ON HER OWN: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American Dream by Ruth Sidel

ON HER OWN: Growing Up in the Shadow of the American Dream

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Sidel (Sociology/Hunter; Women and Children Last: The Plight of Poor Women in Affluent America; 1986) asks post-Reagan, post-feminist young women about their aspirations, then assails the widening gap between their fantasies of success, and economic and social realities. Sidel conducted 150 interviews around the country to conclude that many women, from ages 12 to 20, have been duped, largely by popular culture, into expecting that they can single-handedly achieve a prime-time version of ""The American Dream."" Unfortunately, the banality of their materialistic fantasies (""I want to be thin and gorgeous and have a spectacular Bloomingdale's wardrobe"") diminishes our sympathy for these young women. Then again, Sidel finds that many others, mostly from the underclass, cannot muster up any dreams at all, ""cannot envision a future."" Clearly, drug-addicted dropouts have problems of a different sort than middle-class students on their way to law school. But Sidel tries to make her points cover everyone. In detailing ""realities,"" she steers her faltering argument through complex issues--sex, intimacy, work, and child-care--with statistics on wages, divorce, poverty, latch-key children, and teen-age pregnancy. Frustration builds as she relentlessly skims the surface of complex social issues, propelled by a habit of stringing together rhetorical questions, sometimes paragraphs at a time. ""Given the reality of the job market for women, what will become of their dreams of affluence?. . .Have these young women, in fact, been sold a false dream?"" In the end, Sidel concludes: women ""cannot work and parent and care for their elderly relatives as well without a caring society."" Who can argue? But instead of rousing the reader to storm the barricades for change, the book leaves one dispirited far less by the distance between delusions and reality than by Sidel's lost opportunity to wring deeper sociological insights from the subject.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Viking