Tanya Selvaratnam is a writer, an actor, a producer, and an activist. She is the author of The Big Lie: Motherhood, Feminism, and the Reality of the Biological Clock. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Artsy, Bust, Huffington Post, xoJane, PAPER, Tokion, Pop and Politics, the Toronto Review, Art Basel Magazine, Women’s eNews, and CNN News. Tanya has been a commentator on MSNBC, NPR, Al Jazeera, and CNN, among others. She has performed in shows by The Wooster Group, The Builders Association, Sibyl Kempson, Mike Iveson Jr., Brooke O’Harra, Margot Bordelon, and Andrew Ondrejcak; and produced projects by Gabri Christa, Chiara Clemente, Liz Garbus, Catherine Gund, Laura Parnes and Le Tigre, Hannah Rosenzweig, Tiffany Shlain, Mickalene Thomas, Lucy Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Jed Weintrob, and more. As an activist, she has worked with Planned Parenthood, Center for Health & Gender Equity, NGO Forum on Women, Ms. Foundation for Women, Third Wave Foundation, The DO School, and World Health Organization. She received her B.A. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations and her M.A. in Regional Studies – East Asia from Harvard University. Her master’s thesis on the interplay of law and practice with regard to women’s rights in China was published in the Journal of Law and Politics. She has been a fellow at Yaddo and Blue Mountain Center. Tanya lives in New York City and Portland, OR.
(For a compilation of press excerpts related to The Big Lie, please download the PDF here.)
Illustration of Tanya by Jane Beaird.
Motherhood, Feminism, and
the Reality of the Biological Clock
Published by Prometheus Books, Distributed by Random House
The Big Lie Companion: a free toolkit
with facts, conversation starters, and more
please contact Random House:
Phone: (800) 733-3000; Fax: (800) 659-2436
Electronic Orders (EDI): (800) 699-1536
A candid assessment of the pros and cons of delayed motherhood.
Biology does not bend to feminist ideals and science does not work miracles. That is the message of this eye-opening discussion of the consequences of delayed motherhood. Part personal account, part manifesto, the author speaks to fertility doctors, adoption counselors, reproductive health professionals, celebrities, feminists, journalists, and sociologists. Through in-depth reporting and her own experience, Selvaratnam urges more widespread education and open discussion about delayed motherhood in the hope that long-lasting solutions can take effect. The result is a book full of valuable information that will enable women to make smarter choices about their reproductive futures and to strike a more realistic balance between science, society and personal goals.
(Back to Top)
News & Dates
January 9, 7:35 a.m., Morning Drive, WPTF, Raleigh-Durham, NC
January 14, 12 p.m., The Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC, New York, NY
January 16, 9:40 a.m., The Jim Scott Show, WLW, Cincinnati, OH
January 25, nationally syndicated, CBS News Weekend Roundup with Dan Raviv
January 31, The Overshare Show with Toni Nagy
February 2, 7 a.m. on both Y94 and HOT107.9 and 11 p.m. on B104.7, Interview with Big Jim Donovan, WSYR, Syracuse, NY
February 3, 11:05 p.m., News Radio 830AM, WCCO-CBS Radio, Minnesota
February 4, 9:30 a.m., MORNINGS with Sonia Kruger & David Campbell, Channel 9, Australia
February 5, 4 p.m. PT, Gil Gross Show, TALK910-AM, San Francisco, CA
February 5, 6 p.m., Book Passage in San Francisco (1 Ferry Building), CA
February 8, 4:30 p.m. ET, Interview with Sanjay Gupta M.D., CNN
February 9, 7:30 p.m., Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR, introduction by Thomas Lauderdale of the band Pink Martini, post-reading conversation with Professor Sarah Dougher of Portland State University
February 10, AM Northwest, KATU-TV, Portland, OR
February 11, 2 p.m., Barnes & Noble, Seattle, WA
February 11, 7:30 p.m., The Stream, Al Jazeera America
February 16, 7:50 a.m. ET, Interview by Shirley Chan, NBC TV, West Hartford, Connecticut
February 18, 1:30 p.m. ET, Women’s Watch, WBZ (CBS), Boston, MA
February 25, 7 p.m., Book Court, Brooklyn, NY
