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on May 31, 2016
I was disappointed because I expected a lot of new content; however, from what I can tell, only a revised intro and conclusion have been added, which means most (or all) of the essay-content contains references that are somewhat outdated for readers under the age of 40.
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on June 15, 2010
Still reading through the book, but so far so good with information I never knew.
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on July 12, 2016
Reads like a sociology textbook. Obviously very well researched. Filled with facts and figures. But very slow going. I was looking for more of an essay like comparison of past and present.
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on November 22, 2014
This book is supposed to be about a very, very interesting topic like our beloved fantasy about the idyllic "good old days", especially the 1950s nuclear family of well-dressed parents and perfectly groomed kids living in square white houses with picket fences and carefully manicured rose gardens. Here the author is supposed to debunk this dreamy image perhaps with a little sense of humor and irony for the current and future generations to come.

But instead she just rumbled on and on and on with her scholarly theories about this and that, somewhat straying away from her main subject to talk about something like family vs. business in the 1800s. In fact, I have to work HARD tunneling through those solid walls of text at times! That is why I have been keeping the book from library for more a FEW months, even having to renew it in person the last time because I could no longer do it online. So sadly, it is almost time for me to return it half-read. :/

It's been mentioned that Stephanie Coontz sometimes gives lectures, so I bet she successfully puts a whole auditorium to sleep with her hours-long speeches. :)
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on January 22, 2018
This is an outstanding book. Surveying and analyzing an enormous amount of data, the author draws well-founded conclusions about the nature of American family patterns and why they are the way they are. These findings often go against our sentimental assumptions, while they at the same time explain much that has gone awry in American society. Though encyclopedic in scope, the material is well organized into chapters on specific aspects of the family. The writing is beautifully clear, making this one of the more enjoyable books of its kind I've read in recent years. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who sincerely wants a better understanding of the basis of the strengths and weaknesses of American families and American society, and some fact-based ideas of what to do to improve both.
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on October 18, 2017
The way we never were is a falsehood. Some American families experience tradition, stability in snippets rather than permanence due to disruptive innovation. So, an acceptance by those who promote disruption to the stability of the nuclear family hardly means anything to me. The United States will improve, make continuous improvements aka do a better job and get a better grade on their report card when they start doing their homework about better supporting the nuclear family. This did exist in snippets. Our President states the job security of your parents is gone, while I would agree that I'm unsure that it ever existed. So, while we keep demanding higher educated citizens, higher moral standards, better ethics, perhaps you should start @ home - and "accepting" the disruption that innovation is allowed to DO to the American nuclear family. You know what they say about "good intentions" and the road to you know where? Everyone shares in the responsibility to try and provide stability for our greatest resource, which is our children for the future generation. When it takes Corporate America 4 years to inform an employee that they actually HAVE an employee assistance center for laid off employees and ONLY when the employee calls THEM - you get an F on my report card. You care? Start acting like it. Maybe it's time? They do their best to create jobs, employ us, provide for us - and we should be appreciative - but endorsement of the book smacks of COMPLACENCE. The railway disrupts the horse and buggy, disrupted again by the automobile, disrupted again by air travel, pony express versus e-mail, the library versus digital books. Yeah, it's as OLD as TIME itself - so WHY aren't we BETTER and bridging the GAPS that are so freaking apparently OBVIOUS to us all by now? We can put a man on the moon, now if we only put that energy into supporting the American family. It seems so silly, but do we not as a universal people control the CASH on this planet? When to print it? When we need it? And as a people we accept poverty, financial loss, foreclosure, homelessness (to some degree) with saying it was the way we never were? I'm not buying it.
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on September 19, 2014
The title should be "The Way we Were." She describes (albeit with a rather left wing perspective) the first half of the 20th century much in accord with my Grandfather's diaries, and the second half much as I remember it growing up in a middle class environment. Life was better for some than others, better for the working class in the first part of the 20th century than today, in some important ways (access to college, safety in the streets, cost of houses). Strange that she leaves out the Vietnam War and the 1960s riots and their causes, management and mismanagement.
Her perspective gets in the way of noting that "government," (an undefined entity) got the money that it "used to subsidize the middle class families of the 1950s" mostly from those families.
Except for the excursions into liberal semi-outrage, the book is a fair exposition of the changes in family, working classes, and conditions for women and men, over the past century (the diaries don't go back much further). Those who haven't lived much of it may find it semi-informative, but they would be well advised to counter the bias by reviewing the Oakland Tribune and Time Magazine Archives.
After reading it, my assessment is "meh."
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on September 14, 2014
Lucy and Desi Arnaz cheated on each other. Lauren Chapin (of Father Knows Best) was raped by her father. The American tv sitcoms of the 1950's were an illusion designed to promote a myth. The 1950's were not the ideal era, and under the facade of the male breadwinner and the dedicated hausfrau, there were a lot of unhappy families.
This book is old, but a more recent one on feminism has an interesting theory. It's said that when Americans moved from the farms and cities to the suburbs, women quickly lost their status. Wives on the farms and the cities played a more active role in community life, but when they moved to the Levitowns they ended up as bored domestic servants. When divorce became less stigmatizing, millions of women went running for divorce lawyers, and that left the kids in a limbo. It pulled the rug out from under the families.
Back in the 90's, I asked my mother why all the child molestation cases never happened in the Eisenhower era. She told me they did, but it was hushed up. No police chief could bring himself to arrest the parish priest for raping a child. Nobody would believe a girl who said that the school's football team captain had raped her. He would've claimed he seduced her by wearing a short skirt. In a rape case, the defense lawyer could trash the accuser as "promiscuous" and the idea then was that a "loose girl" could not be raped.
I'll sum up with something my bible teacher used to tell me. He said "when I was your age, we didn't have to lock our doors at night, and that's because we had nothing to steal."
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on February 4, 2016
This book is a must read history. It dispels the "those were the good old days" mythology of America's recent past. As such it would garner 5 stars were it not for a major flaw: Repetition. The case this book makes could easily have been made in a lecture presentation or a periodical article. It makes the same (or very similar) point over and over with a myriad of tidbits of documented American history. I have struggled to get through this book which, as I have said, is a must read because as I read I was never sure I wasn't rereading what I read the day before.
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on February 20, 2016
I've really enjoyed reading this book every night before I fall asleep. I can picture the information in the book, and feel like I'm really there. Another plus is that it's obvious that Coontz wants to be unbiased in a political sense---she tries to cover history in a way that neither blames nor overly sympathizes with any particular side. The focus of the book seems to be on economics--classes, particularly, which is interesting enough for me, but I found the book lacking in terms of day-to-day family life and examples that I was hoping for. There also seems to be a bit of repetition throughout the book and some references to events that I'm unfamiliar with. While I think that the book is exceptionally well-researched (there are tons of pages of notes in the back of the book), I don't feel like I've really come away with much information other than that we should accept life as it is now and not romanticize the past, since the past wasn't really what we think it was. Don't get me wrong--it's interesting to learn about the class systems of the times, but for family history, I'd look into a different book.
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