Here’s another one I picked up from the bibliography of Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari’s book that I love so much I’ve stockpiled copies to give as gifts. I was about twelve pages in before I realized that even for a similar topic the writing and subject matter seemed too familiar; Coontz also wrote Marriage, a History, which I read recently and found the same way.
Obviously this book covers much of the same ground, although with an emphasis on the family unit as opposed to marriage, and how we are nostalgic for a family that never truly existed; an amalgamation of pop culture and era confusion that conflated Victorian morals with 50s suburbia and cheerfully omits the class suppression, racism, and misogyny that allowed for the ideal elements of family from those times. All of the good, none of the bad by cherry picking the best parts of family life from a vague past.
What was truly interesting about this book for me and separated it from Coontz’s later book was the fact that this was written in 1990. It’s much like having recently re-watched The Wonder Years and being nostalgic for the era the show was made in, not just the one it depicted. Were I the type to romanticize the past, the present Coontz depicts would be the past I’d be nostalgic for. And the selfish generation unable to live up to the previous one’s standards is the Baby Boomers, not the Milennials. It’s amusing to see the same criticisms leveled at today’s youth by the boomers themselves be problems they once shared; wage inequality and housing rates and caring for elderly parents aren’t new problems.
I love this type of book, that is a product of its time and is timeless because of it rather than in spite of it. Well researched and worth the read.