ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Avalon Publishing Group, 1400 65th St., Ste. 250, Emeryville CA 94608. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer and gynecologist. New York Medical College, New York, NY, assistant professor, 1973–76; private medical practice, New York, NY, 1976–; Playgirl magazine, columnist, 2005–; Seventeen magazine, columnist (with Elizabeth Topp), 2005–.
(With Elizabeth Topp) Vaginas: An Owner's Manual, Thunder's Mouth Press (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: A practicing gynecologist on New York City's Upper East Side for more than thirty years, Carol Livoti had no intentions of writing a book until her daughter, Elizabeth Topp, talked her into it by agreeing to help. The result, Vaginas: An Owner's Manual, is a book based on Livoti's expertise and candor concerning gynecology and women's health in general, subjects that Topp often listened to during dinner discussions while growing up. "All you have to do is read a paragraph to find out that it's not what you think," Livoti told Sharon Tregaskis in an article in Harvard magazine. "It's a medical health book." In addition to addressing the usual topics such as gynecological visits, sexually transmitted diseases, and other common medical problems, the authors also delve into the politics of women's health care and, in an entire chapter, the issue of abortion. The authors' approach is in defense of legalized abortion, with Livoti recalling having to treat women who had suffered medical setbacks from incompetent and illegal abortions. The authors begin, however, by giving the reader a basic overview of the organs involved and how they function.
In the Downtown Express, Topp noted that Vaginas "is important because it is meant to be entertaining and also up to date and informative. It is meant for the Sex and the City crowd and for all women who just want to know more. Working with my mother it confirmed what I knew, that she has a knack for explaining medicine to patients. That is a gift." In the Harvard magazine article, Livoti pointed out that the book's wide popularity has shown that it is for women of all ages, noting "They're waiting on line [for it] at the assisted living facility. These are women in the twilight of their lives, and there's stuff in there they didn't know."
In a review of Vaginas in Publishers Weekly, a contributor commented that the mother-daughter authorial team "demystify the female reproductive system" and also noted, "despite the catchy title, this is a deep examination of the body." Drexel Raszewzki, writing in the Library Journal, wrote that the book is not too technical and contains "edifying sidebars based on Livoti's years of medical practice." In a review in Horizons, Cheryl Gudz wrote that the quick facts scattered throughout Vaginas are sometimes as hilarious as the conversations between the mother-daughter team behind it." Gudz went on to call the authors' writing style "unapologetic, quirky and accessible" and to note that they deserve "credit for writing an entertaining book." In Harvard magazine, Tregaskis concluded: "The chatty, irreverent result of that collaboration combines just-the-facts medical details … and intergenerational banter about women's sexuality."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Downtown Express (New York, NY), October 22-28, 2004, Wickham Boyle, "For the Sex and the City Crowd: Mother/Daughter Team up with a Book to Embolden Women."
Harvard, May-June, 2005, Sharon Tregaskis, "Educating Women."
Horizons, spring, 2005, Cheryl Gudz, review of Vaginas: An Owner's Manual, p. 36.
Library Journal, September 1, 2004, Drexel Raszewzki, review of Vaginas, p. 176.
Publishers Weekly, August 16, 2004, review of Vaginas, p. 58.
Womens Wear Daily, November 23, 2004, Jeff Bercovici, "Memo Pad: Stop the Presses … The Vagina Dialogues … Hands off Our Stuff," p. 12.
Publishers Marketplace Web site, http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ (June 3, 2005), "Carol Livoti."
Vaginas411.com, http://www.vaginas411.com/ (June 3, 2005).