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Unhitched: Love, Marriage, and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China Hardcover – May 2, 2011

3.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stacey (In the Name of the Family), a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, spent over a decade interviewing and observing families in California, South Africa, and China for this scrupulously researched and moving portrait of family diversity across three continents and cultures. The first section is devoted to gay men living, loving, and parenting in tony West Hollywood. Stacey uses the experiences of her 50 subjects to examine both sides of the gay-marriage debate. The theory that legalizing gay marriage will lead to the legalization of polygamy takes Stacey to South Africa, where both same-sex and plural marriages are legal. She examines the history and modern interpretation of polygamy and asks if the practice might not offer some potential benefits to women and their children. Finally, Stacey turns her keen analysis on the Mosuo people of southwest China, who have rejected marriage for multigenerational households in which children are raised by their mothers and maternal family. Throughout her travels and exhaustive research, Stacey pokes and prods, and eagerly calls into question everything we think we know about love, marriage, and the baby in the baby carriage. Photos. (May)
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Review

"The book will fuel the ongoing family values/marriage discourse by challenging conservatives, feminists, and proponents of same-sex marriage."
-Marge Kappanadze,Library Journal

"Unhitched thoughtfully explains how unconventional relationships can thrive across cultures with some intention and practice...The book says it's about love and marriage, but it's actually about parenthood and the myriad of ways a family can look to support raising children well." -Bitch Magazine

Unhitched will enrage some readers and delight others, but anyone interested in contemporary debates about marriage, sexuality, and family life must read this richly detailed, rigorously argued book.”-Stephanie Coontz,author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage

"It doesn't simply offer a mind-bending cross-cultural perspective--you can find that in any Anthropology 101 textbook. Instead, Stacey uses her observations to underscore just how stifling and unstable the Western romantic ideal of marital monogamy can be for some people, as well as the vast array of romantic arrangements that are already out here in the world."
-Salon.com

"In her new book, Unhitched, Judith Stacey, a sociologist at NYU, surveys a variety of unconventional arrangements, from gay parenthood to polygamy to—in a mesmerizing case study—the Mosuo people of southwest China, who eschew marriage and visit their lovers only under cover of night."-Kate Bolick,The Atlantic

"Stacey certainly makes a passionate case with a surprising amount of information on her side."-Anthropology Review Database

"The book is thought provoking, engaging, and makes important contributions to the study of families."-Joya Misra,International Journal of Comparative Sociology

“An engagingly written and highly readable book that deals with a crucial and controversial related set of issues: the nature of contemporary family life, kinship, love, parenting, intimacy, and how to live with diversity. No one is better qualified to take this on than Judith Stacey. She manages to combine the commitment of the serious ethnographer with the enthusiasm and insight of the eager traveler. This is an essential book.”-Jeffrey Weeks,author of The World We Have Won

"Judith Stacey is a great writer, whose clear style and provocative arguments make her one of the most compelling and most engaging feminist writers of our time."-Social Forces

"The richness of data, the detective-like quality of the prose, and its social and political relevance are sure to make Unhitched a provocative and invaluable contribution to the study of family and intimacy."-Kimberly D. Richman,American Journal of Sociology

Unhitched is a wild ride through the political and emotional worlds of family life. With a sociologist’s skill, Judith Stacey uncovers the very diverse shapes of human families; with a novelist’s skill, she tells us how they are lived. The disappointing options available to many women in a world of inequality appear; so do the creative responses. A lively and important book.”-Raewyn Connell,author of Gender: In World Perspective and Southern Theory

"Judith Stacey's Unhitched...successfully demystif[ies] aspects of modern marriage and its attendant real and imagined crises...[she] is a senior scholar on top of her game...her book makes you want to discuss her ideas with others."
-Kristin Celello,Women's Review of Books

“Throughout her travels and exhaustive research, Stacey pokes and prods, and eagerly calls into question everything we think we know about love, marriage, and the baby in the baby carriage.”-Publishers Weekly

“With clear-cut, modern prose, (Stacey) infuses her commentary and details her investigation from all sides of the aisle with well-researched facts and figures… Clever and practical blend of research, history and anecdote.”
-Kirkus Reviews

Unhitched is Judith Stacey's richest and most provocative work to date. Tirelessly championing diverse varieties of intimate life, she has long refused to succumb to simplistic, homogenizing notions of ‘the family.’ Unhitched continues in this vein, bringing together a fascinating mix of ethnographic research on same-sex intimacies in this country, and plural and non-marital family forms in South Africa and China. It poses a powerful empirical challenge to the belief that the nuclear family—in both its hetero and homo variants—best fulfills our needs for intimacy and security."-Arlene Stein,author of The Stranger Next Door

