2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap (Paperback)
Setting out to shatter the idea that the 1950s was the perfect era, and that America's problems could be fixed if only we could somehow reclaim the values of that era, she gives a history of marriage and family culture in general, and an examination of the 1950s in particular. Her portrayal of the American family as being in perpetual flux and periodic crisis is quite fascinating, as is her review of many cultural trends occurring before, during, and after the 1950s.
First off, let me say that this book is highly polemical in nature. Sadly, Professor Coontz apparently did not have confidence that the data she presents would prove sufficiently strong to support her case, so she practiced a certain amount of hyperbole. Any anti-1950s spin that could be grasped was shoved into the book, some of it of a highly speculative nature. (For example: "Surely some of the bizarre behaviors that Joan Crawford exhibited toward her children, according to her daughter's bitter remembrance, Mommie Dearest, flowed from the frustration of being forced into a domestic role about which she was intensely ambivalent." - P36)
That said, I did find Professor Coontz's history of the American family quite interesting and informative. As a fan of the generational studies of Messrs. Howe and Strauss, I was fascinated by the way that this author's study ties in with theirs.
So, let me say that this book is quite interesting, and is valuable reading material for anyone interested in a historical look at the American Family. I would suggest that you skim certain oppressively political sections of this book, but that you do read it.