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Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture Paperback – February 1, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"The world is moving towards a tougher period, when the relative ease and luxury we've known will be tested. But that test can deepen our family and community lives, as Shannon Hayes shows, providing more of us-of both genders-become homemakers."--Bill McKibben, author of Earth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

"Imagine women with masters degrees and PhDs who choose home over career advancement. Imagine wives (and husbands) who reject the false promise of endless paid labor to tend gardens and children and friendships. In a time when Wall Street MBAs-producing nothing of value but rewarded with million-dollar bonuses and blinded by greed-have driven our country to bankruptcy and despair, Shannon Hayes' stories of women and men who choose simplicity, authenticity and community inspire hope. Outside the boxes of both conservatives and liberals, this book is radical thinking at its best. Read it and think."--John de Graaf, coauthor of Affluenza and director of Take Back Your Time

"Brilliant, visionary, and practical. This is a mind-bending book that will forever change your view of human possibility and compel you to rethink your life. My highest recommendation."--David Korten, author of Agenda for a New Economy and The Great Turning, and board chair of YES! magazine

"Shannon Hayes retrieves the word "homemaker" from being a sort of quaint, yellowing doily laid in the sideboard, along with frugality and simplicity, and shows how radical, indeed, it is to take responsibility for the health of your family, community and world by raising wonderful food, wonderful kids and a wonderful ruckus in the face of injustice or greed. She and her husband had the courage to 'do the math' and see that a double-income life was not worth living (and was barely worth the money). They also had, as most radical homemakers do, the canny ability to question the standard assumptions about the good life . . . they could develop the skills, patience, and community connections of homemaking while keeping their minds sharp and their lives relevant. At a time when many of the pillars of our security are wobbly-the economy, oil and water and mineral supplies, climate predictability-I predict that Radical Homemakers will become a bible for those seeking to make their lives more manageable, safe, and deeply fulfilling."--Vicki Robin, coauthor of Your Money or Your Life and host of yourmoneyoryourlife.info

"The real 4-Hour Workweek. Reclaim and upgrade your life with this urgently needed work from the integrity-driven soul of Shannon Hayes. No lives of quiet desperation here: rejecting outmoded, inauthentic and toxic societal practices, Shannon and her peers do nothing less than redesign the work-life-success paradigm. Breathtaking, scholarly, passionate and inspiring."--Holly Hickman, Radical Homemaker, former Fox News Radio reporter and creator of SustainableSuppers.com

About the Author

Shannon Hayes works with her family raising grassfed meat on Sap Bush Hollow Farm in upstate New York. She is the author of Long Way on a Little, The Grassfed Gourmet, The Farmer and the Grill and the controversial best-seller, Radical Homemakers. Hayes holds a Ph.D. in sustainable agriculture and community development from Cornell University, blogs for Yes! Magazine, hosts GrassfedCooking.com, and writes about her daily life farming, homeschooling her kids and cooking great food at ShannonHayes.info.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Left to Write Press; First Edition edition (February 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979439116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979439117
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very subjective and emotional review, admittedly, BUT I just wanted to thank this author for lifting the monkey of guilt off my back: the one that's been living there, whispering little nasties in my ear, ever since I left my Ph.D. program, abandoned my dissertation, shocked my fellow feminist academicians, disappointed my ambitious father, and exchanged the career track for two decades of living simply, raising my daughters,and doing our little part to save the environment.

Back in 1991, when my second daughter was born, my husband and I had no "manifesto" to explain our decision to scale back our lives. No one had attached a "name" to the conclusion I reached--after an ordeal of soul-searching, self-doubt, and even recrimination--that staying home with my babies, scaling back our ambitions and our lifestyle, and throwing my energies into raising our own organic food, becoming caretaker to a large flock of (although we didn't call them that at the time) natural, pastured chickens, of spending many, many hours volunteering with other like-minded women in our community health food cooperative, of devoting time and effort to various environmental organizations and causes, working for politicians who had believed as we did, and--most importantly--unschooling my two girls so that the world became their classroom and their minds were not limited by pedagogy or ideology, was THE most worthwhile use of my time, my passions, and my talents.

Nope. It was just a bizarre detour from my carefully laid, feminist plans. This was a life choice my husband and I HAD to make, because in our hearts we could accept no other, but society (and my own critical, Intellectual Self) sneered at our rusticity, our modest income, my domesticity, our family-centered existence.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really expected to like this book, but it had so many glaring flaws I just couldn't. For one thing, it needs a different title. As others have already pointed out, it should be called Radical Homesteading because that is what the book is really about (although the "radical" is extraneous since it's pretty much exactly what homesteaders do, not just the "radical" ones). If your parents don't already have a farm you can live on and/or you have no interest in rural life, there's nothing here for you. Even if you buy into what she is saying and want this life for yourself and your family, the book offers no practical suggestions for achieving it--again, unless you come from a family who will give you land, or is willing to pay your bills while you remove yourself from the "extractive economy".

The book is divided into two parts. Part one is entitled "Why" and part two is entitled "How", but she never actually delivers on the how. She, and most of the people she interviewed either live on land provided to them by their parents from a family farm or are having some portion of their bills paid by their families (student loans, health insurance, etc.).

She makes some good points here and there--in fact I'd say overall I agree with of her core ideas-- but the historical interpretation is questionable at best, the whole thing is poorly researched and written, and in the end it really never offers any practical advice. The good points she does make have all been made before--by far better writers. Additionally, it comes off as preachy and privileged with it's all-or-nothing stance.

Hayes seems completely blind to her own privilege. The vast majority of the people in the book, Hayes included, have college degrees and come from solidly middle class backgrounds.
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Format: Paperback
Shannon Hayes and her husband made a personal choice after college to step back into the same kind of "simple" rural life in which she had been raised. Seeing the many advantages this brought to her family, she chose to do graduate work researching how others making similar choices felt about their "radical" lives. The first half of the book recounts "the history of domesticity and feminism" while the second part provides input from those she interviewed, " to give a clear picture of the many ways this lifestyle can work."

Though Hayes attempted to find "radical homemakers" in a wide range of neighborhoods, the lifestyle "works" best for those in rural communities. Even the urbanites included tend to be in areas where they can raise a few chickens in the backyard or have ready access to thriving farmers' markets.

Those who step back from the rat race that our consumer-focused culture has become are to be commended, but there is a disturbing kind of nostalgia for the past that these case studies don't really touch. Hayes idealizes earlier agrarian times while conveniently forgetting that life for many--most--in those times was, quoting Hobbes, "solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short." She emphasizes health care as an area where expenditures were far lower in the past, with many homemade remedies published in cookbooks of the early 19th century, forgetting that mortality rates were also much higher prior to the many advancements of modern science.

Hayes too often gives, inadvertently or not, an elitist spin to the topic. She brags at being able to live a "radical homemaker" existence on $45,000 annually--even though the median family income in 2008 was just over $52,000.
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