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Hip names and modern life inspire a children’s book

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2014 - Spring


When Matthew Goldenberg, M.D. ’03, became an uncle, his niece, Ava, came into a world that was vastly different from the one depicted in Goldenberg’s own childhood storybooks. “Bobby has a new ball” no longer described this world.

“The vocabulary that a baby needs today was not going to be found in a traditional baby book,” Goldenberg said.

Little Ava lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, home to hip babies with cool names and urban gear. “There are a lot of yuppie baby things in the world now. And many of my friends were naming their babies Ava, Sophie, Jack. Nobody my age is named Ava or Jack,” he said.

Modern babies needed a modern book, thought Goldenberg, a psychiatrist who joined the medical school faculty last fall. So he wrote A is for Artisanal: An Alphabet Book for the Hip, Modern Baby. The 26-page picture book, illustrated by physician-turned-cartoonist Benjamin Schwartz, M.D., is as entertaining for parents as it is for their children.

The first page reads, “Ava adores artisanal asiago.” From Ava to Zoey, the book is a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of modern urban life, complete with farmer’s markets, iPads, vegetarians, and yoga.

Goldenberg particularly enjoyed writing the page for the letter B, “Bjorn is brought to brunch in a Bob. Bob is brought to brunch in a Bjorn.”

“I had no idea what a Bob was until some friends who had recently had a baby mentioned it,” Goldenberg said of the three-wheeled all-terrain stroller that’s suitable for jogging. (A Björn is what older generations would call a Snugli.) “It seemed like every conversation I had with new parents after that involved Bobs. So that was my baby gift to my brother and sister-in-law.”

It’s as if Goldenberg shares an inside joke with parents while their children enjoy pictures and alliteration in lines like “Noah needs nightly news from NPR” and “Jack jocularly jabs like Jon Stewart.” Reviewers on get a good-natured laugh out of Goldenberg’s jabs. “BrooklynSFDad” wrote in his online review, “A hilarious skewering of urban parenting. Having brought my babies to brunch in both a Björn and a Bob, I can say with certainty that I am the target (and target demographic) of this hilarious book.”

Goldenberg agrees. “It’s a good way for us to chuckle at ourselves. It’s a comment on modern hipster society. I eat Greek yogurt. I go to a farmer’s market every Saturday. I like women’s soccer,” Goldenberg said, referring to images that appear in the book. “It’s meant to poke lighthearted, good fun at my generation.”

Goldenberg observed many parents and children as research for his book, but not being a parent himself allowed him the time to write the book and shop for publishers. “When I’d come home from work and Whole Foods and CrossFit,” he joked, poking fun at the hipster aspects of his own life, “I’d send it out to publishers and agents.” But he can’t say the book is completely separate from his day job.

“It allows me a creative side that I don’t always find in my day-to-day work, but as a psychiatrist, I am an observer and appreciator of human behavior. That certainly informed this book.”

A is for Artisanal is his first professional artistic endeavor, but what Goldenberg calls his “creative impulse” manifested years ago.

“I was a producer of the second-year show. It was one of the highlights of my medical school career,” he said. “The writing of this book comes from that same creative impulse.”

Goldenberg is an attending psychiatrist in the psychiatric emergency room at Yale-New Haven Hospital. He is also the interim medical director of a new psychiatric observation unit that became fully operational in November. The unit is for patients whose psychiatric symptoms may not require hospital admission but do require a longer stay than a typical ER visit.

Prior to earning his medical degree, Goldenberg was a history major in Yale College. He returned to New Haven in September after 10 years away. He had spent four of those years on the faculty of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., and a year in London pursuing a master’s degree in global mental health. At the School of Medicine, he plans to develop programs in global mental health for students.

In his free time, he plans to write more books.

“I’ve always had a very diverse set of interests: history, politics, football, documentary films, geography. One of the fun things about writing is the opportunity to pursue some of that.”

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