cover image The Value of Family: A Blue Print for the 21st Century

The Value of Family: A Blue Print for the 21st Century

Ruth K. Westheimer. Grand Central Publishing, $28 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-446-51875-8

Any realistic definition of the modern family, asserts bestselling sex therapist Westheimer, must include prominent roles for nurturing fathers, stepfamilies and grandparents, as well as for gay and lesbian parents. The so-called traditional nuclear family, she maintains, is largely an idealized fantasy that briefly predominated in the 1950s. Writing in the first person with Yagoda (Will Rogers: A Biography), Westheimer looks at tensions and ambivalences in the new extended family; assesses the negative impact of divorce and of absent fathers; surveys popular TV shows as mirrors of family life; and examines the special pressures on African American families. She revealingly discloses how her sense of family evolved out of personal experiences--the deaths of her parents in the Holocaust, her flight from Nazi Germany, single motherhood in New York, two divorces followed by a happy marriage. She offers a practical guide to innovative private and government-funded family-support programs and sets forth policy proposals urging businesses and the federal government to help foster family solidarity and well-being. Finally, she outlines sensible steps for parents who want to implement a family-togetherness strategy. A humane, levelheaded, eye-opening look at changing family dynamics. Author tour. (July)