FULL CIRCLES, OVERLAPPING LIVES by Mary Catherine Bateson

FULL CIRCLES, OVERLAPPING LIVES

Culture and Generation in Transition

KIRKUS REVIEW

The daughter of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson celebrates our new life of variety and choice among the strange

relatives and familiar strangers with whom we live.

Bateson's interest in fresh anthropological perspectives, indicated by her previous title Peripheral Vision (1994), leads her

here to the remarkable discontinuities not only between members of different races and generations but within each circle of

family and friends. Spouses, she suggests (with a particular eye on women's new independence from men), are strangers who

may fill only a temporary need. Whatever their nationality or gender, however, at least spouses are usually chosen. We do not

choose children, who "arrive like aliens from outer space." And the gap between generations is growing ever wider in our rapidly

changing society. For the older generation, seniority now entails a lengthy retirement spent in entitlement instead of

impoverishment—a period offering new opportunities and challenges for reinventing oneself, as she salutes Malcolm X for having

succeeded in doing twice in his short life. The gap between older and younger Americans is demonstrated among the middle-class

black women at Spelman College, when a student wrongly assumes that the black community opposed the Vietnam War was racist

until it is explained to her that an older generation of blacks felt grateful to the armed forces, and that, before the Rainbow

Coalition, Asians were not people of color. While Bateson observes the global diversity now open to millions, she notes that many

fearful people will retrench—like those pushing "English Only" rules in immigrant areas: "We live in a polyphonic world, but

not everyone listens." Having lived in countries like Iran and Israel, she is unusually sensitive to the music of clashing cultural

spheres.

Bateson’s insights from exotic tribes and species convincingly present modern Americans as equally exotic. Her study of

shifting human patterns is fit for a new millennium.

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-50101-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2000




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