Caring for Family Soul

Amy E. Dean, Author Berkley Publishing Group $13 (277p) ISBN 978-0-425-15448-9
Dean isn't a psychologist, a cleric, a family counselor or a social scientist. She relies on secondary sources, makes sketchy generalizations and repeatedly uses impact as a verb. But this book is nonetheless filled with real common sense and kindness. In a way it has two goals: one to free the family from the Ozzie-and-Harriet mold; the other to foster a loving, moral, creative atmosphere within its revised parameters. Dean (Letters to My Birth Mother) provides a brief sketch of the history of the Western family, of the African American family, the adoptive family, the gay family, and if the brevity does result in misleadingly broad statements (""slave owners recognized and respected the mother-child unit""), she does succeed in reminding readers of the malleability of family structure. Families can now be headed by single mothers; they can be step-families, mixed marriages, gay and lesbian partnerships; and trying to enforce a rigid view of how the family should be configured doesn't guarantee bettering its internal dynamic. Dean details what makes a good family and offers solid pointers on fostering it. Privacy is a must, as are responsibility and morality, and nothing replaces a combination of love and example as a means of teaching them. Dean has a good eye for the telling detail, reminding readers, for example, that a tradition can be ""something that is adored--staying at the same cabin in the woods every summer--as well as something that is abhorred--preparing a dish that must be served during Passover even though no family member wants to eat it."" (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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