My Son Is an Alien: A Cultural Portrait of Today's Youth / Edition 1

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Overview

Today's youths live in a world that sees their rebellious behavior and esoteric lifestyles as a "natural" part of growing up. But this is hardly natural. In effect, adolescence was forged as a social experiment 150 years ago, when school attendance became mandatory beyond puberty. As a result, adolescence came to be marked not only as a separate and troubled period in the lifecycle, but also as an all-encompassing social problem, requiring the intervention of social institutions. My Son Is an Alien is an entertaining, informative look at cultural influences on teenagers and adolescents. Based on interviews with hundreds of teens, pre-teens, and parents, each chapter sketches out a facet of the adolescent's cultural portrait, from body image and slang to peer pressure and drugs. Non-technical and filled with facts, commentaries, anecdotes, and resources, it also includes numerous features on topics like teen expressions and the least family-friendly TV shows. Marcel Danesi proposes several strategies for changing the prevailing mindset on adolescence. Among these are dispelling the myth that "experts" and "professionals" are the ones to whom we must turn for advice in raising children and that adolescents must be seen as mature individuals who should be reconnected to the adult society to which they rightfully belong.
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Editorial Reviews

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
Paints a lifelike portrait of today's adolescent culture.... An enlightening look at a population that, for generations, has been seen by parents as rebellious, incorrigible or downright delinquent, which leads to the author's nature vs. nurture question.
Linda Rogers
This book goes beyond offering information and advice. It is an invitational exploration done by a father, grandfather, and experienced researcher who knows the joys and frustrations of having raised a child through adolescence to adulthood as well as the developmental and historical explanations of adolescence. The book is full of energy—it involves the reader by utilizing the thinking and perspective of adolescents, and it engages the imagination of the reader as it explores the historical emergence of adolescence and the context of the phenomenon.
(Cleveland) The Plain Dealer
Paints a lifelike portrait of today's adolescent culture.... An enlightening look at a population that, for generations, has been seen by parents as rebellious, incorrigible or downright delinquent, which leads to the author's nature vs. nurture question.
Frank Nuessel
Marcel Danesi has a well-established and well-deserved reputation for his research on teenage behavior. In his usual lucid prose, he provides an extremely compelling and informative examination of adolescent attitudes and conduct. The book's format allows the reader to understand the specific facet of adolescence under review, and the insights section of each chapter is a truly perceptive and informative analysis of each theme. Parents, educators, and teenagers themselves will learn much about the motivation and attitudes of today's youth.
Language in Society
Marcel Danesi's My Son Is an Alien is a concise, informative guide for parents and teachers seeking to understand adolescent behavior. In what is largely a descriptive account of the teenage experience, the author touches on a range of topics from adolescent sex to gang involvement and drug abuse. The value of this book to the general reader lies in its frank, nonjudgmental discussions of adolescent behavior and the tempered advice it offers to parents. Its value to social scientists is in challenging us to examine what merit, if any, can be found in hanging onto the concept of adolescence, whom if anyone it continues to benefit, and how much longer it will remain a defining part of our culture.
Adolescence Magazine
An entertaining, informative look at cultural differences on adolescents.
The New York Times
[Danesi] disputes the myth that teenagers are idealistic, saying his research reveals that their main preoccupation today is 'coping as best as possible with the practical exigencies of everyday life.' He warns parents that trying to be your teenager's friend by, for instance, adopting teenage fashions is not cool... [and] suggests that we have become too lenient in allowing our children to go through a prolonged adolescent drift.
Language In Society
Marcel Danesi's My Son Is an Alien is a concise, informative guide for parents and teachers seeking to understand adolescent behavior. In what is largely a descriptive account of the teenage experience, the author touches on a range of topics from adolescent sex to gang involvement and drug abuse. The value of this book to the general reader lies in its frank, nonjudgmental discussions of adolescent behavior and the tempered advice it offers to parents. Its value to social scientists is in challenging us to examine what merit, if any, can be found in hanging onto the concept of adolescence, whom if anyone it continues to benefit, and how much longer it will remain a defining part of our culture.
