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Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  1,662 Ratings  ·  255 Reviews
Mother Nature has shown her hand. Faced with climate change, dwindling resources, and species extinctions, most Americans understand the fundamental steps necessary to solve our global crises-drive less, consume less, increase self-reliance, buy locally, eat locally, rebuild our local communities. In essence, the great work we face requires rekindling the home fires.

Paperback, 300 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by Left to Write
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Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara KingsolverThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanThis Changes Everything by Naomi KleinSilent Spring by Rachel CarsonThe Systems View of Life by Fritjof Capra
best sustainability
45th out of 226 books — 226 voters
Radical Homemakers by Shannon HayesMore Work for Mother by Ruth Schwartz CowanCreating Consumers by Carolyn M. GoldsteinLeftover Women by Leta Hong FincherCountry House Servant by Pamela A. Sambrook
Feminist Home Economics
1st out of 17 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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I really expected to like this book, but it had so many glaring flaws I just couldn't. For one thing, it needs a different title. As others have already pointed out, it should be called Radical Homesteading because that is what the book is really about (although the "radical" is extraneous since it's pretty much exactly what homesteaders do, not just the "radical" ones). If your parents don't already have a farm you can live on and/or you have no interest in rural life, there's nothing here for ...more
Feb 08, 2011 Katie rated it it was ok
I expected to like this book more than I did. While the author's imperious tone irritated me from the first page, I mostly agree with the principles behind so-called "radical homemaking" and aspire to do much of the stuff the people described in this book do. But there are a number of problems with this book, and unfortunately they marred the whole thing.

First there's the phenomenon I refer to as "I accidentally a homestead!" I read books like this and I'm thinking alright, cool, yeah, I'd love
Dec 22, 2010 Eileen rated it it was ok
Shelves: craft
In a way I hate to say it, since I agree with about 70% of the practices mentioned, but this book is deeply problematic and intellectually questionable.

I expected this to fall into the how-to genre, discussing various practices people use when trying to construct a life outside US cultural norms. When it turned out to be more of a sociological study of twenty individuals (note: that's your sample size?), I was a little disconcerted, but, you know, ok. Let's read it and see how it goes. Well, it
Joy Lanzendorfer
Jun 30, 2015 Joy Lanzendorfer rated it it was ok
I expected to like this book because it is very much along the lines of how I think and live my life. However, this book is awful. I would go so far as to question whether Shannon Hayes should be writing books. She doesn't know how to research and she doesn't know how to write, and as such, the book is repetitive and reads like a PhD thesis. I don't know how anyone can take such a passionate subject and make it so dry and unpleasant.

Radical Homemakers is riddled with errors and assumptions. I ha
Anita Dalton
Overall, I found this to be a pretty interesting look at a counter-cultural approach to living. Downshifters are nothing new, as this topic has been discussed in depth in many different books ever since the back to the land movement in the 1960s, but this updated look at this movement is definitely relevant. There are a couple of issues I don't think the author dealt with. One is that it would appear that most of those interviewed, as well as the author, live in rural New England. I think the ...more
Dec 09, 2010 Flat rated it really liked it
Hayes has a B.A. in creative writing and advanced degrees in sustainable agriculture, so I guess you can't be too surprised to find that she isn't that great a writer and has a weak grasp of economics. She never examines the singular reason why the nuclear family is often no longer able to subsist with just one breadwinner: namely, the government spending that leads to rising taxation and inflation. Consumerism and feminism have certainly impacted women's decisions to enter the workforce, but I ...more
Sep 22, 2011 Meghan rated it liked it
"Success, in our country, is now defined by money earned, by promotions, by continuous servitude to an employer... Our gauge of success and personal worth has become so reliant on external validation that women and men now find it difficult to believe that a life centered around the home can satisfy their needs for personal fulfillment and genuine achievement." Or, as written in 1870: "Bright women should aspire, and drudges should keep the home fires burning." Yo.

"Our actual needs are so much l
Stephanie Western
The beginning of this book is a case for why we need to bring back the homemaker and return to being a culture of people who create rather than consume. That part had me cheering and phoning up friends to read quotes to them.

But then she got into the "hows" and . . . I loved that less. Many of the people she holds up as examples have taken themselves much farther off the grid than I could go (especially if I wanted my husband to come with me). We're talking not having health insurance, not havi
Gail Williams
Mar 19, 2010 Gail Williams rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It wasn't a how-to book as in how to go live off the grid with your chickens and homemade soap (although admittedly I'd love to do exactly that). It was more the stories of various people, single and married, with and without children, who are bucking against the Western culture of consumerism and individualism. The first half of the book consisted of author Shannon Hayes explaining how our culture got this way via the Industrial Revolution, and then later as advertising ...more
May 19, 2010 Lisa rated it did not like it
Recommended to Lisa by: Brain, Child magazine
Shelves: nonfiction
Someone described this book as one for "validation" rather than "inspiration," and that certainly is the case. Hayes is arguing for an alternative lifestyle choice in which homemaking skills (gardening, cooking, sewing, knitting, raising small livestock, etc) and living simply are paramount. However, she also argues strongly against anything that does not conform to her ideal.

