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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Old World Daughter, New World Mother

Old World Daughter,
New World Mother

by Maria Laurino
224 pages

*** About the Book ***

According to the press release I received, this book “offers a fresh and sometimes controversial perspective on some of the most difficult issues of contemporary feminism. Laurino tries to sort out dueling influences in her life: growing up in an "Old World" family, in which the word "dependence" was considered a good thing, versus embracing a "New World" feminism that champions personal autonomy.” It goes on to say, “Having come of age in the 1970s, Laurino draws on her own experience both to celebrate the Mary Tyler Moore dream of unfettered independence and to take apart some of the anti-family biases, rigidities, and pathologies of 1970s feminism. And as the daughter of second-generation Italian immigrants for whom family was always first, Laurino also seeks to reconcile, as she writes, ‘two dominant, divergent traditions: a fatalistic Mediterranean culture in which familial dependence is prized and a ruggedly individualistic American culture that neglects its needy dependents, young and old.’”

*** Why I Choose It ***

I first heard of this from a review at 5 Minutes for Books back in April of this year. Then in May I was offered a review copy. After reading the press release I felt like the author could have been a member of my own Italian family. I agreed to review the book in the hopes that Laurino's writing might give me some insights into my family and even maybe tips on how to better handle some of the issues mentioned above.

*** My Thoughts ***

I both liked and didn’t like this book, but the “didn’t like” part was due completely to my preconceived notions of what the book was going to be about.

I loved the first few chapters. I completely identified with the culture clashes that the author experienced. How do you reconcile your desire for independence and freedom with a family culture that stresses togetherness and interdependence? Is it possible to see the world other than through the lens of ancestry and culture you grew up with? These are questions she faced in her own life and they are questions I’ve faced in mine as well.

I wanted the content and feel of those first chapters to continue throughout the book. I hoped that Laurino would possibly even suggest solutions to the questions she posed. About a third of the way into the book though, things changed.

The remainder of the book had two focuses. It chronicled the author’s culture clash with “the real world” and detailed the ways she tried to reconcile her feminist outlook with the reality of being a single woman and later a married mom. It also provided a critique of the 1970s-era feminist outlook on the world. Both of those topics, although very interesting and valid areas of concern, simply didn’t interest me as much as the family dynamics discussed earlier.

The book is very well written and presents some damaging critiques to “traditional” feminist thought. I just wish it had dealt more with the culture clash that I am particularly interested in.

*** Other Reviews ***
  • 5 Minutes for Books - we are opposites on this book - she liked the sections I wasn't a big fan of :)
  • any other bloggers out there read this one?


Crystal said...

Great review, thanks for sharing your thoughts and expectations. I am intrigued by the book - both aspects that you describe appeal to me.

bermudaonion said...

The culture clash aspects appeal to me too - too bad that's not the focus of the book.

Florinda said...

I hadn't heard of this book before, but it just went on the Wishlist. Coming from an Italian-American family myself (on my mom's side), that aspect interests me, but the relation to second-wave feminism intrigues me as well. Thanks for the review, Heather!

Heather J. said...

Crystal - it really was good, so I do hope you pick it up.

bermuda - exactly how I felt about it.

Florinda - I think you'd really enjoy it. It doesn't offer any real solutions but it does bring focus to areas of concern.

Alyce said...

I remember seeing this one on 5 Minutes for Books too. It's nice to get a different perspective on the book. I don't have an Italian family, but I'm sure the family dynamics would interest me too.

Anna said...

With all the research I did on feminism in college, this one appeals to me. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Diary of an Eccentric

Hazra said...

The culture clash aspect is appealing. Italian and Indian cultures are similar in many ways, so it would be nice to read about how the author dealt with growing up in two different cultures

Heather J. said...

Alyce - Yes, I think all families have some things in common.

Anna - If you have an interest in feminism you'd likely enjoy this.

Hazra - I never thought about it before, but I think you are right that Italian and Indian cultures have some strong similarities!

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