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Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids and Life in a Half-Changed World Hardcover – May 16, 2000


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After the release of her bestselling title, Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap, Peggy Orenstein toured the country talking to groups of parents, teachers, and girls. It was after one of these teen town hall meetings that she decided to write about the crucible of postfeminist socialization at which today's women--not girls--find themselves: the reconciliation of motherhood and personal aspirations. It's a subject she's intimately familiar with. Orenstein began researching Flux when she was in her mid-30s and agonizing over whether to have a child: "I wanted the richness of motherhood in my life but worried over its costs. I could almost hear the traditionalist in me clucking, 'You can't have it all,' and it infuriated me. Why couldn't I? Why couldn't any of us?"

To help her answer these questions, she interviewed about 250 women between 1996 and 1999, and their varied responses serve as a kind of public consciousness-raising tool. She also interviewed their friends, lovers, and partners to get to the root of the expectations, joys, and frustrations of these women living in a "half-changed world." Though most of the women she interviewed come from similar backgrounds (college educated, white, middle class, and heterosexual), their combined experiences provide readers with plenty of different viewpoints to consider. A portrait of a generational Everywoman emerges from these snapshots in a way that furthers the stated purpose of the book: to inspire readers in "the search for a more satisfied life." -- J.R.

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing on interviews she conducted with more than 200 women, Orenstein (SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap) presents an intimate and politically astute vision of how women in their 20s, 30s and 40s negotiate life in a world only half-changed by feminism. Divided into three partsD"The Promise," about women in their 20s exploring relationships and beginning working life; "The Crunch," about women in their 30s confronting issues of children and family; and "The Reconsideration," about women in their 40s reassessing what they want for themselvesDthe book is peppered with absorbing in-depth portraits that show how individual women manage their relationships and careers, singledom and marriage. Many of the older women Orenstein interviewed hold jobs that were unthinkable 30 years agoD(e.g., corporate vice-presidents and financial officers). What hasn't changed enough, however, are their working environments and the men in their lives. Though the women want successful careers, they still pressure themselves to be perfectly attentive wives and mothers who shoulder the bulk of the housekeeping and child rearing. Yet these women's focus on trying to Have It All paradoxically reinforces the dichotomy between family and career; for true equality, men need to balance home and work just as much as women do. Unlike many self-help books, Orenstein's balances coping strategies with sharp political points: for true equality in relationships and fairness to women, "more men have to take full responsibility at home," and "women also have to let them"; more important, the workplace must adjust to the needs of all employees who are parents. Orenstein believes women will profit by sharing their experiences across generations; this rigorous and appealing book should jumpstart the conversation. (June) FYI: Orenstein has a two-year jump on Susan Faludi, who will cover the same territory in a book recently sold to Metropolitan Books for publication in 2002 (Hot Deals, April 24).
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (May 16, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385498861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385498869
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,809,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It has become required reading for many of my female friends and their husbands/boyfriends.
mbaforgood
I discovered this book and recommended it for my book club without really knowing what to expect.
M. Wilson
The author skillfully weaves together personal experience, interviews and voluminous research.
Girl Detective

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By christine on June 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Wow. FLUX is a great read--engaging stories, interesting voices, and salted with scintillating analysis by Orenstein. I recognized bits of myself, my life and thoughts, in nearly every woman she interviews, but I also felt enough distance from the women to fully appreciate some of the book's larger themes about women's choices. Particularly great is the fact that this book is not a standard feminist rant, but rather a thoughtful, upbeat yet realistic look at where we are in this "half-changed world." As a woman in her thirties, I found myself identifying with not only the younger women and those my age, but I also appreciated hearing older women's voices as well. If you liked SchoolGirls, you'll love this one.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Last weekend, I wandered into a bookstore musing about the current Big Decisions in my life -- Where is my career going? Should my husband and I start a family? What are my goals in life -- and I thought, "Too bad there isn't a book with all the answers."
Orenstein's book doesn't answer all the questions, but it provides a wonderful -- and comforting -- framework for grappling with the questions women face in contemporary American life. And it's not a man-bashing manifesto. My husband actually started reading it over my shoulder, and he's been badgering me to finish it so he could have a turn. This is good stuff!
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Incredibly provocative book. It will challenge you to really ponder and revel in your choices as a woman. Orenstein manages to cover a wide and representative range of lifestyles (young/single/career focused, married w/o kids, married w/kids/career, single mothers by choice, the stay at home mom after career). While covering every imaginable life choice, she also delves deeply enough into each of these woman's lives to give us a significant picture of the trade-offs, the joys, and the ongoing challenge of making choices between family, work and self fulfillment.
I can't imagine any woman not finding this to be an uplifting read. One of the best books I've ever read. I cried at some extremely powerful passages in the book and laughed at others as I heard my life echoed back to me. There is a strong sense of control over one's destiny that resonates in your mind and heart after reading this book. I applaud Orenstein for her timely topic and enlightened presentation. It's truly a gift to all women.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I read this book because it was chosen by my book club. I found nothing particularly surprising, no revelations. Ms. Orenstein's writing style is engaging, but there was definitely a slant toward upper-income, well-educated females. While I happen to fall into that class myself, it bothers me when a work attempts to encapsulate "women's" feelings while focusing on such a narrow strata of our society.
The work also seemed to focus, to a great degree, on the interviewees' feelings regarding children and motherhood. Since the subtitle is "Women on sex, work, love, kids" I was a bit surprised to see so little discussion of sex, and so much about kids. As someone who has deliberately chosen to remain childless, my view is that this book would be much more relevant to women who are struggling with family or work/family issues.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this book for my bookclub - an all women's group. We had the best discussion from it. This book raised some thought-provoking questions. For example, why do many girls grow up thinking that they need to be independent (financially) to support themselves, yet many boys group up thinking that they need to be able to support themselves *and* their family? Hmmm... As an electrical engineer, I had always thought of myself as an independent woman, but why didn't I grow up thinking that I needed to support a family as well as myself? Peggy doesn't answer these questions, but the interviews with different women allow the reader to come to their own conclusions. The only criticism I have about this book is that many of the women interviewed have very similar careers. She interviews many lawyers, which actually seems to serve well as an example of a somewhat male dominated field. I thoroughly recommend this book for any woman in her 20s, 30s, or 40s - or any man wanting to understand women in that age group!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Star on November 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is an insightful study of the issues and challenges faced by women at the turn of the 21st century. This important book, which should be read by both men and women, touches upon many spheres of a woman's life, including education, career, and family, the ways in which these spheres interconnect, and the choices that women must make in order to navigate through them. Without providing specific answers, the book poses many provocative questions that each woman should answer for herself and raises important issues that should be addressed by our society as a whole.

The book is based on the many conversations that its author, Peggy Orenstein, had conducted with a number of women over the course of a couple of years, as well as some of her deeply personal experiences. The book is divided into three parts, each focusing on a distinct period in a woman's life: "The Promise" (women in her twenties, still contemplating what their future will be like), "The Crunch" (women in their thirties, facing the realities and the choices of marriage, family, and career), and "Reconsiderations" (women in their forties and beyond, rediscovering themselves after the pressures of biological clocks and life decisions have subsided). The author illustrates how the different women choose to navigate the different stages of their lives. Each of the women has her unique perspectives and challenges; however, many common threads and patterns emerge that define their experiences.

Reading this book can be frustrating and enlightening at the same time. The frustration partially comes from acknowledging the issues faced by most women in our society. It also arises from the naïveté of many of the young women who expect to "have it all" without thinking about the inevitable tradeoffs.
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