For example, Hayes frequently asserts that Radical Homemakers eschew six-figure incomes, arguing that people who earn mo
Oct 11, 2010 Melissa rated it really liked it
I'm reading this book right now, very slowly, and struggling through it. I have a creative life, but it's an urban life, and oh, I happen to need health insurance. No, I mean, I have conditions, and I really, really need big corporate health insurance. But the stories here make me feel somehow my efforts aren't quite enough, and it won't be unless I get family buy-in. We have backyard chickens, and garden, make our own laundry detergent and dry solely by the clothesline 5 months out of the year. ...more
Aspen Junge
May 26, 2011 Aspen Junge rated it really liked it
Shelves: food, feminism
Radical homemaking is what happens when Your Money or Your Life meets Mother Earth News. It's the journey of families who decide that rather than earning lots of money so they can outsource the labor of their lives, want to bring it back inside the family; thus regaining control over their expenses, nutrition, cleaning, child care, community life, etc. The reward is that you spend more time and effort on the things important to you, whatever they may be (as long as they're not too expensive). ...more
missy jean
Feb 11, 2014 missy jean rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Well, this was a strange experience. I agree with virtually all of the critiques in this book, and with many of the solutions, but was so put off by the strident tone, lack of privilege-checking, poor reporting of qualitative findings, and total dearth of intersectional analysis that I pretty much hated my way through it. The narrative of exclusively personal solutions to structural problems (and "solutions" that can really only be enacted by people with class privilege that they can levy as ...more
Feb 25, 2012 Teresa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, feminism
Ideas from it that I liked -

- from Old English husband means "house-bonded" - bonded to the home rather than to a lord. The idea of the home as woman's domain did not come about until the industrial revolution.
- the home shifted from a place of production to a place of consumption. This resulted in 1950's discontent at women being expected to shop and cart around kids, rather than being producers.
- we often think of the conflict between self-fulfilment and need to nurture as solely a female is
Dec 20, 2012 Jennifer rated it did not like it
My boss asked me to read this. Otherwise, I never would have picked it up off the shelf. It is a miracle I never threw it across the room. I was reading this at the same time I was reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. If I thought Barbara Kingsolver was slightly preachy, then Shannon Hayes qualifies as a cult leader. The goal of 'Radical Homemaking,' repeated at least once per chapter, is to "make family, community, social justice, and the health of the planet the governing principles of their li ...more
Oct 21, 2010 Pumpkinbear rated it liked it
Shelves: crafty-books
Radical Homemakers, while readable, isn't really about homemaking, in my opinion. Homemaking as a defiance to consumer culture would absolutely include gardening, home canning, thrifting, etc., as Hayes describes it, but living without a J.O.B, homeschooling the kiddos, forgoing health insurance, raising cows for meat--yeah, that's homesteading, right?

Of course the very fact that the book is "radical" means that it's likely going to be read as judgmental towards the vast swathes of humanity who
Karen Hipson
Jun 19, 2011 Karen Hipson rated it really liked it
LOVED the first part of the book. She took everything that we (well, some of us) already know about the vital importance of the home and the homemaker, spelled it out, backed it up with facts and figures, and just generally did a great job. It was so loaded with quotables that I didn't even try... just get the book. It's worth it just for the first third, even if you don't read the rest.

Unfortunately the rest of the book got more than a little long-winded, repetitive and lost my interest more th
Keely Shaw
Feb 19, 2011 Keely Shaw rated it liked it
So, other than some marginally circular and undergraduate sounding research, the theoretical/historical section was an interesting take on the history of the household. The biggest issue I had was that the "how" section was all anecdotal and didn't actually say how anybody did anything. It was more "these people that are trying to eschew the traditional wage-model exist, so listen to them reflect (and in some instances get very judgey on those that don't do as they do).

I was able to glean nugget
Jenny Loeb
Mar 14, 2014 Jenny Loeb rated it really liked it
For the most part I enjoyed reading this book, mostly because I agree with her very strong opinion on lifestyle choice, as I'm currently living a "radical homemaker" like life myself. It validated my choices in a lot of ways, and gave me inspiration to try to do even more myself and to feel okay that I am not pursuing a traditional career path. I love the critique of the modern American lifestyle and think it's valuable for everyone to look at, although I imagine many would be offended or turned ...more
Oct 29, 2010 sleeps9hours rated it it was ok
Borrowed a lot from previous writers I’ve liked. Repeats the simple living message under a new label. Still a good message to get out there. Some fuzzy thinking in the theory section was annoying, and as a nonfiction book it didn't show the quality of research that I expect, but provides good fodder for discussion.

