I found this to be an interesting, but definitely ... er ... challenging read. Interesting in the discussion of the role of the "new domesticity" in oI found this to be an interesting, but definitely ... er ... challenging read. Interesting in the discussion of the role of the "new domesticity" in our current economy and current attitudes towards feminism. Challenging because the home-cooking, sewing, gardening people she's talking about, often with a tone of not-so-subtle condescension, sound a whole lot like me! No one likes to be told that their favorite activities are just the latest fad, and I'm no exception! So I found myself squirming and feeling defensive and put-off quite a lot while reading this.
Nonetheless, it is definitely a thought-provoking discussion of a major movement, and I appreciated the feminist and economic analysis of this cultural trend. It's true that bad economies have historically brought "back-to-the-home" movements - the 30s, the 70s, today. It's also true that many young and young-ish people these days are pretty discouraged and disheartened with their career opportunities, and domesticity can be a respite from a crappy economy and crappy opportunities. It is further absolutely important to note that while feminism is all about "choice," the choice to be a homemaker may often be influenced by the fact that the economy is craptastic, good jobs are impossible to find, and daycare is insanely expensive. To some extent, therefore, it's not a real "choice" - it's parents making the best of their situations. Which isn't to say it's not awesome in many respects for many women - but the fact is, it's mostly women staying home, and not having earning power does put women at a disadvantage in their partnerships, no matter how unpleasant it is to acknowledge or discuss this out loud. So the forces that are sending women back to the home are not all "celebrating and reclaiming the home" - there may be some darker ramifications too.
So the author has some really really good points. I did find it unfortunate that her examples of the "new domesticity" were fairly stereotyped, and there was little discussion of folks like me, who were raised in a more "DIY/back-to-the-land" culture and thus see much of our cooking/sewing/gardening as more of a continuation than a reaction against our parents. There is also precious little discussion of folks (also like me) who are full time professionals but really enjoy doing these things in our spare time, not for money. I know you can't cover everyone, but it would have been nice to see a bit more breadth.
Overall, thought-provoking, even if she did make me feel like I'm a slave to fashion!
I have been enjoying breezing through some Malcolm Gladwell on audio. If nothing else, it's good to know what everyone else is talking about!
This isI have been enjoying breezing through some Malcolm Gladwell on audio. If nothing else, it's good to know what everyone else is talking about!
This is my favorite by far. It has the deepest (still sometimes a bit shallow) observations and most interesting and thought provoking premise. These are very enjoyable to read and I can definitely see the appeal, even if I remain somewhat skeptical of the underlying science and conclusions ... ...more
I learned a lot about late antiquity and Justinian's reign from this book, but the writing style is distractingly weird! Very incohesive! Way too manyI learned a lot about late antiquity and Justinian's reign from this book, but the writing style is distractingly weird! Very incohesive! Way too many analogies made between things like the Roman Empire and like, outer space? WTF? The audiobook was narrated by a guy with the flattest monotone EVER, which didn't help. And for the love of all things holy, please stop anthropomorphizing/dramatizing/personifying the plague bacillus. So. Insanely. Annoying. It is not a "demon." It is a BACTERIA. I really don't see why this is so hard....more
Once again, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy explodes, with methodical logic and impeccable research, our culture's ideas about the essence of human nature, the famOnce again, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy explodes, with methodical logic and impeccable research, our culture's ideas about the essence of human nature, the family, motherhood, and gender. As with Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species, it would not be an exaggeration to say that this book fundamentally changed the way I think about motherhood.
Bam! Pow! Smash!
Seriously. That's how it felt.
In Mothers and Others, Hrdy takes on topics as broad as the essentially cooperative nature of humans, the nuclear family, and how "it takes a village." Conclusion (brutally paraphrased): If you think you weren't meant to be a stay at home mom, well, that's because no one was "meant" to be a sole caretaker of children. Human children demand more than even two parents can provide for them. Which is why humans have historically raised children cooperatively. Which is, to really boil it down, a primary reason that humans are so good at reading each others' intentions, feelings, and thoughts - skills that are very useful for cooperative breeding.
Here, she also explodes the basis of attachment theory, by pointing out that hunter-gatherer human mothers, unlike the other great apes, do not remain in contact with their infants 24/7, but tend to be very trusting about passing them off to kin and friends ("as-kin," in her terms). While this may seem like a statement of the obvious, it radically challenges the whole basis of "attachment parenting." Hrdy does not question that infants form strong attachments with their mothers or that human infants prefer to be in contact with a person at all times; what she suggests is that infants also form strong attachments to a variety of others - "alloparents" - in a system of cooperative breeding that actually makes humans more similar to cooperatively breeding birds than chimps or gorillas. She suggests that having children cared for by non-parents (cough cough, day care providers?) is not only acceptable, but - watch out world! - natural. Potent stuff!
But this summary doesn't do the book justice. There is so much more.
One of the best things about Hrdy is her friendly, easy-going writing style. I know other commenters have remarked that this is "dense" and "heavy" but I find Hrdy's writing to be meaty but riveting.
