Our whole society may be obsessed with “family values,” but as John Gillis points out in this entertaining and eye-opening book, most of our images of “home sweet home” are of very recent vintage. A World of Their Own Making questions our idealized notion of “The Family,” a mind-set in which myth and symbol still hold sway. As the families we live with become more fragile, the symbolic families we live by become more powerful. Yet it is only by accepting the notion that our ritual, myths, and images must be open to perpetual revision that we can satisfy our human needs and changing circumstances.
Synthesizes, in thoroughly readable prose, a tremendous amount of recent historical literature on Western family life from the Middle Ages to the present. This is no mean feat, and the fact that it undermines many loudly proclaimed political pieties is a delicious bonus.
Weddings, birthdays, funerals, reunions, Mother's Day, even Christmas--we think of these ritual events as timeless traditions, our links to the distant past and the future. As such, they become invested with a syrupy sentimentalism, both sweet and sticky--part of the current nostalgia for family values. John Gillis's twin gifts as a historian and a writer are to reveal just how modern and how politically constructed these rituals are and to tell their story with the narrative grace and flair of a born storyteller. A book both learned and entertaining.
A tour de force of accessible scholarship, written with vigor and grace, filled with fascinating details and fresh insights...No one who cares about the past, present, or future of family life can afford to ignore this book.
- 336 pages
- 6 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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