Drew from many popular previous books and then supplemented with info gained from interviewing 20 people or couples the author identified as Radical Homemakers. If you've read these, y
Apr 09, 2013 Ed rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
By page 13 I was sure that I was going to love this book because of the following quotes, "...Radical Homemakers are men and women who have chosen to make family, community, social justice, and the health of the planet the governing principles of their lives. They reject any form of labor or the expenditure of any resource that does not honor these tenets." Further down the page, discussing the hold that money and those who control money, Hayes writes, "By contrast, Radical Homemakers use life ...more
Feb 12, 2015 Kaylene rated it it was ok
This needs to be read with a grain of salt as it uses some clearly biased statistics and sources. That said, it was an interesting read overall with a message that generally supports how I feel about my job: that making home the center of life has SO much more potential than the reputation it has developed. The knowledge that happiness is to be found in creation, not in consumption, has been lost. When home is a place of production, it can be a happy place.

From the author's point of view, the ma
Hayes Quotes: "If you ever considered quitting a job to plant tomatoes, read to a child, pursue creative work, can green beans, and heal the planet, this is your book." "While most count wealth as the presence of surplus money, [others] count their wealth as the ability to live well without it."

This was an inspiring book looking at families who live home-based lives, relying on themselves, their skills, their families, their neighborhoods, and their communities, and relying less on money. Hayes
Apr 05, 2010 Courtney rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-latest
This book seemed like an interesting outgrowth of the voluntary simplicity movement. I liked her writing style and the first two thirds of the book was devoted to a history portion of the overall loss of the view of homemaking that involved both genders prior to the industrial revolution. The final third focused on themes emergent from the 20 plus interviews she conducted with the individuals and couples who left the traditional corporate America or academic tracks to live lifestyles centered on ...more
Oct 26, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Absolutely LOVED this book!!!! Almost from the first word, I was nodding to myself and bouncing excitedly as I read, so strong was my reaction to what I see as a fascinating, necessary, and approachable take on a topic that bears much scrutiny: our current culture of consumption and how it is affecting our quality of life. I have been recommending this book to anyone who will stand still long enough to hear me gush. Ms. Hayes did a good job, in my opinion, of drawing on a diverse group of ...more
Sep 05, 2011 Amy rated it liked it
The book was a very interesting read. The idea of the home as a unit of production is an idea that really resonated with me and one I've been pondering for years. It was for this reason that I have been wanting to read this book for ages. Author Shannon Hayes did a good job documenting the reasons *why* her various interview subjects went the Radical Homemaker route, making the second part of the book the highlight.

The first part was discussing the historical view of home and how traditional hom
Christina Nunyas
Feb 19, 2014 Christina Nunyas rated it it was ok
The underlying ideas of the book (self-reliance, anti-consumerism, environmental responsibility) are ideas I can get behind, and that I support in myriad ways in my life. However, the way Hayes frames her tome is more of a cult initiation that makes it a dreadful read. Hayes keeps returning to the same four tenets again and again, like a chant. It makes me want to do the exact opposite of everything in the book because her tone is so preachy and maddening.

What is even more maddening is the compl
Jun 18, 2014 Dawn rated it liked it
The folks profiled herein are mostly neo-hippies who have chosen to live "closer to the earth." The focus is on interdependence, and making communities as well as producing more than you consume. That's dandy, except that some of these subjects don't seem to fully recognize or appreciate that their ability to "get back to the earth" is directly dependent upon other people's mainstream efforts--like those whose families have bought their houses/farms and/or paid for health care. It's a lot easier ...more
Mar 31, 2012 Tiffany rated it it was amazing
Shelves: how-to
This is it. This is the book I've been searching for ever since I became a "homemaker" and began wandering the aisles of Target wondering, "Is this it? The best of what I've got?"

Hayes is an impeccable writer, and the first half of the book, especially the chapter on feminism and homemaking, is absolutely fabulous. (I even emailed to tell her how much I enjoyed her book, and how I wrote about it for the Des News. She wrote a gracious reply, so it appears now we're BFFs.)

My only beef about the bo
Aug 15, 2011 Tracy rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
This had some very good points, like our need to have so much unimportant stuff, unfortunately it was bady written. The author kept repeating the same points to her argument over and over. The people she chose to use as her case studies were ones that didn't veer far from her very narrow vision. All of those included insisted that they had no need for the perks of society, like traditional jobs and money, but most are still dependant on those who are such as living in a trailer on a friends ...more
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follow up & next meeting 2 20 May 03, 2010 02:33PM  
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  • Keeping Bees with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Tend Hives, Harvest Honey & More
  • Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long
  • Self Sufficiency for the 21st Century
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