Although I majored in English studies as an undergraduate, I found my sociology classes particularly interesting. While working on my second master’s degree, a course in sociolinguistics led me to decide on my thesis topic. As a mother and wife, I now find the topic of families especially intriguing. When recently offered the chance to review The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives by Michelle Janning in exchange for my honest opinion, I eagerly accepted the opportunity to add a new title to my home library. The 238-page hardback version currently costs $33.98 on Amazon.
A board member of the Council on Contemporary Families who specializes in family and gender studies and cultural sociology, author Michelle Janning currently works as a professor of sociology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Her work has been published in sources such as the Journal of Family Issues and the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, and she has been quoted in magazines such as Women’s Health and Real Simple. She has joked, “I’m not a social scientist who uses large national datasets to illustrate family life; I’m the social scientist who asks people to examine what’s in their underwear drawers to tell stories about their family life.” You can follow Michelle Janning on her website or via Facebook and Twitter.
Offering an illuminating and entertaining look at the complexities of American families today, The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives examines the various phases of family life including dating, marriage, parenting, divorce, and aging while paying attention to the effects of choices about spaces and objects on our lives. From underwear drawers to calendars, the book looks at the changing world of families through a unique examination of their stuff, examining not only what large demographic studies say about family dynamics but also what our lives and our stuff tells us about our relationships with each other.
Although academic in a sense, The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives speaks to the everyday reader through easy-to-follow text and language. The book consists of nine chapters plus an epilogue. The chapters cover topics such as “Families, Home Spaces, and Objects: Welcome Mats and Plumbing Pipes” and “Separated Families: Sofa Beds, Laptops, and Cell Phones.” Each chapter is broken down into smaller sections, so I never felt like I had to sit down and read a huge chunk of pages at a time. Instead, I could read little by little in my spare moments. The book covers a lot of information about family dynamics without beating a reader down with academese. Janning truly combines education and entertainment in a nonfiction book accessible to casual readers through dedicated sociology students. I find her use of amusing anecdotes especially engaging. I found myself chuckling as I read some of the stories. Overall I am quite impressed with the book, and definitely recommend checking out a copy to anyone interested in the sociology of the modern American family.
If you are interested in learning more about the dynamics of the family within modern American culture, I recommend checking out The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives by Michelle Janning. Although written by a professor of sociology, the book remains accessible and engaging for the everyday reader. I personally enjoyed the many amusing anecdotes included throughout the book. If you have ever wondered what the placement of your TV in your home or the contents about your underwear drawer say about your family dynamics, pick up a copy of The Stuff of Family Life today to learn more about the fascinating topic!
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‘The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives’ Book Review © 2017 Heather Johnson
Cover of ‘The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives’ © 2017 Heather Johnson
Inside Pages of ‘The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives’ © 2017 Heather Johnson