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One Big Happy Family: 18 Writers Talk About Polyamory, Open Adoption, Mixed Marriage, Househusbandry, Single Motherhood, and Other Realities of Truly Modern Love Hardcover – February 19, 2009
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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.)
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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.
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!
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?