A stirring but ponderous study of legal and psychological issues facing homosexual parents, by an uncloseted psychologist...


REINVENTING THE FAMILY: The Emerging Story of Lesbian and Gay Parents

A stirring but ponderous study of legal and psychological issues facing homosexual parents, by an uncloseted psychologist and teacher (Psychology/Harvard Medical School). Benkov's struggle with her own ""unwavering passion"" for motherhood led her to conduct ""discussions"" (under unspecified conditions) with gays and lesbians who achieved parenthood by various methods: artificial insemination, surrogacy, fostering, joint-parenting arrangements, adoption. She found that despite the ""lesbian baby boom"" of recent years, homophobic judges and state bureaucrats continue to presume homosexuals unfit as parents and seldom grant them custody. Those who bypass the courts confront a yawning chasm of novel questions: What should the parents be called? Whose surname should the child have? What role, if any, should a sperm donor play in the family? How should the nonbiological mother cope with her partner's breastfeeding? How should the parents deal with homophobia in the child's public school? Benkov is best at depicting how an apparently unscientific sampling of parents have answered such questions for themselves and their ""reinvented"" families. She also provides shattering accounts of ""children at risk,"" such as Kristen, the little girl from Florida whose biological grandparents wrested her away from her nonbiological lesbian mother after their daughter died. But the author's legal analysis consists mainly of rehashing law review articles and incredulously quoting the homophobic dicta of unnamed judges. Her scholarship is further undercut by a tendency to hyperextend her metaphors and to comment periodically on her own ""urgent move toward self-integration."" Benkov doesn't know who her audience is: the unconverted straights whom she harangues with platitudes (e.g., ""In the end, our families will be what we make them"") or homosexual mothers and fathers craving practical and spiritual guidance. An overdue examination of gay and lesbian family life, better for its privileged glimpses into kitchen windows then for its scholarship.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1994


Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994