the best thing, and Romano-Lax’s fascinating characterization of this complex woman will have you empathizing with Rayner despite yourself. You’ll want to hug your kids extra tight after reading it. --Erin Kodicek

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