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Families As We Are
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PERDITA HUSTON is a journalist and author of several previous books, including Motherhood by Choice and Third World Women Speak Out. Huston has also worked for a number of international organizations, including the International Planned Parenthood Federation and specialized agencies of the Peace Corps.

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Families As We Are

Conversations from Around the World
Perdita Huston

Foreword by Richard C. Holbrooke

Like the works of Studs Terkel, Families As We Are has at its core the words and ideas of ordinary people. Huston spent more than four years interviewing three and four generations of families of all socioeconomic backgrounds in twelve countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, El Salvador, Japan, Jordan, Mali, Thailand, Uganda, and the United States.

While others mourn the loss of "family values," Huston discovers families who are strengthening themselves to face new realities. She describes the new forces that are changing families and finds positive as well as negative values in these transformations. While traditional families have been undermined by urbanization, economic transformation, emigration, and the global information culture, the family has also been positively changed by an increased regard for individual liberties and democratic values, and by a breakdown of patriarchal power.

Huston expands the definition of family, demonstrating that families come in all sizes and forms, from small nuclear families to large multigenerational groups, from street children who band together for protection and companionship to groups of prostitute women who live together and care for each other's children. Through the words of scores of family members, this volume presents families reinforcing and revisioning bonds forged of tradition and pragmatism, respect and love, as they face the challenges of the new millennium. Huston's fresh perspective—gained from several decades of working directly with families around the world—leads her to conclude that while the changes in families "may look like breakdown to those facing backwards, it looks like renovation to those facing the future."

"Globalization has affected more than the economies of nations of the world; it has also changed cultural and social norms. Huston spent three years traveling in eleven countries to chronicle multigenerations of families and how they have been affected by those cultural and social changes. She recorded elders lamenting the fast-paced lives of the younger generations, lives filled with more material things—even in the most economically depressed nations—but devoid of the cohesion of earlier family life. She recorded the feelings of alienation and vulnerability of younger generations. She explores how contraception and broader legal rights for women have affected their roles as well as those of men. Huston talked to families in Japan, Thailand, Bangladesh, China, Mali, Uganda, Egypt, Jordan, Brazil, El Salvador, and the U.S. She recorded how individuals are coping with changes in concepts of human rights and with economic transformations brought about by increased technology. Among her conclusions: 'Throughout human experience, families have met the challenge of change. Indeed there are two constants: change and family.'"

—Vanessa Bush, YA

"Will grab immigrant teens, but all readers will relate to the stories across generations, for curriculum and personal reading."

Booklist

"This is a book that should be read by everyone who cares how people live today, with whom, and why. . . . It's impossible to exaggerate the importance of this work and the major impact it will have, on individual opinions and public policy. But this is also a fascinating book that will make you laugh and cry in recognition, a story of your relativity and mine, the true story of the human family."

—Robin Morgan, author and activist

"Families around the world are adapting to different contexts and pressures, [and] the changing pattern of family life that emerges is a topic which has profound human rights implications for all. . . . Huston's examination of the issues . . . will help us respond positively to changes in family life. It makes the case for strengthening universal human rights all the more compelling."

—Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

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