Reviews of Homeward Bound

“3.5 out of 4 stars” - People Magazine                                                               “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                                                       "[P]rovocatively explores what the movement says about the role of women in society today.” – The New Yorker                                                                       "I unreservedly loved it…It’s empathetic and funny and thoughtful and smart, and I encourage all of you to read it."– The Hairpin                                                         “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                                                               “[I]ntelligent and insightful...essential reading.” - Christianity Today                                                       “A lively and perceptive reporter… a valuable and astute assessment.”—Publishers Weekly                                                         “A well-researched look at the resurgence of home life…. Offers intriguing insight into the renaissance of old-fashioned home traditions.”— Kirkus Reviews

What is New Domesticity?

This blog is a look at the social movement I call ‘New Domesticity’ – the fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the Sex & the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women? For families? For society?                                                                                     My book, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, which explores New Domesticity in greater depth, will be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2013.

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Radical Homemakers

radical homemakers

I’m in upstate NY at the moment, and yesterday I had the chance to spend some time at home with Shannon Hayes, author of Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture. Though self-published and only out since last year, it’s already had an outsized impact – many of the neo-homesteaders I’ve met cite it as an inspiration. It’s a, well, radical cry for people to return to some level of pre-Industrial Revolution home-based production – growing gardens, raising animals, making soap – to disengage from what Hayes calls “the extractive economy”(basically, the environment-killing/soul-sucking element of capitalism).

Hayes sees returning home as a strike against an unsustainable, misery-producing careerist ethos, an ethos which she thinks has been especially unfriendly to women (she likens the modern workforce to a “wife-beater”). She doesn’t see the word “homemaker” as a gendered term, and thinks men and women should bear equal responsibility in the home (though she admits that women are “more open” to the idea of radical homemaking). In many ways, Hayes is the modern equivalent of Helen and Scott Nearing, who inspired many of the 1960s back-to-the-land-ers, but written from a post-second-wave feminist perspective. Interesting, controversy-producing stuff. Has anyone else read the book?

4 comments to Radical Homemakers

  • I’m reading it right now! Great book and really inspiring…but I have a couple of gripes. I have to say that the take on life Shannon promotes might be a bit too ‘pre-industrial’ for us. While being British I don’t have to worry about health-care costs, I would be frightened of not having it in the USA. You can treat your own colds and flus at home sure but what about heart disease, cancer or even if you step on a rusty nail? I’m also one who embraces sustainable technology and more importantly education… I find it a bit hard to swallow that a person with a PHD from Cornell would shrug off a university education the way she seems to do so in the book. It suggests to me that while this generation of Radical Homemakers would be well educated, well versed and intellectually well rounded that the next generation will be less so. My view is that avoiding private health insurance and (expensive) education isn’t what needs to happen but rather campaigning for more affordable versions of both.

  • I haven’t read it, but I am intrigued. Thinking I might suggest this to my book club for next month — should be an interesting discussion!

  • Rachel

    I used to be an overeducated homemaker (PhD, worked part-time from home) who idealized frugality, DIY, and all that. When I hit my mid-30s I came to the conclusion that I wanted to use my brain to have a bigger impact on the world than I was going to have staying at home (and so now I am mother and employee and a bunch of other things as well). I haven’t read Hayes’s book and won’t; I read an excerpt in Brain, Child a few years ago, and it irritated the hell out of me. She seems to have no imagination regarding the reasons why a woman would participate in the market economy other than greed and competitiveness. I will grant that she is radical, and I suppose I would entertain an argument that she is a “radical feminist,” but I prefer “liberal feminism,” which sees benefit in engaging in the world as it is, rather than rejecting the whole thing and living in a yurt (and looking down on everyone who isn’t as radical as you are). This follows with your point, Emily, about working on the large scale to make schools and foods safe for everyone, rather than women devoting all of their (unpaid) labor to making those things safe for their tiny little corner of the world (and to hell with everyone else). It’s fine with me if radicals want to be radicals, but I would hate to see a lot of women decide to jump on this bandwagon from the sheer force of Hayes’s judgmental ideas about women and work.

  • [...] hearing terms like “Frugal Living” and “Voluntary Simplicity” and “Radical Homemaking.” These lifestyles, which stress anti-consumerism, localism, self-sufficiency and family, [...]