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Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins: How Family Stories Shape Us Paperback – June 7, 1989

9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“This sparkling book is a gift to families and all who work with them.  . . . Readers will be inspired to search their own intergenerational family myths and narratives, coming away with a clearer sense of self and enhanced sympathy for family members.”

—Evan Imber-Black, author of The Secret Life of Families and director, Center for Families and Health, Ackerman Institute for the Family

“This book is a continuing inspiration to those of us who are professional storytellers. The wisdom in the stories, along with Elizabeth Stone’s suggestions, are a valuable guide to all of us.”

—Peninnah Schram, associate professor of speech and drama, Stern College, Yeshiva University and author, Jewish Stories One Generation Tells Another

“Reading this book again, I am reminded of how important it is to our understanding of family enterprises. Families who own assets together will find the family stories regarding money, self worth, and freedom nothing short of enlightening.”

—Fredda Herz Brown, managing partner, The Metropolitan Group and editor of Reweaving the Family Tapestry

“[C]harming and appealing because of Stone’s delicate sensitivity, her wonder over the way an entire family ethos can be created out of stories ‘as invisible as air, as weightless as dreams.’”

—Alex Raskin, Los AngelesTimes

“One of the marks of a book’s private success for me is its ability to distract me from itself. I enjoy reading material that provokes daydream, pushing me outward from a statement to explore my own experience as it supports or denies what I’ve just read. . . . Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins encourages just this kind of desultory and reflexive reading.”

—Nancy Mairs, Women’s Review of Books

“Elizabeth Stone describes how the stories families tell assign roles to each person, and how those roles can become self-fulfilling prophecies.”

—Harriet Brown, The New York Times

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Elizabeth Stone is professor of English, Communication, and Media Studies at Fordham University and author of The Hunter College Campus Schools for the Gifted and A Boy I Once Knew: What a Teacher Learned from her Student.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (June 7, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140119779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140119770
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,950,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Sherrod Sturrock on December 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be most interesting because it made me think about my own family stories in an entirely new way. Why do we care about certain traits, how we define ourselves, what measures success - the answers are buried in those family stories - the ones we choose to retell, that is. I have used this book in classes, as well as in rethinking my own family. Fun, and thought provoking.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on July 12, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is fascinating to read because it will remind you of your own family stories and lead to self reflection. I reexamined some of my own family myths and legends and discovered, what I believe, are new understandings which were previously not obvious.

For example: The 'fried chicken story' my mom always told about how bad a cook she was when she first married my dad and how, regardless of what poor meals she'd been cooking for him, he would rave to family & friends about how her fried chicken was fantastic. He never even mentioned to her that her cooking was often crap, just complimented the hell out of her fried chicken, which she says she prepared several times a week until her cooking abilities improved. "Great" my dad would say, "fried chicken". She never broached the subject openly either because she was ashamed that she was so bad at such an important and expected(this was the 50's)skill. My mom always told this story to illustrate how my father,who was not a patient or overtly supportive person, came through for her when it was something that he really could have hurt her feelings over.

Once I read this book I got a different perspective. The old 'elephant in the room' idea - a big theme for my family. Don't talk about problems & they'll go away. Don't acknowledge difficulties and offer help (like a cook book or lessons), just ignore it. Which is not to say my mom's take is entirely wrong, it's just probably not the only thing going on. Because no one likes fried chicken that much.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Adams on October 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book contains a lot of great stories. The sequence of how and why the family stories are told are very interesting. Quick read and will leave you thinking...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Nina d'Alessandro on May 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I use this book nearly ever year as a reference in designing college courses on family (family myths, family as a subculture, family memoir writing), and sometimes also as part of students' assigned or recommended reading for the course. Reading this book (or parts of it) alongside a range of other texts--memoir, fiction, film, visual art--students have reported that a) they loved it and b) they have not liked it at all. Some complain that it moves too ploddingly, adding that they wish there were more analysis, more discussion using a variety of theoretical frameworks and scholarship. On the other hand, for many students, Stone's own family story and her analysis of its themes, preoccupations, myths, and values has served as a charming, accessible entry into considerations of their own families and the legacies passed down to them. Stone has also gathered primary source material from many interviews, and has organized them into categories that students and I find useful as a starting model for thinking and discussing family themes, and later, for structuring the material they gather through their own research.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bill Ruttenberg on February 1, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a great product. It has a lot of interesting stories about how your own family can be very entertaining.
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