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on April 26, 2016
The first 12 chapters of this book are timeless, in that they capture a people in a certain place and time. The detailed description of several girls and a specific community gives the reader a look into a very different culture with little bias.
However, the final chapters take a darker turn attempting to compare apples to oranges, one cultures positives against another’s negatives. Mead wrote this book with American educators in mind several generations ago. Unfortunately, when pieces of this self-sufficient, simpler culture were cherry-picked and idealized for American society, it created a socially contentious atmosphere in the more complicated and global American culture.
In Chapter 13, she notes that when European standards for sexual behavior intrude “the need for choice, the forerunner of conflict, will enter into Samoan Society.” At the core of American culture is the human right to choose for one’s self, therefore the two society’s are fundamentally different and should be examined individually not compared as though one is better than the other.
Mead also reveals her views against nuclear families and parents’ key roles in their children’s upbringing. In Chapter 14, she says “it is a question of the absence of a common standard far more than of the nature of the standards,” referring to how children are parented differently in American households. On the next page she continues, “It is unfair that very young children should be the battleground for conflicting standards, that their development should be hampered by propagandist attempts to enlist and condition them too young.”
Finally, Mead contradicts herself in suggesting “the home must cease to please an ethical cause or a religious belief with smiles or frowns, caresses or threats.” Then she says, “They must be taught that many ways are open to them.” Mead falsely suggests that an American child raised in a home of strong opinions and vigorous causes then could not also be reared to have an open minded and be able to think for himself.
In summary, I recommend this book to adults as an eye-opening look at the human condition through an unfamiliar culture. However, one should stop at the end of Chapter 12.
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on September 25, 2017
College reading material, delivered as promised.
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on January 27, 2018
It arrived pretty close to being on time, but the book was damaged and so that was a bummer.
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on December 3, 2017
I have a problem with how she conducted her ethnographic work. In short, most of the sexual practice from the Samoan perspective can very well be false due to Meads inability to speak Samoan, and therefore not even understand the subjects intentions. Nor did Mead have any translators.
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on February 18, 2012
The book was in great shape, and came in a timely fashion. I needed it for a class, and it was a great read!
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on April 28, 2009
This book would have been much more understandavle and readable if the author had followed one or two girls through the cycle of growing up. It seems to be random information that does not come together very well to reveal the true culture.
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on February 8, 2017
Loved it
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on March 9, 2015
A real scientist she was and tells it as she finds it. She points out the differences between the boys and girls beautifully, with honesty.
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on December 25, 2012
Coming of Age in Samoa is well written and engaging, an enjoyable read. Mead has an ability to present a scientific study in poetic form drawing the reader in while communicating social observations.

From a psychological perspectives there are several shortcomings. Mead did a revolutionary work; it was however somewhat incomplete and romanticized to fit Mead's personal predispositions. While stomach or back pain were indicated, No reasons for the high percentage of possible psychosomatic pain were not addressed. In addition, after only 5 months in Samoa, the level of intimacy required for disclosure of familial sexual encounters, both heterosexual and homosexual, is not often attained in such a short amount of time inside the familial clan setting.
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on December 23, 2014
I give it one star as science and five stars as a meta-commentary on society. Combined, three.

How anyone can read this and not see it as a fantasy is beyond me. Think back to how naive you were in your early twenties. Now imagine that you are a young woman seeking to make a name for yourself in a field, and you are under the wing of strong minded research advisor. You're going to head off to Samoa and you will find facts that fit your narrative.

Anthropology is a field well suited to storytelling. Researchers go off to distant lands, write down a bunch of stuff, and come back to civilization. Of course there is no small amount of distortion along the way.

Consider Castaneda. The anthropology department at UCLA stood fast behind him for a very long time, because to admit otherwise would be to admit their lack of skepticism - and his work was riddled with absurd fallacies! I am not at all surprised that Derek Freeman's work was slammed by the anthropology field; to consider it credible would be to admit failure of their own. Circle the wagons.

The criticism leveled at Freeman's work consisted of fallacious attacks, such as his only publishing after Mead was dead. Just because someone is no longer living does not make their work immune to criticism. Or insinuating that her work is attacked because she is a woman: So as a woman, her work is assumed beyond reproach? Castaneda's work was dissected mercilessly; I guess having a Y chromosome is not a universal shield.

Here's the basic litmus test: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The claim that societies exist that indulge in free love and unrestrained sexuality is an extraordinary claim, for it runs contrary to the entire rest of civilization. A related challenge: If free love worked for primitive societies, why are the Samoans the only ones that figured it out? Why haven't more been discovered?

The default response to Mead's claims needs to not be "What interesting truth!" but "Interesting claims. Now let's go check them."

In other words, don't believe everything you read. People do make stuff up, you know.
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