American Families: A Multicultural Reader


This collection testifies to the extraordinary variety of families in the United States, revealing that family arrangements have always been diverse and have often been in flux. Case studies describe the wide array of family forms and values, gender roles, and parenting

practices that have prevailed in different times and places for different population groups. Paying special attention to the intersections and cross-currents of class, race, and ethnicity, as well as their ...

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This collection testifies to the extraordinary variety of families in the United States, revealing that family arrangements have always been diverse and have often been in flux. Case studies describe the wide array of family forms and values, gender roles, and parenting

practices that have prevailed in different times and places for different population groups. Paying special attention to the intersections and cross-currents of class, race, and ethnicity, as well as their differential impact on gender, sexuality, and personal identity, the contributors

highlight the socioeconomic and cultural forces that affect the organization and internal dynamics of family life.

These articles provide a variety of perspectives that nonetheless point to a common theme: the myth of family homogeneity has not merely excluded some groups; it has

deformed our understanding of all families. Social policies and psychological practice must take account of the complexity, contradictions, conflicts, and accommodations that shape people's individual and group experience of family life.

Drawing on historical, sociological,

anthropological, and psychological research, American Families provides an overview of the theoretical and conceptual issues involved in studying the variations and interactions among different, constantly changing, families. It also considers the social, political, and practical

implications of viewing family life through the lens of multiculturalism.

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Editorial Reviews

Katha Pollitt
This is the best single-volume guide I know to the way we live now. -- Nation
Library Journal
This book, which arose from the demands of Coontz's family history course at Evergreen State College, continues the project Coontz ably began in four previous monographs (most recently, The Way We Really Are, LJ 4/1/97). The 29 chapters have been multifariously culled, many excerpted from books, with the aim of showing varieties of family life when factors of race, class, gender, locale, and different historical periods are considered independently. There are, for instance, chapters about African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Filipinas, Vietnamese, Chinese, immigrants, lesbians, motherhood, the poor, teenage mothers, and class consciousness in various times and places. There are no articles about middle- or upper-class families or those of northern European origin. Some of the authors are well known (e.g., W.J. Wilson, Thomas J. Sugrue), while others are newcomers. With nothing quite like it in its breadth of treatment, this is an excellent resource for college students or the engaged reader looking for a scholarly introduction.--Janice Dunham, John Jay Coll. Lib., New York
A reader for a two-quarter seminar on race, class, and gender in family scholarship. Selections shed light on debates in family diversity, revealing that in every historical period, the US has had several distinct but interconnected family systems, all of which form part of a larger constellation of power relations, unequal access to resources, and struggles over ideological representations of family life. Topics include American Indians and the boarding school experience, social science theorizing for Latino families, gay and lesbian families, and biracial identity. No index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
'What a collection of articles! Stephanie Coontz has gathered together the writing of many of the most important scholars of our time to address one of the most important issues of our time – the growing diversity of American families. A great choice for undergraduate classrooms and an addition to any scholar’s bookshelf.'Barbara J. Risman, Author of Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition

'American Families provides a powerful exploration of the challenges facing contemporary families. From the historical roots of inequality to tools to theorize the meanings of difference, this collection provides engaging readings that illustrate American past and present struggles, laced with hope for the future.'Jennifer A. Reich, Author of Fixing Families: Parents, Power, and the Child Welfare System

'American Families is a marvelthe authors have identified some the very best and clearest new scholarship. The book affords an accurate, thoughtful and thought-provoking glimpse at family life in the US as it really is.'- Linda Gordon, Author of The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction

'The book is ideal for undergraduate teaching purposes. Family researchers, however, will also want to have this in-depth yet accessible resource on their shelves. Beyond the substantive findings presented, several chapters do a great job of synthesizing a range of scholarship related to family diversity and outlining potentially fruitful avenues for subsequent theorizing and research. I highly recommend this volume. Several articles left me wanting more, excited about the unanswered questions and future research possibilities related to family diversity. Coontz's volume takes a big leap forward in shifting issues of diversity to the center of family research.'- Jennifer Utrata, Assistant Professor, University of Puget Sound, in the Journal of Marriage and Family

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415915748
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephanie Coontz is Professor of Family History at the Evergreen State College. She is the author of numerous books, including Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage.

Maya Parson is a doctoral candidate in Cultural Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Gabrielle Raley is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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Table of Contents

Pt. I The American Tradition of Family Diversity
1 Fictive Kin, Paper Sons, and Compadrazgo: Women of Color and the Struggle for Family Survival 2
2 Excerpts from Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928 20
3 Interpreting the African Heritage in Afro-American Family Organization 59
4 Split Household, Small Producer, and Dual Wage Earner: An Analysis of Chinese-American Family Strategies 74
5 Working-Class Families, 1870-1890 94
6 Excerpts from Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 128
7 Southern Diaspora: Origins of the Northern "Underclass" 153
Pt. II Integrating Race, Class, and Gender into Family Theory
8 Family and Class in Contemporary America: Notes toward an Understanding of Ideology 180
9 Shifting the Center: Race, Class, and Feminist Theorizing about Motherhood 197
10 Toward a Unified Theory of Class, Race, and Gender 218
11 Social Science Theorizing for Latino Families in the Age of Diversity 230
Pt. III Working-Class and Inner-City Families under Economic Stress
12 Poor Families in an Era of Urban Transformation: The "Underclass" Family in Myth and Reality 243
13 No Good Choices: Teenage Childbearing, Concentrated Poverty, and Welfare Reform 258
14 Excerpts from Families on the Fault Line: America's Working Class Speaks about the Family, the Economy, Race, and Ethnicity 273
Pt. IV Globalization and Today's Immigrant Families
15 Women and Children First: New Directions in Anti-immigrant Politics 288
16 Global Exchange: The World Bank, "Welfare Reform," and the Global Trade in Filipina Workers 305
17 Migration and Vietnamese American Women: Remaking Ethnicity 318
Pt. V Work-Family Issues
18 Management by Stress: The Reorganization of Work Hits Home in the 1990s 332
19 Gender Displays and Men's Power: The "New Man" and the Mexican Immigrant Man 342
20 Child-Care Dilemmas in Contemporary Families 359
Pt. VI New Forms of Family Diversity
21 Gay and Lesbian Families Are Here: All Our Families Are Queer: Let's Get Used to It! 372
22 African American Lesbians: Issues in Couples Therapy 406
23 Social Construction of Mary Beth Whitehead 425
24 Comment on Harrison: The Commodification of Motherhood 435
25 Resolving "Other" Status: Identity Development of Biracial Individuals 439
26 Use of African-American Family Structures and Functioning to Address the Challenges of European-American Postdivorce Families 455
Pt. VII Recognizing Diversity, Encouraging Solidarity
27 Poverty, Social Rights, and the Quality of Citizenship 470
28 The Case for a Race-Specific Policy 478
29 The Family Values Fable 487
Selected Bibliography of Recent Sources 491
Permissions Acknowledgments 500
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