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One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers Talk About Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Polyamory, Househusbandry, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love Paperback – February 2, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Prompted by her experiences growing up in a family "fragmented and haunted by unfulfilled longings," Walker (Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence, 2007, etc.) looks beyond her well-publicized estrangement from her mother, novelist Alice Walker, to the lives of other writers "searching for authenticity through experimentation" in their domestic situations. The essays she assembles smash class, race and gender stereotypes to collectively demonstrate the fluidity of the contemporary family unit. Resisting the traditional boundaries of coupledom, Jenny Block, on the one hand, celebrates the openness of what she calls a "polyamorous marriage" with her husband and her girlfriend. On the other hand, Judith Levine and her boyfriend, together for 17 years, never married for a number of practical and philosophic reasons. Writes Levine: "A marriage may or may not be a union of love. It is always a union of property...I'd like the state to get out of the sexual-licensing business altogether, actually, for couples gay, straight, bi, or none of the above." Essays by Dan Savage and Dawn Friedman lay bare the highs and lows of open adoption. Savage details the difficulty he and his partner have in deciding what to say to their adoptive son when his homeless, substance- abusing biological mother drops out of touch for more than a year: "Which two- by-four to hit him with? That his mother was in all likelihood dead? Or that she was out there somewhere but didn't care enough to come by or call?" Friedman, while admitting to occasional twinges of jealousy and guilt evoked by having her daughter's birth mother integrated into their lives, trumpets openness for her daughter's sake: "She will never have to wonder why her first mother chose adoption; she can ask her." Rebecca Barry closes the anthology with a frank, humorous exploration of how she and her sister ended up in couples therapy.
Eye-opening and sometimes shocking, as it brilliantly explodes traditional notions about the nuclear family.
Kirkus Reviews (starred) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
That is what this book is all about. One Big Happy Family is about the pursuit of love and family and wholeness with a blind eye to social convention. These writers made me feel at home. They helped me to remember that there is no "right" way to live and to love. They reminded me that living honestly is always more important than living in chains. And they taught me that although others may not accept me, my acceptance of myself is far more gratifying.
These are people who are present in their own lives, active in their own pursuits of love, and accountable for the paths they have chosen or crafted or discovered. We should all be so lucky.
Read this book. Find your way.
Probably the most negative thing that I can say about this collection - and the only reason why it does not get five stars is that a solid group of the stories had this air of... smugness about them. As if, the way they had worked it out was the most ideal form of a family. Which is quite possible true (for them), but not something that needed to come across in their writing. One that was particularly guilty of this was Penn-Nabrit's "How Homeschooling Made Our Family More of What We Wanted it to Be" (which was my least favorite of the works in this anthology).
Jenny Block's "And Then We Were Poly" was, in typical Block fashion, funny and engaging though not without it's own sense of "this is the best way to do things."
The most interesting and heart warming ones, I thought, were "Woman Up" by asha bandele, "The Enemy Within" by Dan Savage, "This Old House" by Rebecca Berry, and "My First Husband" by Liz Monroy. (Though Monroy's piece left a few holes that I wish she had covered - for example, why was it so important for her to divorce him because of an apartment?)
All and all, an interesting, heartwarming read. It will make anyone outside of the American "nuclear family" "ideal" a little less alone in the world.
So I cross-referenced the story "The Enemy Within" by Dan Savage (pg.29) with the original essay and there are huge differences. Huge. Walker has edited this essay so much she's a large part of the author's voice from their piece.
This book is a good read because I enjoy the style in which they were written/edited. But at the same time, I don't want to read Walker's version of how these stories ought to sound at the expense of the author's voice. I understand if this is an anthology about diverse happy families and that the original forms of these essays may go into tangents that go beyond that theme, but I would contend that these changes go too far, even in that purpose of theme conformity.
It is a shame that an editor has to change so much of an author's original work. Why even feature their essay if you're gonna change so much of it?
This book *is* a great sample of lots of different types of family. I enjoyed reading about them even if I wouldn't want to live in them. Other reviewers have mentioned specifics about the different family styles covered so I won't go into that.
I will say that the best thing I got out of the book was that it's a great introduction to some really interesting writers. After reading this book, I went on to read the rest of Jenny Block's story in her book Open, asha bandele's The Prisoner's Wife and Something Like Beautiful, Not Buying it by Judith Levine and that's just the beginning. This book was a great way to get a taste of different authors before sinking the time (and/or money) into a full book by them.
I highly recommend this book!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I had to get this for a class, but would have read it anyway for fun. It has a variety of short stories about all different types of families, so you can see the positives and... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Kristopher
I haven't read this book yet. I'm ordering it today. The reason I'm ordering it and writing about it here before I even read it is that I am what the world calls a birthmother, I... Read morePublished on December 5, 2013 by Cynthia Uribe
I really enjoyed this book. I read it in one sitting. With the exception of one entry, the entries were all very well written and engaging. Read morePublished on October 30, 2009 by denak
This book was truly an amazing collection of essays about what it means to be a family. The 18 essays created 18 perfect examples of what family is truly about: love. Read morePublished on June 17, 2009 by Andie
It is an honor to be part of this stellar collection with so many gifted, insightful writers! Rebecca has done a terrific job of painting a picture of how diverse love can be and... Read morePublished on March 10, 2009 by Dawn Friedman