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A World of Their Own Making: Myth, Ritual and the Quest for Family Values Hardcover – July, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0465054145 ISBN-10: 0465054145 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (July 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465054145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465054145
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,977,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

When Dan Quayle chastised the sitcom Murphy Brown for flouting traditional family values by having its lead give birth out of wedlock, he had a point: television had moved beyond the Nelsons to the new world of the Simpsons. That shift, along with other harbingers of social change, allowed both Democrats and Republicans to deploy apocalyptic visions of family decline and social disorder. (A factoid: premarital pregnancy rates have never fallen below 10 percent throughout our history.) In this lively reading of American social history, Gillis shows us that the good old days were never really all that good and that while family values are not in danger, it won't keep many of us from yearning for a fabulous golden age when kids minded their elders and all was right with the world.

From Kirkus Reviews

A thoughtful debunking of the American family's mythic past. Gillis (History/Rutgers Univ.) quite ably proves that, contrary to popular opinion, there never has been a ``Golden Age'' of family values. Each generation has reacted to its own crises, Gillis argues, by idealizing the family life of previous generations; today's innovation is the belief that every 1950s family was as impeccable as the Cleavers. In the '50s, parents turned for guidance to the Depression-era generation, who in their day had clung to the Victorians as exemplars. The greatest strength of the book is the author's systematic demonstration that the rituals we now attach to the elusive phrase ``family values'' are quite recent, most dating to the Victorian era. Before the 19th century, families did not need to create time to spend together. They had no choice but to sleep, work, and eat together in their small communal space. By the 1850s such forced mutuality had been displaced by a market economy, in which fathers left the home to work, mothers became the guardians of the hearth, and children were transformed from miniature adults into idealized angels. With these new roles came important supplementary rituals. Weddings, which had previously been simple events, had by the turn of the century become lavish family celebrations. The two-day weekend was created to promote the Victorian ideal of intentional family togetherness, as was the family meal, especially Sunday dinner. Holidays such as Christmas were transformed into family-centered and commercial enterprises. Gillis's work is well researched, the topic stimulating. Gillis writes with an easy, contemporary style, although his familiarity with the reader can be a bit jarring (he refers to early Europeans as ``our ancestors,'' presuming that his audience is entirely Euro-American). In all, though, a useful contribution to the history of the family, accessible to general readers. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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