Joined at the Heart: The Transformation of the American Family

Overview

Former Vice President and bestselling author Al Gore collaborates with his wife, Tipper, on a groundbreaking book about the changing face of the American family

Al and Tipper Gore have long considered family their bedrock. They've also spent many years studying the American family, and now, in this provocative and personal book, they explore the myriad ways in which the idea of family is being redefined.

Over the past two generations, cultural ...

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Overview

Former Vice President and bestselling author Al Gore collaborates with his wife, Tipper, on a groundbreaking book about the changing face of the American family

Al and Tipper Gore have long considered family their bedrock. They've also spent many years studying the American family, and now, in this provocative and personal book, they explore the myriad ways in which the idea of family is being redefined.

Over the past two generations, cultural shifts and economic pressures have profoundly affected every family in the nation: balancing work and family now poses a bigger challenge than ever before, day-care and after-school child care programs are too often dangerously inadequate, and new technological advancements have dramatically changed the ways we communicate. But if many of the traditional landmarks by which families formerly steered their course have disappeared, change has also opened up exciting possibilities, yielding an explosion of new family forms and novel solutions to age-old problems.

In this penetrating and moving exploration of the contemporary family landscape, the Gores share stories drawn from their own experiences, as well as introduce us to a dozen other families they have come to know over the years. Combining personal insight and expert opinions, historical and global perspectives, Joined at the Heart identifies an emerging reality-and demonstrates that, in the face of unprecedented change, the inherent need for family is stronger than ever.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Former vice president Al Gore and his wife, family advocate Tipper Gore, present a look at the current state of the American family unit, via fascinating profiles of 12 families they have met through the years. In addition, the Gores share reflections on their own family and how it has changed and adapted over the years.
Isabel Allende
An extraordinary achievement. The Gores' experience and vision, plus their comprehensive research, make Joined at the Heart a must . . .
Barbara Kingsolver
This book . . . addresses the concerns that truly matter to healthy family life, and is honest about our culture's strengths . . .
Pepper Schwartz
This is a warm and wise exploration of the new terrain of family life . . .
Robert Coles
Here is America's heart and soul embodied in the connected lives of its families — stories of our citizens told sensitively . . .
Juliet Schor
A remarkable blend of personal memoir, ethnography, and research findings . . . inspiring, heartwarming, and compelling . . .
Robert Putnam
This engaging book is serious in intent and playful in execution.
Mary Pipher
This ambitious and hopeful book radiates faith that ordinary people can build strong lives and good communities.
Arlie Russell Hochschild
Warmly appreciative of the diversity of ways we are joined at the heart . . .
From The Critics
Written by the former vice president and his wife, this book concerns itself with the challenges that beset the modern American family. Drawing on an array of (often familiar) studies, punctuating the text with the real-life tales of ordinary people making contemporary lifestyle choices, and spicing the whole with charming insights into their own family dynamics, the Gores examine what it means to love, work and play in today's world. Perpetually opting for the anecdotal over the theoretical, the book feels like a long article in a popular magazine, a pleasant recitation of things one has heard before. Readers are told, for example, that "people who feel that their lives are somehow empty of meaning become vulnerable to all kinds of addictions." Likewise, "We feel strongly that everyone should think seriously about the role of television in their family and set limits for their kids." While there's nothing groundbreaking in the book, this is nonetheless a homey, accessible volume whose authors' commitment to their family and to the lives of others feels genuine and absolute. Author—Beth Kephart
Beth Kephart
Written by the former vice president and his wife, this book concerns itself with the challenges that beset the modern American family. Drawing on an array of (often familiar) studies, punctuating the text with the real-life tales of ordinary people making contemporary lifestyle choices, and spicing the whole with charming insights into their own family dynamics, the Gores examine what it means to love, work and play in today's world. Perpetually opting for the anecdotal over the theoretical, the book feels like a long article in a popular magazine, a pleasant recitation of things one has heard before. Readers are told, for example, that "people who feel that their lives are somehow empty of meaning become vulnerable to all kinds of addictions." Likewise, "We feel strongly that everyone should think seriously about the role of television in their family and set limits for their kids." While there's nothing groundbreaking in the book, this is nonetheless a homey, accessible volume whose authors' commitment to their family and to the lives of others feels genuine and absolute.
Publishers Weekly
