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Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity Hardcover – May 7 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 7 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 145166544X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451665444
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 16 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #80,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lindsay Joy on Aug. 24 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found that Matchar's "New Domesticity" seems eerily like the old domesticity. Almost all the women she discusses have children, and most follow extreme lifestyles like attachment parenting. These kinds of ideas are just historical repetitions of things like the Domestic Science movement, but with more "nature" and less "science".
The author also uses oversimplified analogies, comparing the women to either Betty Freidan or Michelle Duggar. It bugs me that with trend pieces like this, there are only extremes, which I think she does here so she can have her conclusion at the end, where she ultimately decides she may some days have a hot pocket for dinner.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The critical examination of the new domestic trend was good to examine before passing judgement on those who practice and those who do not. The book is a little repetitive, but that is largely because most of the drives and motivations for all aspects of the new domesticity are in the same place. This book is worth a read if you are concerned about the various responses that people have to recent economic slowdown.
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Amazon.com: 36 reviews
116 of 130 people found the following review helpful
interesting, but largely one-sided perspective May 23 2013
By gardengal - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This was an interesting book, however I was struck by the author's main focus, which is (other than a very minor treatment of other perspectives) that these "domestic" pursuits seem to be given modern validation because "cool, progressive, lefties" are embracing them, often with political motivation. Or that in some cases, BECAUSE there can be a political element in the decision to can jam (etc.), suddenly some people are perceiving these activities as being OK or even desirable to undertake.

What?? There are many women (of all ages and philosophical bents) who engage in such heritage pursuits (and have never lost interest in them) simply because we enjoy them, because they make economic sense, the process of making brings delight and shows love, they connect us to past generations, they speak sanity and simplicity in an age of rapid electronic group-think, and they forge beautiful connections with seasonal cycles. It's just a lovely way to live.

Again, the book was interesting and insightful in places, but should perhaps be more honestly titled to reflect the predominant perspective addressed. This isn't about why "women" are embracing the "new domesticity" but why young, left-leaning women are becoming interested. While the political motivation of some people is worth exploring and is certainly part of the conversation, I had hoped for a fuller look into the satisfactions of living a homemade life.

Curiously, I was reading the autobiography of a famous French chef at the same time as I read this book and had to smile at his reaction to the "modern" interest in local, organic, seasonal, "whole foods" cooking, the gist of which was something like this: "It's not some sort of religious mantra, it's just a given... that's how you cook." My reaction to Homeward Bound was much the same: "A life full of 'making' is not some sort of political manifesto... it's just how you live."

Hooray for more people of all stripes being interested in making bread, jam, gardens, sweaters, etc. But we don't really need to feel defensive or offensive about it... instead we can focus on the process, the joy, the sharing.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
A smart analysis of a growing phenomenon May 24 2013
By KoiFarmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Have you thought about setting up a chicken coop in your backyard? Are your friends making their own pickles to showcase at their dinner parties? Are your siblings thinking about home-schooling (or "unschooling") their children?

"Homeward Bound" is all about these activities, skills, and lifestyle choices. In the book, Emily Matchar is attempting to explain why all these traditional kinds of "women's work" are making a resurgence, and how a variety of economic, environmental, and political factors have come together to create the "New Domesticity".

Matchar covers a lot of the major fronts of the New Domesticity movement: Etsy, attachment parenting circles, the lifestyle blogosphere, urban homesteading. In addition to interviewing dozens of people who belong (to some degree or other) to the movement, Matchar provides a lot of context--both statistical and historical--that's helpful for understanding the movement. For example, there's a really interesting (and surprising) chapter on the history of women's work, and how we got to our attitudes about domestic work today.

Matchar is ultimately seeking a balanced appraisal of the movement, and largely succeeds. She is neither an apologist for the movement, nor a polemicist solely interested in disparaging it. I thought she did a good job in not too rigidly overgeneralizing the members of the movement. For example, she shows how there is a wide continuum in the movement, ranging from those who might do a little jam canning as a hobby on the weekend, to those who aim to live "off the grid" by full-scale homesteading. She shows how different people are motivated by different factors (some are more interested in environmental concerns, others are less trusting of social and governmental institutions). Matchar is sensitive both to the positive values and outcomes of the movement (valuing family over work, concern for the safety of our food), and the potential dangers (placing new burdens on women, weakening current social institutions).