"It's admittedly hard to stop reading...if you're a people-watcher, are interested in culture and its changes, or have a deep interest in marriage rights one way or the other, this is one can't-miss book."
-Terri Schlichenmeyer,The Los Angeles Times

"The book is openly taking a strong normative stance against attempts at regulating the family."-Anca Gheaus,Metapsychology
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (May 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814783821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814783825
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,032,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
UNHITCHED is an incredibly interesting book. An eminent family scholar, Stacey has already done much to debunk myths like the notion that that kids need both a mom and dad to turn out OK, or that marriage is an intrinsically superior framework for caring for those we love - or even a necessary one. She brings an open mind and rigorous scholarship to her nuanced, complex, taboo-ridden subject: the different forms that modern families take, and what works - or doesn't - for the people who belong to them.

Her approach in UNHITCHED is original and engaging: an ethnographic journey to three very different cultures - gay men in Los Angeles, diverse South African families with an emphasis on polygamy, and the Mosuo, a non-marrying tribe in China -- to investigate the tensions between desire and domesticity and the surprising forms that intimacy and commitment can assume. It's rigorously researched, but Stacey wears her scholarship lightly and writes with verve and wit.

There are plenty of surprises; Stacey isn't afraid to ask tough questions or to challenge conventional wisdom. UNHITCHED overturned many of my assumptions about monogamy, plural marriage, and gay fatherhood. I didn't know, for example, that gay men more readily adopt children of another race, class, ethnicity, and even health status (also true of their intimate relationships with adults). Stacey reconsiders polygyny, comparing the United States (where family law is rigid but social and economic opportunity relatively fluid) to South Africa (where the law is progressive but stark race and gender inequality persist).
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Format: Hardcover
Unhitched is a fascinating book, and I recommend it to anyone interested in various family structures, but I found it a bit overstated, ahistorical, and naive. I don't think that Judith Stacey proves what she thinks she proves, but the cases studies are fascinating and I love the different arrangements that people come to. I generally wish everyone happiness, and if it works for them, well, bless 'em.

Stacey, in expressing her contempt for our society's preference for monogamy, never looks backwards at history any earlier than her own childhood. A British family historian once commented that a frustration in his field was making people understand that nuclear families are traditional in that society from which our own largely developed. Most people think that a few generations ago, people routinely lived in multigenerational households, when in fact that was only as required by poverty or illness. That in itself limits how families can be structured. And as my sociology professor said, the pieces of a culture interlock, one cannot simply import random bits from here and there and have it work, but I am willing to try to integrate new ideas, as our culture has always done. Interesting though her case studies are, she needs a broader range of them, with statistical analysis, to truly support the positions that she takes, particularly since she has an obvious agenda. Furthermore, while I believe that people who are responsible, affectionate, and care about their relationships may structure idiosyncratic systems that work for them, I don't assume that people, as a whole, left to do whatever they like, are going to be any more caring and responsible than current monogamists. The bottom line for me is, are the kids being taken care of?
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By Leah on November 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had to read two chapters of this book for a Sociology of Gender class but I enjoyed it so much that I ended up reading the entire book. Stacey brings into question the stereotype of a traditional family. She questions if a perfect family is actually achievable and concludes that in fact, family is very complex and different for everyone. This book combines stories from real people and cultures to question the image we have all created of family.
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Format: Paperback
I have to agree with the review by Mr. C. Smith. With this book Judith Stacey merely wants to advance her counter-cultural views of family, which apparently have not much to do with family, or even children. It's the constant search for eroticism and sexual fulfillment that concerns her here and which apparently drove her to include the case studies she introduces - regardless of the catastrophic outcomes such behavior is known to cause.
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Format: Hardcover
Stacey's focus is driven especially by concerns with erotic pleasure and fulfillment, but she does not seem to have thought through the huge question of how children are affected by (non)marriage as an institution. It's about more than just the adults involved. I agree that books like this can help jog us out of ruts of thinking on important matters. But sometimes we can end up in worse places than the old ruts. Paul Amato has written an excellent review of this book in Contemporary Sociology, which I recommend:[...]. Bottom line: worth hearing what Stacey has to say, among many others, but this is not the best thinking on the subject.
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