Warning: Prepare to have your deepest assumptions challenged in ways that are not always comfortable (although the topics here are thankfully not quite as difficult and disturbing as those discussed in Mother Nature). Highly recommended....more
I have long been extremely leery of evolutionary or biological explanations for differences between the sexes. Just the words, "mothering instinct" maI have long been extremely leery of evolutionary or biological explanations for differences between the sexes. Just the words, "mothering instinct" make me break out in a rash. Why? Because "biological" explanations, which are more often than not based in pure speculation, always seem to conveniently rationalize the superiority of men and reduce women to their reproductive capacity. Don't even get me started about this, you'll never hear the end of it.
Which is why this book totally rocked my world, and why I want to recommend it from the rooftops. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy looks exhaustively at the biological data regarding mothers of all species, and explodes the Victorian archetype of the sexless, submissive, and nuturing wife and mother. She finds that human mothers do have instincts, of course, but they are not all stereotypically "maternal." Rather, difficult decisions and a dose of ambivalence have always been part of what it means to be a human mother.
The best part is the way that huge amounts of not-always-straightforward biological data are presented with ease and charm. Once you've started, it is difficult to put this book down.
I recently read another book on "natural" mothering, Our Babies, Ourselves, by Meridith Small. I enjoyed Our Babies, Ourselves, and reviewed it positively here. However, I felt that it was an introduction to the ethnographical study of motherhood, and in some respects, grossly oversimplified the needs of infants and mothers. But I was intrigued, and wanted to learn more about this field. As a follow-up, Mother Nature far exceeded my highest expectations. It is simply a far superior book, and may even make me rethink my high rating for Our Babies, Ourselves.
Don't get me wrong, this book still pushed some buttons for me - okay, a lot of buttons, or was it one really big button, over and over? - but because Hrdy takes feminism so seriously, ideas that might have infuriated me from another source become genuinely "thought-provoking."
This book left me hungry to read more by Sarah Hrdy....more
This little introduction to "ethnopediatrics," the study of child-rearing across cultures, is by no means a how-to manual, but nonetheless may be oneThis little introduction to "ethnopediatrics," the study of child-rearing across cultures, is by no means a how-to manual, but nonetheless may be one of the better parenting books I've read to date. This is a well-researched, thought-provoking survey of parenting styles among non-human primates and human cultures throughout the world. The conclusion? It is Western child-rearing practices that are "weird."
I loved the indictment of our cultural obsession with "independence" and getting infants to "sleep through the night." Small's observation that American parents rely on pediatricians, who have no training in child development, rather than other mothers, for parenting advice, stopped me in my tracks. I may think a bit more deeply the next time I pick up a book on parenting written by a pediatrician.
Make no mistake, there is a definite agenda here. This is an advocacy piece, and should be read as such. Small is promoting a high-response style of parenting, which may not be possible for everyone (and is probably not 100% workable for anyone in an industrialized country), and you have to take some of her conclusions with a grain of salt. There are also some moments of naivete, as when Small claims that colic doesn't exist in traditional cultures. I'm sure that there is some truth to this (there may well be less colic in cultures where babies are carried and breastfed 24/7), but I know many attachment-parented babies who still meet the definition for colic. Guilt-tripping parents of colicky babies (parents, if you were just more responsive, your baby wouldn't cry so much), doesn't do anyone any good. I believe that there are physiological reasons for colic, and that it is unfair, as well as insanely unhelpful, to blame it on the parents. "Attachment parenting" has gotten a bad reputation because of these kinds of claims.
Finally, readers may legitimately complain that Small surveys relatively few cultures overall, oversimplifies "traditional" cultures, underestimates the differences between traditional cultures, etc. This book is a summary, and it has some real limitations. But I thought it was an excellent, thought-provoking summary.
A side note: The title is terrible. Everyone seems to think this is somehow associated with Our Bodies, Ourselves, when in fact they have nothing to do with each other. At best, the title is painfully unoriginal; at worst, it seems like an attempt to piggy-back onto a better-established brand. Either way: annoying....more
Updating this (after reading quite a few other books on childbirth), to reiterate that if you read one book about childbirth in your life, it should bUpdating this (after reading quite a few other books on childbirth), to reiterate that if you read one book about childbirth in your life, it should be one of Ina May's. While other books will scare you, this one empowers....more
Another one that I dabbled in as a teenager and in college, but want to reread now that I have world of folk music knowledge in me (or in my iPod, atAnother one that I dabbled in as a teenager and in college, but want to reread now that I have world of folk music knowledge in me (or in my iPod, at any rate)....more
I relied heavily on this book (but I can't say I read it cover to cover) for a paper I wrote on the blues for an anthropology class now more than tenI relied heavily on this book (but I can't say I read it cover to cover) for a paper I wrote on the blues for an anthropology class now more than ten years ago. I remember thinking that it was excellent. In particular, I loved the textual analysis of blues lyrics.
I found this in my shelf the other day and was struck by a strong desire to reread it. Or actually read it, whichever is applicable.
