Saturday, October 09, 2010

Currently reading

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh. Gripping read about his 10 years spent following a gang leader in inner-city Chicago.

The War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation by Sharon Lerner. I highly recommend reading this book. It shows how the supposed "mommy wars" distract from the real problem with American culture--the total lack of support for mothers and children. By keeping women occupied with blaming themselves or finding fault with other moms, the real offenders responsible for making motherhood so difficult go unchallenged. Anyway, I will refrain from turning this into a lengthy review. Get your own copy and tell me what you think!

Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes. I finished this one a few days ago and have a lot of criticisms. Overall, wonder why she created an arbitrary division of homemaking into the "good" kind (the radical, feminist, eco-conscious, gender-equal, stick it to The Man, homemaking-as-deliberate-choice) and the "problematic" kind (your everyday garden-variety homemakers or, gasp, fundamentalist Christians). Her historical overview was extremely spotty and way, way overgeneralized. Too much of we used to live in a happy peaceful matrilineal society that valued men's and women's work equally until evil Industrialization and Capitalism ruined the world. I am happy, though, that people are beginning to reclaim the lost domestic arts--cooking, canning, gardening, home renovations, car repairs, sewing, thrifting, etc.--and find value in domestic/manual labors. I wonder what kind of homemaker she would label me. Would I fit into the exclusive club of radical homemakers? Or would I be one of those who isn't doing it for the "right" reasons? I've had this on my mind today in particular, as another family came over with a huge load of apples to can together. We put up 23 quarts in 4 hours with all four of us adults working and the kids amusing themselves for the most part.

Many of these domestic skills are ones I simply find normal, logical and entirely sensible. I grew up learning how to cook and garden and sew as ordinary yet important life skills. (And this wasn't just for us girls--my little brother learned the same things). When I do shop for clothes or household items, I almost always go to thrift stores. Why spend all that money when you can find it secondhand?

My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira. Another fast read. A novel about a skilled American midwife in the mid-19th century who wants to become a surgeon. When war breaks out, she volunteers as a nurse in a Washington, D.C. hospital and eventually gains the skills to work as a battlefield nurse & surgeon. Of course the childbirth parts are wonderfully/terribly dramatic. For example, Mary comes home to attend her sister's first birth. Her sister's pelvis is too small for the baby to be born. After a bumbling doctor tries forceps and mutilates her sister's insides, Mary cuts a symphysiotomy and helps the baby be born alive. Her sister then dies immediately after the birth of an eclamptic fit.

Women of Courage: Intimate Stories from Afghanistan by Katherine Kiviat and Scott Heidler

Three Tracy Chevalier novels: Falling Angels, Burning Bright, and The Lady and the Unicorn. I originally wanted a different one of her novels, but it was checked out. I pulled a few others off the shelf to read.

Towards a Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason.

I also have a stack of books and DVDs to review. In roughly this order:


  1. Thanks for the list Rixa! I have just ordered myself a copy of BF Made Simple, it looks amazing. I can totally see myself teaching my BF classes based on these principles.

  2. I LOVED The Big Stretch. I saw it a few years ago.

  3. I started Radical Homemakers and have the same issues with it.

    Just, you're not the only one with that perspective. I had to shelve it because I was becoming entirely too frustrated by her approach.

  4. I've been thinking about you as I've been reading Radical Homemakers. I was reminded of the constellation of values you describe in your thesis that generally accompanies valuing unassisted birth and thought that the Radical homemaking values overlapped pretty strongly.

    I find myself in the regrettable position of being 3 generation consumer based lifestyle so many of those skills that you possess and she describes in the book are completely lost to me and slowly I'm trying to gain them.

    In the last year I've really been bristling under the homemaker, housewife role and the book has given me a political reason that appeals to my sensibilities more than the religiously dogmatic reasons. The result is the same, but I had to come at it from a different (e.g. feminist) angle to embrace it.

  5. Oh yes, and a review of "A War on Moms" is on my to-do list for WAVE on the Women's Service Mission blog (


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