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Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences Hardcover – October 6, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A message that needs to be heard in all its complexity. People should read this book.
Lambda Book Report

Ties That Bind is one of the most exciting gay liberation texts to appear in years...this is a rewarding, wide-ranging, and challenging work from an original mind and a talented pen, one that will make you think and help you live.
—Doug Ireland, Gay City News

Schulman boldly declares that visibility is a failed strategy for cultural change.
Utne

[Schulman is] a writer who has played a pivotal role in the cultural and political spheres of the gay community.
Curve

To call her book [Ties That Bind] pioneering would be redundant. . . . With its personal appeals, its call to arms — or rather, ethics — and its advice for therapists, family members, and gay people, I continue to be struck by the book’s usefulness above all else. . . .[I]t gives me hope that one day — just as Schulman stipulates — homophobia could actually be a punishable crime, we could be liberated from the systematic shame and humiliation that currently defines our culture, and in that liberation necessarily granted the rights that
we’ve lived without all this time.
Velvet Park

Schulman’s lucid dissection of the role that families play as incubators of homophobia could hardly be better. This [is] a truly indispensable book. It should blow away the hot air generated by the public debate about ‘family values.’
— Andrew Ross, chair of the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at York University

Sarah Schulman Ties That Bind tackles the familial and cultural homophobia that still pervade our society. She starkly lays out the fundamental immorality of such shunning behavior and its destructive consequences for everyone involved. This is an important and original book.
— Martin Duberman, award-winning historian, biographer, playwright, and gay rights activist

Sarah Schulman is brilliant, vulnerable, and relentless. Ties That Bindshould be required reading for every family—gay and straight.
— Ellen Bass, poet and author of The Courage to Heal

A cri de coeur woven into a Utopian vision.
— Susan Brownmiller, author of Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape

Sarah has taught me a great deal over the years of our being fellow activists and this book teaches me even more.
— Larry Kramer

About the Author

Sarah Schulman is the author of nine novels, four nonfiction books, and numerous plays. A recipient of a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, Schulman is a professor of English at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island, and a fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595584803
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595584809
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,525,651 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As one who was lucky enough not to know firsthand the heartbreak of rejection, shunning, sometimes outright hatred from family members, I found Ties That Bind to be a revelation. I know gay people, and have friends who are gay, and I have written about gay characters. So I flattered myself that I understood completely. I didn't, except up to a point. I not only don't understand how family members can turn against their own for something that's not their choice, I don't understand how the victim ever gets through it.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. A reader who is homophobic might just get some insight and question that attitude. A reader who is gay and has never been victimized will get insight into what it's like for those not so lucky. A reader who is on the receiving end of the hatred and rejection will realize s/he's not alone, and maybe have some hope of how to deal with it.

It's not a particularly optimistic book, because even though Schulman tells what should happen within a family to set things right, I don't get the feeling she's optimistic about the chances of its happening. It's a dark read because of its subject, and also because she shows, sadly, that the result of being shunned and treated badly by family can lead to the victim perpetuating the treatment on a partner.

The author "takes no prisoners." She's forthright and honest and compassionate.

It's not a fun, fast, fluffy read. I found myself stopping frequently, thinking, "But why...? How can they...?" and re-reading those parts.

It's an important book, and one that cries out to be read. Schulman shouldn't be left to preach to the choir. This book should be in every public library.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is excellent for the most part. The topic is very important and Schulman is a wonderful writer. I admire her honesty. It must have taken courage to write this book considering the amount of silence regarding the homophobia that exists in the family, not to talk of the one in society. I enjoyed reading it. It's very compelling, but I noticed a few subjective parts that did not need to be included. You should read it anyway and make up your own mind. After all, people are entitled to their opinions. I recommend it to people who want an in depth analysis of homophobia in the family and its relation to society. I would read another book by Sarah Schulman 'cause I enjoyed this one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
To me, Sarah Schulman is up there with James Baldwin and Gore Vidal as a practitioner of the essay form, and Ties That Bind: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences is a tight and focused master work. Her approach to talking about the painful family dynamics in her own life is unlike anyone else's, so unlike the calculated confessional approach of memoir and transgressive fiction that I hardly know how to describe it. It's cool, intellectual, self-controlled -- but perhaps like Perseus looking at the Gorgon only as a reflection in his shield. She looks at the worst emotions most gay and lesbian people have ever felt and never equivocates in naming them and calling them out. It's a brave and intense book, and I'm already thinking of the young gay people I know who ought to read this as soon as they can.
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Format: Paperback
This book is really helpful for people who need to understand homophobia in our culture and how its used against gay (LGBT) people. I'll break down my review by some of the main points.

1. The dominant culture uses homophobia to marginalize the gay community and repeated messages make them internalize their homophobia so that they feel down on themselves.
2. Homophobia is treated as a personal problem by society, when -- in reality -- it is a cultural crisis. Gays are marginalized on a large scale and treating as a "personal problem" someone is having is not the right way to approach it. We must recognize that this each case IS NOT AN ISOLATED INCIDENT. We must treat it as the cultural crisis that it is.
3. Homophobia is a pleasure system used by heterosexuals to maintain their privilege. Straight people OFTEN (not always) are aware of the privilege that comes with being straight, so they will use homophobia when it creates gains for themselves. This is even practiced by straight people that aren't really homophobic, but only use homophobia to gain a competitive edge against a gay person. Example: A woman is prejudice against her gay brother because it gives her favor with her parents who are very anti-gay. The woman will receive more financial, emotional and social benefit from shunning her brother.
4. The failure of therapeutic solutions: Therapists are notoriously bad at helping gay people in therapy. WHY? Because they are also products of a homophobic system. Some can be good, but they fail when dealing with gays and their homophobic families.
5. Homophobia has manifested itself within the lesbian community in regard to divorce/separation.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ms. Schulman's approach is left of mainstream and different from much of the literature and advice given to those dealing with familial homophobia. Her approach is that all too frequently, it is the LGBT individual who has to do the work of healing family bigotry, and this is not only unjust, but of questionable value. Her approach comes at the problem from the belief that it is the family that needs the intervention. A survivor (barely!) of such familial failure, I found the author's approach eye-opening, affirming and unlike much of what I had read before, experienced in my work counseling gay men, or discovered in my own journey to a healthy life.

Ms. Schulman suggests, quite strongly, (and validly) an alternative to that standard advice given when one's family of origin is dysfunctional: develop a "chosen" family of friends and loved ones. Standard, but again, Ms. Schulman rightly believes that every individual has entitlement to a loving supportive family, and a person who does not, should be supported by others who can arrange an intervention to set right the blood family. Oh, if that could only happen every time; how much pain and loss would we avoid.

From a practical standpoint, I wish the author had explored not just the need for intervention, but both alternatives to intervention and methodology of intervention from the standpoint of the individual experiencing familial abuse. How does a victim, already disempowered by the loss of family support, and who, very likely, has little social support find the resources and stratagem to implement an intervention with a dysfunctional family? The author is entirely right that it is the family that needs the therapy or intervention, but realistically, I wish Ms. Schulman had gone a few steps further.
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