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

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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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: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #252,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Matchar maintains a chatty tone that makes for easy reading. … She’s funny and self-deprecating… [Her] work left me with a better understanding of other women’s motivations.” (Washington Post)

“The brilliance of Emily Matchar’s new book is that it exhaustively describes what disillusioned workers are opting into: a slower, more sustainable, and more self-sufficient lifestyle that’s focused on the home. Matchar synthesizes dozens of trend stories… into a single, compelling narrative about the resurgence of domesticity….Refreshing” (The New Republic)

“Matchar captures the appeal of the new domesticity — from its ‘cozy vintage aesthetic’ to its embrace of healthier foods and recycling. At the same time, she raises sharp and timely questions about whether the army of new-style happy homemakers aren’t ‘glossing over some of the harder realities of women, work, and equality.’” (Boston Globe)

"Cogently argues that choosing a more hands-on, DIY lifestyle family farming, canning, crafting-can, without sacrificing feminism's hard-won gains, improve on an earlier time when 'people lived more lightly on the earth and relied less on corporations, and family and community came first.'" (Elle)

"Very informative and eye opening…. The book is a must for mothers, old, young, and in between. …well worth reading and discussing.” (The Orange Leader)

"An entertaining and well-structured book." (New York Journal of Books)

The book is an insightful, fascinating read. While Matchar is nonjudgmental, she also provides a refreshing dose of analysis and skepticism.” (The Independent Weekly (Triangle Area, NC))

“[Matchar] places women at the center of the budding movement to challenge industrial food. . . . A nuanced, sympathetic critique. . . she defends feminism against the charge that it drove women out of the kitchen and led to the decline in cooking.” (

“A well-researched look at the resurgence of home life…. Offers intriguing insight into the renaissance of old-fashioned home traditions.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“A lively and perceptive reporter… [Matchar] offers a valuable and astute assessment of the factors that led to the current embracing of domesticity and the consequences of this movement.” (Publishers Weekly)

“This book heralds a revolution in the attitudes and values of our society and will certainly divide public opinion in general and women in particular.” (Elisabeth Badinter bestselling author of The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women)

About the Author

Emily Matchar writes about culture, women's issues, work, food and more for places such as The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Salon, The Hairpin, Gourmet, Men's Journal, Outside, and many others. She lives in Hong Kong and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with her husband.

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Top Customer Reviews

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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars 49 reviews
152 of 168 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars interesting, but largely one-sided perspective May 23 2013
By gardengal - Published on
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.
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars seriously? April 9 2014
By COME. ON. - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I've never reviewed anything, on amazon or elsewhere, but this book, with its poorly conceived, poorly researched premise, written with poorly concealed bias, really cheesed me off. The author makes the same repetitive (tired) point, that the current "trend" in domesticity is exclusively the purview of fad-following, educated, relatively well-off white women, leaving no room for the possibility that self-involved hipsters, may, shockingly, just spend more time talking and writing about themselves than the women (who may or may not fit those criteria) for whom homemaking is an important and deeply personal pursuit. To quote from the NYT review,"'This lifestyle wouldn’t work if women were raising their perfect, happy locavore children in the middle of the woods with no Internet connection,' Marcie Cohen Ferris, an American studies professor at the University of North Carolina, says in the book." Really? I'm fairly certain it does work, and has, FOR ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY. People leaving crowded cities to build their homes and raise their children in more pastoral surroundings isn't a new phenomenon. Dabbling in (ugh) "DIY" by making a few jars of jam or picking up knitting for a week, then blogging about it, is in no way the same as devoting one's days (and nights, and weekends) to caring for a home and a family with an attention to detail, quality, thrift, and environmental impact that would be superhuman for anyone also working a full-time job. The author seems confused about the magnitude of this disparity, though one need not even browse etsy for very long to comprehend the gaping chasm between the skillful, well practiced hand-maker and the dilettante.
It would be possible to dismiss Matchar's condescending tone and spotty citation, to assume she in fact, intended to write only about the facebook generation finding a new hobby, were it not for the maddeningly closed-minded message of the last chapter, meant as "lessons of new domesticity." Here the author plainly states what she's clearly been thinking all along: choosing to care for your home and family instead of working is a foolish choice, and only even possible for those lucky few who make a comfortable living blogging about it. She uses, without question, quotes expressing the concerns and dogma of an archaic, misogynist feminism, "What if women wind up unfulfilled? Won't they be bored when their children leave home? Won't those children resent them, pity them even, for living these lives so devoid of fulfillment? Don't they realize their teenagers won't care how from scratch their baby food was? What if their husbands die or leave them- what would they do then?????" (Never mind that personal fulfillment is just that, personal. No mention made of the fact that children leaving home is by no means an end to the tasks of homemaking or the parent-child relationship. What of the fact that few teenagers immediately appreciate ANY of what either of their parents have given them? We should base our life choices on the possible opinions of hypothetical teenagers? This last one really got me, though- regardless of career choice, all parents should plan for this unpleasant possibility, but losing a spouse would be devastating whether your home had one or two incomes. No one would ever ask a man if he had evaluated whether or not his income would cover the cost of paying professionals to do his homemaker wife's tasks after her untimely demise.) Matchar treats these ill-informed generalizations and flimsy double standards as a fitting conclusion to her book, offering little elaboration and no contradiction. Cashing in on the image of modern women joining hands to embrace a return to home and hearth for 200+ pages, then denigrating those same women in your last few pages is reprehensible. It's lazy writing, lazy feminism, and it serves only to nudge the reader toward the conclusion that reading this book was a massive waste of time. All of this, on top of the noticeably small quantities of page space used to explore the domestic traditions of other cultures (in history or modernity, i would have taken either), left me frustrated, embarrassed for my gender and my generation, and, most of all, glad i got this from the library rather than buying it.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars internal contradictions July 23 2013
By EmilyS - Published on
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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven at best. Oct. 5 2013
By R. K. Norris - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While the premise is interesting, the execution leaves much to be desired. Most of the interviewees seem to be college and grad-school buddies of the author, which leaves the impression of self-selection bias--I know many people whose motivations for what plays out as "new domesticity" comes out of simple necessity or personal/familial health concerns (metabolic syndome & obesity, cancer, documented severe allergies or intolerances, autoimmune disorders, etc.). Further, the book never comes to a real conclusion, even an explicitly ambivalent one; she ends with "are they feminists or retro or... oh, I just don't know" tone. I was excited to read the book, but found it lacking in any sort of commitment. Perhaps the work was Matchar attempting to work out her own confusion regarding the so-called "new domesticity," but I think the topic would be better served by an author with more life experience and perspective under her belt. There were a lot of interesting observations and anecdotes, but in the end, it seemed to lack cohesion.
38 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free to Be ... Barefoot and Pregnant May 7 2013
By takingadayoff - Published on
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.)