Modern Families

Stories of Extraordinary Journeys to Kinship

240 pages

September, 2015

ISBN: 9781479842469

$26.95

Cloth

Also available in

Authors

Joshua Gamson is Professor of Sociology at the University of San Francisco. He is the author of Claims to Fame: Celebrity in Contemporary America, Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity, and The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the Seventies in San Francisco.

All books by Joshua Gamson

Melissa Harris-Perry is Presidential Chair and Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University and the host of MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry. She is the author of Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.

All books by Melissa Harris-Perry

A personal, intimate account of the extraordinary ways that today’s families are being created. 

From adoption and assisted reproduction, to gay and straight parents, coupled and single, and multi-parent families, the stories in Modern Families explain how individuals make unconventional families by accessing a broad range of technological, medical and legal choices that expand our definitions of parenting and kinship. Joshua Gamson introduces us to a child with two mothers, made with one mother’s egg and the sperm of a man none of them has ever met; another born in Ethiopia, delivered by his natural grandmother to an orphanage after both his parents died in close succession, and then to the arms of his mother, who is raising him solo.  

These tales are deeply personal and political. The process of forming these families involved jumping tremendous hurdles—social conventions, legal and medical institutions—with heightened intention and inventiveness, within and across multiple inequities and privileges. Yet each of these families, however they came to be, shares the same universal joys that all families share. 

A companion for all those who choose to navigate the world of modern kinship, Modern Families provides a “fascinating look at the remarkable range of experiences that is broadening the very idea of family” (Booklist). 

Reviews

  • "[A] fascinating look at the remarkable range of experiences that is broadening the very idea of family."

    Booklist

  • "What is so deft about Modern Families is the ease with which Gamson weaves together individual stories about creating families with academic research about the process, from single parenthood to gay parenting to reproductive technologies…he describes the often heart-wrenching emotional and technological lengths they had to go to. There are moments in all these accounts that will bring you to tears."

    In These Times

  • "Rich in dramatic tensions, private passions and public and political moral complexities, these 'creation stories' of having children in unusual family contexts make the famous tale of descending from Lady Bracknell's handbag pale in comparison."

    Times Higher Education

  • "The various stories of family creation told in Modern Families--the struggles and the successes--are quite moving."

    Brain, Child Magazine

  • "[Gamson] shares their tales with an engaging, gently humorous, and at times poetic style.  At the same time, he also teases out the connections between individual family stories and the social systems in which they are immersed."

    Philadelphia Gay News

  • "In Modern Families, Gamson offers both the personal and the critical perspectives.  The stories of the journeys to kinship are beautifully rendered, novelistic page-turners.  They are told, though, in context of the overarching social forces and disparities."

    PsychCentral.com

  • “[T]hese tales are…a warmhearted and normalizing look at some rare kinds of families.”

    Choice

  • "Gamson's description of the fierce love and determination that drove the creation of these families is candid and moving...[A] compelling book."

    Times Literary Supplement

  • “In this book, both carefully observed and deeply felt, Joshua Gamson gives voice to the changing nature of family in modern America. The new relationships he describes are complicated and sometimes difficult, but also suffused with love. This beautifully constructed and often hilarious manifesto rings with hope for a society in which everyone is free not only to marry but also to designate as family whomever he or she chooses.”

    —Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity

  • "Both seriously passionate about his cause and irrepressibly funny, Gamson takes us into the new world of unconventional family making. Making his way past the wagging fingers, he takes important new questions to the public square. If two men want a baby, whose egg and womb will it be, and what will be their relationships to the two women involved? How do we buy genes or borrow wombs or adopt children without letting the market take over the story and meaning? Modern Families is a deeply compassionate voyage into uncharted territory.”

    —Arlie Hochschild, author of The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times

  • "These 'bedtime stories' should expand the hearts and minds of readers. Josh Gamson's exquisitely rendered tales of brave new family-making routes to contemporary parenthood and kinship aim to advance the dream of reproductive freedom."

    —Judith Stacey, author of Unhitched: Love, Marriage, and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China

  • Modern Families is about people who attempt to create an ordinary child through extraordinary means.Their journey starts—and their child’s Origin Story begins—by navigating the worlds of assisted reproduction, new forms of co-parenting and global adoption. In doing so, these families challenge boundaries of traditional kinship and intimacies. Featured tales of parenthood are told against a backdrop of rapidly changing advances in biomedicine, the expansion of the Internet and globalizing markets. Josh Gamson, a gifted writer, delivers a provocative and memorable book.”

    —Rosanna Hertz, author of Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice

  • “These family making journeys raise hard questions, but offer no formulaic answers. These are stories of choices made consciously and sometimes uncomfortably to create and combine lives amidst the messy human realities of desire, commerce, science, faith, community and family. This collection is not a roadmap; it is a companion for all those who choose to navigate the world of modern kinship.”

    —from the Foreword by Melissa Harris-Perry