Everyone I know seems either to be involved at least a little bit in the New Domesticity, or knows someone who is. (I myself like to dabble in some amateur pickling!) Matchar's book is a great resource for seeing how the various strands of New Domesticity fit together, what their origins are, and what it means for men and women, feminism, and society in general.
34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Free to Be ... Barefoot and Pregnant May 7 2013
By takingadayoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
New Domesticity is what Emily Matchar calls the trend of young women embracing homey activities such as gardening, cooking from scratch, sewing, crafting, homeschooling, and extreme parenting. While it isn't a uniform trend that always encompasses all those aspects, it often draws on elements of frugal living, voluntary simplicity, and attachment parenting. It attracts counterculture women as well as young Mormon mothers.

Matchar admits she finds many aspects of the movement enticing, such as the creative side, in which many of the participants are selling their crafts on Etsy. Other elements she finds problematic, such as the increase of parents who homeschool.

Throughout the book, the question is why are these women, most of whom are university educated, rejecting professional careers to stay at home? Of course, there are many reasons, and the discussions bring up topics such as the sputtering economy, the cracked but not broken glass ceiling, whether women can have it all, and are there biological reasons some women like to make a nest rather than compete in the workplace? One theme that comes up often is how homeschooling in particular is a rejection of the community in favor of individual solutions. Naturally,a big question is whether this movement is feminist or the opposite.

Matchar guides the conversation in a skillful manner, without stooping to easy answers. She adds the voices of writers who've covered this territory in the past. This book had me thinking and discussing with others and re-evaluating. I loved it!

(Thanks to NetGalley for a review copy.)
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
internal contradictions July 23 2013
By EmilyS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
The inconsistency of this book's arguments bothered me. The author often identifies the "New Domesticity" as being the domain of upper-middle-class, educated, liberal white women whenever she makes conclusions. But the research-based parts of her writing seem to contradict this. She describes the same trends taking place in both liberal and conservative communities, in urban and rural areas, and she writes in one place about families that undergo voluntary income reduction, going from ~50k to ~26k, and that these people survey as being happier. A household income of 26k does not sound upper middle class to me. And I don't see any evidence that she even looked for non-white people to interview- I know a tremendous amount of people from diverse backgrounds who craft and garden. I suspect this author started with her own conclusions and did not really allow her research to further develop her opinions.

Also, towards the end she has interviews with a few queer women who are into New Domesticity. I have to say, it majorly steams my clams that she thinks their involvement with this movement is less problematic than that of heterosexually partnered women because there aren't any traditional division of labor/patriarchy issues involved. That is about the least nuanced analysis ever- seems like it would read as shallow to the point of offensive for most people.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Thoughtful but comfortable June 16 2013
By That WendyGirl - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I think my reaction to and understanding of the trend the author covers is really rooted in my identity and political beliefs. Like the author, I, too, am an educated white lady with socially liberal political leanings. I heard about the book from a blog or news source, but I don't remember if it was the Atlantic or the Hairpin - some sort of liberal site, though.

I came to the discussion with many of the assumptions and a similar background as the author. On the one hand, I appreciate that she was skeptical about the "domesticity" movement since I participate in it on a lesser scale - bake my own bread, use "natural" soaps when possible, etc. By looking critically at some of those activities that I participate in, it helped me reconsider my own motives and values. Because the author shared my proclivities and was self-critical, it wasn't a hard pill to swallow.

Although I did get some self-reflection out of this, ultimately, she was preaching to the choir. I'm not sure to what degree someone from a different perspective would find this a convincing text. Although there were some hard numbers, personal anecdotes formed the bulk of the book. They were interesting and sympathetic, but that's not enough to define a cultural movement. Additionally, Matchar doesn't try to defend why women should be looking for positions of strength and power in society. I do appreciate that she explains how so much of the domesticity trend is for women of a certain class (and probably race), and although I like looking through that sort of political lens, for people of a different political bent, it might not be as worthwhile.

Finally, as a woman in physics, I thought it was telling that NONE of the anecdotes were from women from a STEM field. I realize that my interest in that sub-group is very personal and not widely shared, but I think it would have been a worthwhile addition.

Basically, I enjoyed the book because it was from a familiar philosophical background about a trend that many of my peers engage in and that I know quite a bit about. Outside that community, I'm not sure the book holds that much interest.

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