STEPFAMILIES

LOVE, MARRIAGE, AND PARENTING IN THE FIRST DECADE

A handbook for blended families that offers some substantive advice, based on a 10-year longitudinal study by Bray, presented with the help of Kelly (co-author, The Secret Life of an Unborn Child, not reviewed). As a clinical psychologist, Bray (Family Medicine/Baylor Coll. of Medicine) worked frequently with stepfamilies and knew that up to 60 percent of second marriages that include stepchildren do not succeed. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, he recruited 200 families—all Texas-based, generally white and middle or working class, with a biological mother and a stepfather as the family core—in a search for information about why this is so. He found each family unique in its struggle to create a close-knit and loving home but was able to identify three general categories and three stages that predict the degree of success. The categories are the Neotraditional family, where husbands and wives emphasize the relationship rather than themselves; the Romantic family, least likely to succeed because expectations are unrealistic; and the Matriarchal family, where the mother is highly competent and dominant. All stepfamilies, whatever their type, follow a pattern of ups and downs, according to Bray. As with a first marriage, the first two years, when children and adults are sorting out their relationships and coming to terms with shadows of the first marriages, are the hardest. The next three or four years are more tranquil as compromises have been made, but the third cycle can see stress and conflict again, as children and parents endure adolescence. One major obstacle to the emerging stepfamily: stepparents who move too quickly to take over the parental role. Detailed and evocative case histories illuminate discussions of these various landmarks in stepfamilies— lives, including the sometimes disruptive but vital role of former spouses. A step up for stepfamilies, who may not fit exactly into the pigeonholes described but can take comfort and guidance from Bray’s findings.

Pub Date: June 24, 1998

ISBN: 0-7679-0102-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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