March 1, 10:45 a.m. ET, The Judith Regan Show on Sirius
March 2, 7 a.m. ET, Get Connected, 106.7 LITE FM, WLTW, New York, NY
March 5, 11 a.m., Fearless Parent Radio, PRN
March 15, The Mike Nice Show, New Haven, CT
April 21, 9 p.m. ET, WKCR, 89.9 FM, New York, NY, interview by Eleanor Trier Kirk
April 22, 7 p.m. ET, Bluestockings Books, New York, NY, in conversation with Rye Young, Director of the Third Wave Foundation
May 22, One with Farai, interview by Farai Chideya for PRI
May 29, 7 p.m. ET, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA, reading followed by a conversation with Judy Norsigian, Executive Director of Our Bodies Ourselves
June 22, 11 a.m. ET, Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC
July 11, Women’s Watch with Laurie Kirby on WBZ-CBS, Boston, MA
August 25, In Search of Fertility with Victoria Hopewell on Webtalk Radio
September 21, 1 p.m. ET, Brooklyn Book Festival, a conversation between Jen Doll, Jen Kirkman, and Tanya Selvaratnam, moderated by Alexander Chee
October 8, 8 p.m. ET, University Settlement House, New York, NY, talkback with Honest Accomplice Theater
October 23, 6:30 p.m. ET, panel on “The Business of Being Creative,” hosted by American Express Open Forum and PAPER magazine. David Hershkovits also interviewed me, Fab 5 Freddy, and John Cafarelli for this piece on The Rise of the ‘Indiepreneurs’.
October 24, 2 p.m. ET, To the Point with Warren Olney on NPR/KCRW.
October 28, 7 p.m. PT, Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing, Valerie Plame in Conversation with Tanya Selvaratnam
November 3, 7:30 p.m. ET, University of Pennsylvania, Rodin College House, Guest Lecture
December 7-9, invited participant in “Reversible: Narrating Identity from the Inside Out and the Outside In,” New York University/Abu Dhabi Institute
December 10, panel discussion with David Humphrey, Jennifer Rubell, Sara Stern, Brandi Twilley, and Emily Weiner, Sargent’s Daughters, New York, NY
January 10, Artists Brunch Conversation, Contrada, New York, NY
January 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m. ET, Reading original work along with Henry Alford and Anthony Haden-Guest on the theme of resolutions gone wrong, Hosted by Wherever Magazine and curated by Susan Kirschbaum, ACME, 9 Great Jones Street, New York, NY
March 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. ET, Reading, Hosted by Wherever Magazine and curated by Susan Kirschbaum, ACME, 9 Great Jones Street, New York, NY
March 30, Visiting Artist, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
April 13, Panelist, “Representations of pregnancy and childbirth in the media”, hosted by WIN.NYC (women’s health and pro-choice networks), Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, NY
April 15, 9 p.m. ET, Interview by Kweli Washington, Counter Culture, Public television channel 56 in NYC
October 25, Interview by Toni Williams, Brooklyn Savvy TV, Public television channel 25 in NYC
February 8, 7 p.m. ET, Art & Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Creative Person with Farai Chideya, Housing Works Bookstore, 126 Crosby Street, New York, NY
February 22, 1 p.m. PT, Guest Lecture with Professor Sarah Dougher, Catlin Gabel High School, Portland, OR.
April 23, 12 p.m. PT, Presentation, Peradeniya Medical School Association, Las Vegas, NV.
May 1, 12 p.m. ET, Guest Speaker, Ladies College Association Annual Gathering, Brooklyn, NY.
November 13, 4 p.m. ET, panel on HOW CAN THE ARTS ADVANCE BODY POLITICS? with Katie Cappiello, writer and director of SLUT: The Play and Now That We’re Men; Aishah Shahidah Simmons, creator of the award-winning feature-length film NO! The Rape Documentary (2006); Emma Sulkowicz, artist/activist, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC.
November 17, 6 p.m. ET, MAKERS Town Hall, moderated by Dee Poku of The WIE Network, with Sarah Sophie Flicker (Activist, producer, filmmaker, cultural organizer & movement builder) and De’Ara Balenger (Former Director of Engagement, Hillary For America). Other speakers included Marlo Thomas, Kathy Najimy, and Diane von Furstenberg. AOL HQ, New York, NY.