My sudden interest in re-reading up on the Blues? You could blame it on Zora Neale Hurston & Woody Guthrie. I mean, you can practically hear the blues reading Their Eyes Were Watching God. Suddenly, I can't get Lightnin' Hopkins, Penitentary Blues out of my brain....more
Well shoot. It turns out it's just not possible to give The Odyssey less than five stars. Even though, in some ways, I am tempted to.
This is an extremWell shoot. It turns out it's just not possible to give The Odyssey less than five stars. Even though, in some ways, I am tempted to.
This is an extremely early, extremely important work of literature. It is a fundamental part of the Western Canon. It is, at moments, beautiful, sad, moving, and exciting. It is, at other moments, a bit tedious and hard-going.
I read this in high school and was suitably awed by the broader themes of loyalty, trial, mythology, and fate. On this most recent reading, however, I was more just fascinated with the minutiae.
As an insight into a very different culture and time, The Odyssey is a very interesting anthropological document. While listening to this on audio, I couldn't help but remark, again and again, on the way that Ancient Mediterranean culture centered on hospitality and the exchange of gifts. The giving and exchanging of hospitality and gifts is a nonstop theme here. So is storytelling. Storytelling is actually a gift, given in exchange for hospitality.
In the Ancient Greek system of justice, honor and revenge are all-important. Dying well is good, although the afterlife is painted as a decidedly grim place to be. Blood is thicker than water, but friends look out for each other too. Showing compassion to one's enemies, on the other hand - being merciful - is not particularly valued. This is a culture without law, where justice is meted out as revenge. This is painfully demonstrated at the end, when Odysseus violently, cruelly kills the largely defenseless suitors in what can only be called a massacre. The hardest part for me was the rounding up and execution-like murder of the suitor's women ("whores," obviously). That is a war crime, not an act of heroism! Seriously, I was shocked. How could I have forgotten about this?
Another thing I didn't remember: Odysseus is repeatedly referred to as "crafty" and "cunning" and "wily," which puts a pleasant spin on what he really is - a "bald-faced liar." He lies constantly, shamelessly, and tricks everyone, and somehow this is considered a good thing? Really, this time around, I had a hard time getting on his side as a hero. He's not a particularly good person, unless you measure goodness only by the way you treat your friends (and even then, he lies to everyone! including his long-suffering wife!). Odysseus is cunning, yes, as in selfish and manipulative ... which is to say, he's a pretty believable character. But not the hero I remembered.
The value system described in The Odyssey seems alien at times, yet ... familiar. It's similar to what you might find in The Godfather or a similar film - Odysseus' sense of justice is similar to street justice around the world.
Other things I learned: Ancient Greek men are very emotional! They frequently collapse into sobs. Stoicism was clearly not a symbol of masculine strength at this place and time.
In conclusion, I found this second reading to be most educational. I stand by my prior description of this book as extremely rich with human details from the time period. The narrative is sophisticated, layered, and complex, and weaves skillfully through multiple flashbacks and scene changes. The characters are portrayed as deeply flawed, and often, brought low by their flaws. The women's characters in particular are rich and complex, especially given how patriarchal Ancient Greek society was.
The translation is strikingly plain and straightforward (and thus very accessible) - almost rough around the edges, but beautiful in its plainness. The audio reading by Ian McKellen? Difficult to take at times, but I survived. If I had it to do again, I would read the hard copy.
Overall, I'm so glad I read it again. I learned a lot. Although this reading may have taken some of the "shine" off of my memories of the book, in some ways that is a good thing. I may have to read it again, and see what I take away the third time....more
Another amazing memoir! One third poem, one third fable, and one third memoir. Terrifyingly dark, Maxine Hong Kingston spares no one, least of all herAnother amazing memoir! One third poem, one third fable, and one third memoir. Terrifyingly dark, Maxine Hong Kingston spares no one, least of all herself, in her portrayal of female strength and betrayal in Chinese and Chinese-American culture. This was flat-out uncomfortable to read at times, and kept me squirming in my seat throughout. Disturbing and gorgeous. What did the NYT blurb say about it on the back? "Dizzying." Yep....more
Thanks to Happyreader, I realized my review of this book is associated with a totally obscure and out-of-print edition. So that no one will ever actuaThanks to Happyreader, I realized my review of this book is associated with a totally obscure and out-of-print edition. So that no one will ever actually see my review, and I can't easily compare mine with others'. Since I really, really love this book, I'm moving my review. _____________________________
A must read for anyone interested in biology, or science, or language, or good writing, or life in general, this is one of my all-time favorites. After many non-sequitors about a variety of topics, the author finally gets around to explaining, in engaging, lucid detail, why human history is actually the history of bacterias, viruses, fleas, lice, and, yes, the occasional rat.
This is the precurser to "Guns, Germs, and Steel," but it's funnier. But beware, the first couple of chapters are very weird. Don't give up!
This book made me want to become an epidemiologist. It's still one of my back-up plans....more