Normal families consisting of a happily married husband and wife and their identical children have always made me uncomfortable and a little bit suspicious that they’re robots or extraterrestrials. That’s probably because they aren’t the normal ones, according to Judith Stacey’s new book “Unhitched: Love, Marriage, and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China” (New York University Press).
“Even a cursory scan through the historical and anthropological records reveals that the nuclear family that most Americans think of as normal–one spawned when reciprocal romantic love inspires one man and one woman to exchange vows to forsake all others before they begin inviting visits from the stork—is quite the cultural exception than the rule,” writes Stacey, a NYU Professor of Sociology and Social and Cultural Analysis. “Unhitched” invites readers to contemplate their notion of what the best type of family is and who and what comprises a happy family.
Throughout the book, Stacey talks about differing family types and challenges the commonly held belief that a married heterosexual couple is the foundation of a happy family. Stacey aims to expose “the fallacies of the one-size-fits-all vision of happy families that undergirds and distorts a great deal of public family policy today.” She does this by telling the individual stories of a variety of families around the world including gay couples with children and single gay dads in LA, South African polygamists, and Mosuo families of southwest China who practice a form of utopian intimacy by night while spending their days living at their matrilineal home compound. The combination of each family’s intimate and memorable stories with hard research data makes for a very convincing argument that we need to reevaluate our idea of family.