Publishers Weekly
In an attempt to gear this book toward besieged parents, Danesi (Cool: The Signs and Meanings of Adolescence) comes close to presenting a consistent philosophy on the subject of today's teens, providing valuable historical perspectives along the way. From a study of 200 mixed gender, mixed age, mostly urban North American adolescents, he presents an academic analysis. Offering insight into the teenage mind along with his theory, Danesi, a University of Toronto anthropology professor, calls for a "return to a simpler, more natural view of the lifecycle," where "there are two `clear-cut phases, before and after puberty' "-although he offers little strategy for this change. He sees the origins of contemporary adolescence in an educational "social experiment" steeped in history. In turn, teens have defined themselves against the constructs of both childhood and adulthood. Danesi claims we live "in a culture that expects [adolescents] to put their sexual urges `on hold.' " This societal repression of teens' biological development causes confusion and rebellion, he says. Danesi's principal suggestion is forceful-an elimination of modern adolescence and a reevaluation of the blanket advice given by "experts" and "professionals"-but the logistics are unfathomable. Although the book's foreword and conclusion share Danesi's hypothesis, the chapters in between are disconnected from the main argument, as the author doesn't focus his information. Despite Danesi's detailed analysis of the constructs of adolescence, his book is not a how-to for parents struggling to deal with the "alien" in their child. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
Danesi presents North American adolescence as a specific social construction, created and held together by cultural factors that make many contemporary adolescent behaviors self-fulfilling prophecies rather than universal across all cultures. This book attempts to explain the concept to parents, and many of its insights are derived from research that the author directed, asking open-ended questions of two hundred adolescents in nine U.S. and Canadian cities between April, 1999, and December, 2002. The text, which is organized similarly in each chapter, starting with background information and ending with insights, is enlivened by and frequently organized around responses from the survey's informants. Chapters include "Adolescence in Historical Context," "Sex," "Body Image," "Language," "Music," "Cliques, Gangs, and Cults," "Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs," "School," "The Media," and one called "Ending the Experiment." One of the real strengths of this book is in Danesi's explanation and translation of teen language and phraseology, regardless of topic. For example, his chart, "Manifestations of Emotivity," provides examples for the four distinct speech patterns that teens acquire by talking with peers: tagging, vocalism, hesitancy, and profanity and vulgarity. He also presents a list of phrases from adults that trigger defensiveness in adolescents, such as "I really wouldn't say that," or "When I was your age, I spoke correctly." His basic overall premise that once reproductive maturity is achieved, teenagers should be regarded as adults and not as adolescents to be pandered to and imitated stylistically by an increasingly juvenilized mass culture, while having much merit and documentationhere, is probably less palatable politically within the cultures and industries that assume that "adolescence" is actually a universal cultural phenomenon. The idea, though, is quite provocative and well argued here. The anthropological insights supported by evidence from communication make this book unique and valuable for those who care about adolescents. Although Danesi warns readers about his being an academic even though this book is supposedly for a general audience, it still comes off as pretty academic in style. 2003, Rowman & Littlefield, 240p., and Trade pb. Ages adult professional.
—Mary K. Chelton
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742528550
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 8.96 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Marcel Danesi is professor of anthropology, semiotics, and communication theory at the University of Toronto. He is the author of numerous books, including Cool: The Signs and Meanings of Adolescence.
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Table of Contents

Part 1 Why Another Book on Teenagers? Chapter 2 1. Adolescence in Historical Context Chapter 3 2. Sex Chapter 4 3. Body Image Chapter 5 4. Language Chapter 6 5. Music Chapter 7 6. Cliques, Gangs, and Cults Chapter 8 7. Tobacco, Alcohol, and Drugs Chapter 9 8. School Chapter 10 9. The Media Chapter 11 10. Ending the Experiment Part 12 Internet Sites and Associations Part 13 Glossary
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