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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

4.5 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

These plainspoken, cage-rattling essays, collected by Walker (What Makes a Man), address how dramatically the traditional nuclear American family has changed. Jenny Block's And Then We Were Poly sets the decidedly unconventional tone by insisting that her and her husband's embrace of other sexual partners allows them a more joyful, fulfilling commitment to each other. A gay couple adopts the child of a self-destructive street girl in Dan Savage's DJ's Homeless Mommy, then tries to keep the mother in touch with her son. In Sharing Madison, Dawn Friedman, another parent of an adoptee, writes of her agonizing process of overcoming the guilt she feels in having taken baby Madison away from her teenage mother. Antonio Caya, in Daddy Donoring, recounts his rational decision to sire his friend's child, firmly remaining a donor, not a daddy, so as not to muddle the issue. Children of mixed race force a much-needed altering of people's perceptions, as ZZ Packer explores in The Look, while Susan McKinney de Ortega's choice to marry a much younger Mexican man and make a home in Mexico challenges the American notion of middle-class values. These fresh, diverse views represent an authentic, valuable new reality. (Feb.)
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.

About the Author

Rebecca Walker has received numerous awards and accolades for her writing and activism. Her work has appeared in many anthologies and publications; in addition to the international bestseller Black, White, and Jewish, her books include Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence, and the anthologies To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism, which has become a standard text in gender studies courses around the world, and What Makes a Man: 22 Writers Imagine the Future. A popular speaker at universities and in business settings, Walker teaches the art of memoir at workshops and writing conferences internationally. She lives in Hawaii.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594484376
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594484377
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #228,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There is nothing more that the human animal longs for than acceptance. This can be hard to come by if you find yourself unable to march to the beat of the common drummer. I have long known that heterosexual, monogamous marriage was not for me. I have long admired families who have chosen their own roads over the ones they are shown. I have long wanted to hear of the stories of those who have found happiness and love not in following but instead in seeking. Finally those stories are here.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't read many anthologies, but I've never seen an editor (Rebecca Walker) change so much of the original author's essay. I've only read about a quarter of the book so far (4 and half essays), but after finishing two first two essays I noticed how the pacing of the essays were really similar. So similar I had to check and make sure they were by different authors.

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?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a really quick read and I've already recommended it to several friends - and would recommend it for anyone who has ever felt like their family or their idea of family is out of step with the "norm." The overwhelming sense that I brought away from this reading was that: every family is different, every approach is different, and every family is beautiful. Whether or not that is what the editor and authors intended, I do not know. But it was nice to feel like the polyamorous LGBT life that I am currently leading does not preclude me from starting my own hodge podge family a few years down the road.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 negatives of different family structures and situations. The stories are all pretty quick reads, so it's easy to read one or two whenever you have some freetime.
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Format: Hardcover
I can understand why the one reviewer mentioned being disappointed by the book after the "tease" of the intro poly story. If that's what you're looking for, this isn't the book for you. (You might try reading the rest of the story in Jenny Block's book "Open" but it isn't that graphic really either.)

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!
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