"For us, as for most Americans," write the former vice-president and his wife, "family is our bedrock, and we believe the strength of the American family is the nation's bedrock." But the American family has changed substantially in the last half century and so have the cultural and economic conditions under which it exists. The families the Gores have encountered in a decade of research reflect these changes: one couple has children from the husband's three different relationships, a gay white couple adopts two black children, a single mother struggles with poverty. The couple add stories from their own marriage and consult with historians, sociologists, psychologists and educators, giving the American family the same comprehensive treatment Al's Earth in the Balance gave the environment. Al and Tipper examine subjects as diverse as the increased divorce rate, the parent-teen gap, dual-income households and the health problems associated with sleep deprivation. They divide the book into themes, including love, communication, work, play and community, and show how these factors influence one another, taking a holistic approach to the underlying problems affecting today's families. Yet although they declare America should "provide every possible support to those most important to us," they make very few firm recommendations on government policy; those reading with an eye toward identifying planks in another Gore presidential campaign will have their work cut out for them. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Coauthoring this very readable work, the Gores affirm their respect and support for culturally and structurally variant American families, loving individuals committed to each other's welfare. Based on personal experiences and interviews with others in traditional and nontraditional relationships, the authors offer a sampling of caring individuals struggling to balance family, work, play, and community to support one another, adults and children, together with the future of this country. The Gores relate these families' experiences to the environments in which they live, offering a critique of the social programs needed to support successful family life: affordable shelter, reliable and competent child care, pre- and post-school time supervised activities, employee family-leave provisions, well-run community facilities, and services for all age levels. They argue that it is increasingly critical to maintain and grow our country's various sources of "social capital," to understand and support families, the too often unacknowledged vital units of our American society. This convincing, multiresourced work is recommended for public and academic library purchase. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/02; also released this November is The Spirit of the Family, a photography book edited by the Gores.-Ed.]-Suzanne W. Wood, formerly with SUNY Coll. of Technology at Alfred Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The former veep and his wife examine the American family and its metamorphosis since 1960. In the last two generations, the Gores write, the classic American nuclear family has undergone a number of changes. Families are forming later, they’re more diverse, the divorce rate has doubled, and a higher percentage of mothers are working outside the home. The Gores profile a different family at the opening of each chapter and cite complementary examples from existing scholarship. The study works best when they let the families reflect on their experiences. While creating a garden in an abandoned North Philadelphia lot, Lily Yeh gained a nontraditional "family" made up of artists and community activists, a mosaic of "the people that nobody wants, the disenfranchised," she remarks. Other profiles include John Coon and Josh Tuerk, who have adopted two baby boys and define family as "Love. Sharing. Responsibility. Contentment." In the section on "Play" (all the chapter titles are similarly broad), the Gores draw on their own history. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Al appeared on Larry King Live. Watching from her hotel room while campaigning in another city, Tipper called the show, disguising her voice, and told Al he "was really cute and would he go out on a date with her?" After Al’s jaw dropped and Larry began to stammer, Tipper told them who she was. This pleasant anecdote about the importance of play is swiftly overwhelmed with quotes from Plato, opinions from clinical psychologists, and advice from dozens of academics. The format quickly becomes wearying. We are offered a "history of family" that begins with the evolution of the species on the African savannah and ends approximately20 pages later with American settlers. Perhaps The Spirit of Family, a collection of photographs they selected and that is being published simultaneously, has more personality. Doesn’t add anything to the existing literature and feels like promotional material for the Gores’ annual Family Re-Union conference.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559277648
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio
  • Publication date: 11/12/2002
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Abridged
  • Product dimensions: 4.62 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Al Gore is the former Vice President of the United States and author of the New York Times bestseller Earth in the Balance. During twenty-five years of public service, he has made the family a priority by fighting for programs and policies that are responsive to the needs of families and communities. He is now a professor at both Fisk University and Middle Tennessee State University, where he teaches "Family-Centered Community Building."

