Gender, too, is always on Coontz's mind. In the third chapter ("My Mother Was a Saint"), she offers an analysis of the contradictions and chasms inherent in the "traditional" division of labor. She reveals, next, how rarely the family exhibited economic and emotional self-reliance, suggesting that the shift from community to nuclear family was not healthy. Coontz combines a clear prose style with bold assertions, backed up by an astonishing fleet of researched, myth-skewing facts. The 88 pages of endnotes dramatize both her commitment to and deep knowledge of the subject. Brilliant, beautifully organized, iconoclastic, and (relentlessly) informative The Way We Never Were breathes fresh air into a too often suffocatingly "hot" and agenda-sullied subject. In the penultimate chapter, for example, a crisp reframing of the myth of black-family collapse leads to a reinterpretation of the "family crisis" in general, putting it in the larger context of social, economic, and political ills.
The book began in response to the urgent questions about the family crisis posed her by nonacademic audiences. Attempting neither to defend "tradition" in the era of family collapse, nor to liberate society from its constraints, Coontz instead cuts through the kind of sentimental, ahistorical thinking that has created unrealistic expectations of the ideal family. "I show how these myths distort the diverse experiences of other groups in America," Coontz writes, "and argue that they don't even describe most white, middle-class families accurately." The bold truth of history after all is that "there is no one family form that has ever protected people from poverty or social disruption, and no traditional arrangement that provides a workable model for how we might organize family relations in the modern world."
Some of America's most precious myths are not only precarious, but down right perverted, and we would be fools to ignore Stephanie Coontz's clarion call. --Hollis Giammatteo
Stephanie Coontz is the top historian of the family in America. Although this book is not entirely up to date, since its focus is on the historical development of the family (or... Read morePublished 14 days ago by Highlander
This book is supposed to be about a very, very interesting topic like our beloved fantasy about the idyllic "good old days", especially the 1950s nuclear family of... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Banshee
Coontz does a wonderful job breaking through the ideas that are not only untrue but cherished by the masses. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Cheryl Allen
the best book I have every read about sociological studies of the family! It does an excellent job to help the public as well as the academia understand changing American families... Read morePublished 1 month ago by SirCat
The title should be "The Way we Were." She describes (albeit with a rather left wing perspective) the first half of the 20th century much in accord with my Grandfather's... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Erik
Lucy and Desi Arnaz cheated on each other. Lauren Chapin (of Father Knows Best) was raped by her father. Read morePublished 3 months ago by B. Wolinsky