December 5, 7 p.m. ET, Women’s Town Hall on “What Can I Do?” organized by Dee Poku of The WIE Network, Slipper Room, New York, NY.
March 20, Actions Speak: A Panel hosted by Mara Hoffman, Lower Eastside Girls Club, New York, NY
April 19, Art and Activism Day, Brooklyn Friends School, Brooklyn, NY
April 20, Panel on Visible and Invisible Walls with Hassan Hajaj and Richard Mosse moderated by Isolde Brielmaier, Tang Museum, Saratoga Springs, NY
May 18, Women of Resilience Awards hosted by The Memo, New York, NY
October 11, Panel, “Keeping Cultural Borders Open” (with Alsarah, Laurie Anderson, Sara Driver, Kali Holloway, Emel Mathlouthi, Jose Parla, and Barbet Schroeder), New York Film Festival, Film Society of Lincoln Center.
January 11, Moderator, “Maximizing Your Social Impact” (with Ani Cordero, Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole, Natalia Linares, Kim Chan, and Xiomara Henry), Wavelengths Conference/APAP, Midtown Hilton, New York, NY.
January 14, Plenary Speaker, “Artist as Activist Town Hall” (with Ping Chong, Sean Dorsey, Keryl McCord, and Lauren Ruffin), APAP, Midtown Hilton, New York, NY.
April 22, Moderator, Live Ideas Festival, New York Live Arts, New York, NY.
June 4, MC, HERE Arts Center Gala honoring Eve Ensler, City Winery, New York, NY.
June 24, Speaker, “The Role of Free Speech and Creative Expression in Democracy” (with Paula Crown, Eric Gottesman, and Hank Willis Thomas), Aspen Ideas Festival, Aspen, CO.
June 27, Panelist, “Carrie Mae Weems: The Personal and the Political” (with Carrie Mae Weems, Sarah Lewis, and Damian Woetzel), Aspen Ideas Festival, Aspen, CO.
July 14, Moderator, 50 State Town Hall on Freedom of Expression, Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH.
July 16, Guest Speaker, Uprising Salon, New York, NY.
WNYC/NPR’s The Brian Lehrer Show
Tanya Selvaratnam, Nell Breyer, Mara Hoffman, and Shirin Neshat speak about The Federation
TV interview by Helen Raptis
NPR/WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show
Radio interview by Anna Sale
Get Connected on 106.7 LITE FM, WLTW (Metro NY’s #1 rated radio station)
Radio interview by Nina Del Rio
The Gil Gross Show on TALK910 Radio
Radio interview by Gil Gross
The Judith Regan Show on Sirius XM
Radio interview by Judith Regan
One with Farai on PRI
Radio interview by Farai Chideya
Fearless Parent Radio
Radio interview by Louise Kuo Habakus and Alison MacNeil
NPR’s To The Point
Radio interview by Warren Olney about egg freezing
CBS Radio News
Radio interview by Dan Raviv
TV interview by Shirley Chan
The Overshare Show
Podcast interview by Toni Nagy
Brooklyn Savvy (NYC Life, public television)
TV interview moderated by Toni Williams
MORNINGS with Sonia Kruger & David Campbell
Australian TV interview with Tanya Selvaratnam and fertility expert Dr. Lynn Burmeister
In Search of Fertility
Radio interview by Victoria Hopewell
ARTICLES BY TANYA SELVARATNAM
An exclusive excerpt of The Big Lie
“Art is essential to democracy”
An interview with ABC Nightline co-anchor Dan Harris about his book 10% Happier
Art Basel Magazine
“Art for a Digital Age”
5 Questions for Playwright Adrienne Kennedy
“Finding More Moments of Balance in 2014”
“Don’t Plan Your Pregnancy by the Stars”
Circle + Bloom
Guest blog and an excerpt from The Big Lie
Aileen Kwun on The Federation
The Daily Beast
Can the Arts Keep Minds (and Borders) Open?
