Penn State

Sukhdeep Gill - associate professor of human development and family studies, Penn State York

Book Title: The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap

Author: Stephanie Coontz

Book Description:

Selecting one book that has inspired and encouraged me in my career turned out to be more challenging than I had ever imagined. After much deliberation, I have made my selection. I chose Coontz’s book, “The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap”, because as a graduate student at Penn State, this was the first book that taught me to challenge the popular assumptions, examine historic facts, understand sociocultural and contextual forces that influence popular notions, be aware of political, economic and religious agendas, and think about emotional investment in issues impacting families. It also helped me to understand the complexity of family issues in modern America. I find this book to be timeless in that the issues raised are as relevant today as they were thirteen years ago when I first read it. Finally, I like the optimism with which she ends the book. In her words, “…human beings are capable of both nuanced decision making and extensive cooperation when they are not paralyzed by authoritarian hierarchies, conflicting cues, or impersonal structures that diffuse individual responsibility… (p. 285).”

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