Tipper Gore is an advocate for mental health awareness and served as an Adviser to the President on Mental Health Policy from 1993 to 2001. She worked as a photojournalist for the Tennessean and published a collection of her photographs, Picture This, in 1996. Her first book, Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society, was published in 1987.

For the past eleven years, the Gores have organized an annual two-day forum called Family Re-Union. They have four children and two grandchildren, and live in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Read an Excerpt

From Joined at the Heart:
Not enough time. Not enough energy. Not enough sleep. Faced with too many competing demands, many families find they simply don't have enough hours in the day to give both work and family their absolute best. With record numbers of parents putting in stunningly long-and steadily increasing-hours at the workplace, the hard truth is that in America work and family are wildly out of balance. Work is important, but so is family. We want good jobs, good incomes, and a strong economy. But we also want strong families, good marriages, and the chance to be good parents to our children. We want a decent night's sleep and time with loved ones and friends. In short, we want well-rounded lives that are fulfilling both at work and with our families.

The realization that there is no easy way to achieve this goal is beginning to sink in. To bring our lives back into balance, we must do more than decide how much we value our families: for most people, that's not difficult at all. The real challenge is measuring the relative values of work and family and then manifesting those values in our daily lives.

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2002

    The forgotten.......the disabled

    Loved reading about the family having disabled children to raise into adulthood and the thereafter. Society has encouraged families to raise these family members at home......AT OUR COST!!!! Now what? It's the Gore's who recognize such sacrifices that parents make. We, as parents tire ourselves over the years and have no time left in a day to "march" or "write to a congressman", etc. These people are such in a minority it is nice to read about the Gore's understanding that these families exist.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2002

    Second best again

    Not to belittle the Gores, but the timing of this book couldn't be worse with the overwhelming mandate for the Bush Administration.As for family values...don't forget that Gore looked the other way when Clinton was defaming the Oval Office with his girlfriend.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2002

    Insightful and Inspirational

    After the discouraging results of the Supreme Court unconstitutional interruption of the 2000 election and the dismal conditions in which the Bush administration has left this nation, I found myself frustrated by the negative direction for this nation and the reversal of the positive direction that the nation enjoyed during the wonderful economic upswing that was guided by the Clinton and Gore administration. However, after reading Al and Tipper Gore's Joined at the Heart, I have a renewed spirit in the possibility that Al Gore continues to be involved in the lives of Americans who are struggling to survive the hardships caused by Bush's failing economic policy. Especially engaging, the Gores discuss the importance of grassroots involvement of everyday people in public policy in the book's last chapter. This book is a must read for every American. People who want to become more involved should contact algore04.com. This is a grassroots website of concerned citizens. By the way, cynics may criticize this book, but they cannot continue to ignore the failings of the Bush administration without suffering the consequences.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2002

    Lets you know not being in a "normal" family is normal now...

    Lucky enough to get pre-release copy. Joined at the Heart has many insights into the Gores' own family life, from little spats to traumatic experiences. The stories about the many other families (names NOT changed) and basic sociology statistics help give you an understanding that you're not crazy, you do work more, sleep less, and have more stress than the picture perfect family of the 50's. The book stresses the importance of balancing work, fun, and togetherness in a way that hits home on many topics for me, and I would bet you as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2002

    A conversation about the American family

    This is a lovely book. It¿s not really a policy tome and it¿s not a political book, rather, it feels like a conversation between, among and about families. Its tone is surprisingly open and warm. It¿s a book that celebrates family in all its shapes and sizes ¿traditional families, same-sex parents, multi-generation care giving¿and respects and honors the emotional bonds and commitments that make families work. This book won¿t send policy reverberations for years like Earth in the Balance¿and it won¿t excite any controversy, but through warmly and honestly told stories of 12 different families it changes the focus of ¿family values¿ from the staid political-ideological dogmatism of the last decade and focuses instead on a natural discourse about the state of real, contemporary families. For anyone who likes human-interest and/or relationship stories, it¿s an optimistic, quick and very pleasing read.

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