Benjamin Sutton on The Federation
Neon Tommy (USC Annenberg)
Review and Interview by Cassie Paton
The Daily Beast
Tricia Romano on The Big Lie
Mention in “DO THE HUSTLE” by Jessica Grose (PDF)
Huffington Post Business
“Why You Should Be Wary of Egg Freezing As A Ticket To ‘Having It All'” by Jillian Berman
The Atlantic’s CITYLAB
“Egg Freezing Parties Aren’t Going Away Any Time Soon” by Kriston Capps
The Globe and Mail
“It’s Gen Y’s Turn to Face the Baby Clock” by Tralee Pearce
Interview by Emma Saloranta
Interview by Megan Foo
Interview by Carrie Murphy
Feed Me I’m Cranky
Annabel Adams on “The Big Truth: Being 30 and Not Ready for Kids”
Interview by Vanessa Grigoriadis
Bangalore Mirror (India)
Sowmya Rajaram on The Big Lie
Signal Boost: Interview by Jenny Davidson
Design & Trend
Pete Calautti on The Big Lie
People Who Write
Interview by Nana Brew-Hammond
Photos of the New York event for Tanya Selvaratnam’s The Big Lie
4-Bust Review by Corrie Pikul (PDF)
Review by Amy Richards for the Center for Genetics & Society
San Francisco Book Review
4-star review by Holly Scudero
Review by Emma Saloranta
Muses & Visionaries
Review by Lola Thelin
Download the press release here.
Praise for The Big Lie
“A courageous, deeply personal, and unapologetically feminist exploration of delayed motherhood and infertility. This enlightening and empowering book should be required reading for every woman.”
—Hillary Jordan, author (Mudbound, When She Woke)
“The Big Lie will leave readers with many big truths—about women’s wants and desires, and revelations about our limitations. The book is part memoir, part maternal health manifesto; taken together, an important read for anyone contemplating and assuming future motherhood.”
—Amy Richards, author (Opting In: Having a Child without Losing Yourself)
“This book is an interesting blend of memoir and investigative expose, and many of the numbers she reveals are shocking. The Big Lie is an important read for everyone.”
—San Francisco Book Review
“The candid, impeccably-researched book is the latest tome outlining why women can’t really have it all—not really—when it comes to pushing off starting a family in their late 30s and beyond.”
“Telling Selvaratnam’s story of her own fertility issues and delving deep into research on delayed motherhood, ‘The Big Lie’ is “part memoir, part manifesto”—a fantastic read particularly for women in their reproductive years (who should then pass it on to their friends, sisters and daughters)… The book is as entertaining and touching as it is informative and eye-opening.”
—Neon Tommy (USC Annenberg newspaper)
“Set aside the ‘mommy wars.’ This work is for the women who have been left out of the discussion until now… Many will cheer on Selvaratnam’s ultimate points. Sure to invite discussion among feminists.”
“She’s intelligent (she’s a Harvard grad), passionate (she’s a feminist and activist), and artistic (she’s a documentary and theater producer). And she wants to share her hard-won wisdom so that young women in the future don’t make the same mistakes she did.”
“The Big Lie” is a call to action for women. Selvaratnam includes a well-researched chapter entitled “Action Items for the Future,” so that women are better prepared and more aware of their options.”
“Tanya Selvaratnam’s new book is both highly illuminating and deeply personal. Selvaratnam takes a meted, reasonable approach to the material; she’s not encouraging anyone to run out and get pregnant before they’re fully ready.”
“Tanya’s book is a heartbreaking, eye-opening journey through the realities of today’s reproductive climate.”
“This is a book I wish was out when I was 25, and one that I wish someone encouraged me to read.”
“Producer and activist Selvaratnam, a self-defined casualty of the second-wave feminist idea that biology should not define destiny, responds with a provocative mix of solid information and palpable anger. … This wakeup call… is controversial, but few would argue with Selvaratnam’s suggestion that women get the facts before making family-planning decisions.”
“While she acknowledges the need for political and cultural changes that would make it easier for parents-to-be to balance professional and personal goals, she mainly provides readers with the information they need to make more realistic choices—starting with understanding the limits of their own bodies.”
“Selvaratnam tells her story with clear-eyed honesty. As personal stories told well tend to do, the painful details of her quest to become a mother — and the emotional rigor with which she shares them — animate the occasionally dense pages of quotes and stats that surround them.”
