Michael Rosenfeld offers a new theory of family dynamics to account for the interesting and startling changes in marriage and family composition in the United States in recent years. His argument revolves around the independent life stage that emerged around 1960. This stage is experienced by young adults after they leave their parents' homes but before they settle down to start their own families. During this time, young men and women go away to college, travel abroad, begin careers, and enjoy social independence. This independent life stage has reduced parental control over the dating practices and mate selection of their children and has resulted in a sharp rise in interracial and same-sex unions--unions that were more easily averted by previous generations of parents.Complementing analysis of newly available census data from the entire twentieth century with in-depth interviews that explore the histories of families and couples, Rosenfeld proposes a conceptual model to explain many social changes that may seem unrelated but that flow from the same underlying logic. He shows, for example, that the more a relationship is transgressive of conventional morality, the more likely it is for the individuals to live away from their family and area of origin.
When, in 1968, 19-year-old Tressa Bowers took her baby daughter to an expert on deaf children, he pronounced that Alandra was “stone deaf,” she most likely would never be able to talk, and she probably would not get much of an education because of her communication limitations. Tressa refused to accept this stark assessment of Alandra’s prospects. Instead, she began the arduous process of starting her daughter’s education.
Economic need forced Tressa to move several times, and as a result, she and Alandra experienced a variety of learning environments: a pure oralist approach, which discouraged signing; Total Communication, in which the teachers spoke and signed simultaneously; a residential school for deaf children, where Signed English was employed; and a mainstream public school that relied upon interpreters. Changes at home added more demands, from Tressa’s divorce to her remarriage, her long work hours, and the ongoing challenge of complete communication within their family. Through it all, Tressa and Alandra never lost sight of their love for each other, and their affection rippled through the entire family. Today, Tressa can triumphantly point to her confident, educated daughter and also speak with pride of her wonderful relationship with her deaf grandchildren. Alandra’s Lilacs is a marvelous story about the resiliency and achievements of determined, loving people no matter what their circumstances might be.
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