“The ability to choose to become a mother, or not, is playing itself out in real time everyday and there is no question in my mind that the right to plan one’s family on one’s own timetable continues to have more pros than cons for this generation. However, it is also important that we examine the impact of a societal shift of this enormity. There is great potential in Tanya Selvaratnam’s journey to bring similar stories of disappointment, frustration, and hope to light. In sharing there can also be healing.”
—Christy Turlington Burns, founder, Every Mother Counts; director/producer, No Woman, No Cry; author (Living Yoga: Creating A Life Practice); global maternal health advocate, model, mom
“The Big Lie is such a brave, rigorous, and deeply honest work. Tanya Selvaratnam’s personal journey speaks to a whole generation of women raised to believe we could have it all – only to realize, too late, that with every choice comes something not chosen. If you care more about truth than ideology, read this book.”
—Danzy Senna, author (Caucasia, You Are Free)
“As a fertility specialist, I am confident that this book will be a wake-up call for the many women who are (voluntarily or involuntarily) postponing reproduction. I applaud the desire of Selvaratnam to dispel myths and tell the truth about the “biological clock.” We cannot “rewind” it, but today we can alleviate it with egg freezing. This technology is powerful, revolutionary, and will change the lives of women in the twenty-first century.”
—Pasquale Patrizio, MD, MBE, professor, reproductive bioethicist, and director, Yale Fertility Center; coeditor of A Color Atlas for Human Assisted Reproduction
“40 may be the new 30, and women are looking and feeling younger than their years, but try telling that to your ovaries! There is a disconnect between what women see in the mirror and what’s happening to their reproductive organs. Tanya’s book will help women better understand their biological age and fertility health. It will also educate on the incredible advances being made in fertility treatment so that women are informed about their fertility options and choices. So pleased that Tanya is furthering this dialogue.”
—Carole Kowalczyk, MD, board-certified reproductive endocrinologist; director, Michigan Center for Fertility and Women’s Health; founder, in Harmony Healing Center; founder, Seasons of Life Fertility Foundation.
“Through detailed research and personal insights, Tanya Selvaratnam sheds light on one of the most important issues facing women in today’s society: infertility. The path to parenthood is not linear and Tanya delicately yet passionately reminds us of this. As an infertility consultant and advocate, I believe knowledge is power when it comes to facing this issue and Tanya bravely shares her story so that we can all reexamine our notions of how a family is built. This book not only arms us with the information, guidance, and support to face infertility but also the honesty, vulnerability and hope to comfort us.”
—Mindy Berkson, Infertility Consultant, Lotus Blossom Consulting
“With vulnerability, insight, and honesty, Tanya Selvaratnam uses her personal journey with health, fertility, and career to illuminate one of the biggest issues of our era. Have women lost out on fundamental happiness by following the call to have it all — a family and career? How can women and men re-shape the losses of our time into better choices and better outcomes? Tanya takes us inside her medical and emotional journey, and uses the stories of women across the country to examine how to put an end to “the big lie.””
—Farai Chideya, television and radio journalist, author (The Color of Our Future)
“We all have to take responsibility for our choices but what happens when we don’t know we are making a choice? What if we thought we were solving WHEN but realized the question was WHETHER OR NOT? Tanya Selvaratnam bravely shares her heartbreaking, exhausting, and ultimately enlightening experience of being blindsided by fertility problems. Haunted by hindsight, she perseveres in her desire to have both a successful artistic life and a baby. Tanya engages us without sentimentality or self-pity, and in the process, she helps us all understand that there are ways to achieve our personal hopes and dreams when given honest information, guidance and support.”
—Catherine Gund, documentary filmmaker and cofounder, Third Wave Foundation
“The worldwide trend towards delayed motherhood is supposed to empower women. But does having children later in life really give more life choices and freedoms for women worldwide? Using her creative insights and keen intellect, Selvaratnam tells her personal story. Read this book and reflect on her unique Asian-American journey.”
—Soon-Young Yoon, UN representative for the International Alliance of Women and Chair, NGO Committee on the Status of Women/New York. Co-editor, “Gender, Women and the Tobacco Epidemic”