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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Is “farm lit” the new chick lit?

 

Jessie Knadler's farm girl pastoral

Remember chick lit? The hot pink covers featuring martini glasses or stiletto heels (one heel lying jauntily on its side, as if it had been kicked off in haste, bed-side). The plucky young heroines striving to get the man – and that job promotion – in glittery metropolises filled with wisecracking gay men and hilariously self-deprecating best friends.

Well it’s over. Dead. Kersplat. Because, really, who’s wearing stilettos in these recessionary days? Sex and the City-esque fantasies seem about as dated as “the Rachel.”

Today’s hottest genre aimed at women is what I like to call “career girl gone Green Acres.” Think memoirs of ambitious, urban women who have followed their dreams to rural farms, where they’ve found all sorts of zany adventures and misadventures. To wit:

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond (AKA The Pioneer Woman) – A young career woman quits her “spoiled city girl” life in Los Angeles to marry an Oklahoma rancher and become a “domestic country wife.”

 

Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid with the Cowboy I Love by Jessie Knadler (of the blog Rurally Screwed) – A young Type-A New York magazine editor meets a Montana cowboy and moves to rural Virginia to farm chickens and raise a baby.

 

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball – A young, female Manhattan journalist ditches the city to start a farm in upstate New York.

 

Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life by Jenna Woginrich(of the blog Cold Antler Farm) – A young web designer quits city life to raise sheep on a farm in rural Vermont.

These books are so popular, I think, because they tap into our collective fantasies of simpler, more authentic lives. The out-and-out careerism and partying of the 1990s boomtime seems like a less appealing narrative these days; the idea of a slower, hands-on life (and maybe a cute farmer) is much more in line with the times.

Close cousins of the Career Girl Gone Green Acres genre include Better Living Through Baking (tired/depressed/divorcing woman finds solace in the kitchen – A Homemade Life, My Life From Scratch, and Saved by Cake are all good examples) and the Home & Garden Pastoral (a laid-off/unhappy/overworked women finds joy in home renovation/gardening – check out Slow Love for a prime example).

Do these books speak to you? Or do you miss the Manolos?

 

9 comments to Is “farm lit” the new chick lit?

  • Katy

    I could get into actual farm lit, screwball city chick inherits homestead, finds self torn between saucy younger farmhand and mature, virile rancher… But not so much the memoirs. Really, it’s all about the pretty photographs. Still, I am now inspired to see if I could write farm lit…

    • Emily

      Bet you a million dollars some publishing house is eagerly awaiting pitches for screwball farm lit fiction!

  • Do you think Animal, Vegetable, Miracle started it? I have to admit, although I am not remotely cut out for farm life, I LOVE reading books like these. I’ve added them all to my goodreads list!

    • Emily

      I think you’re totally right. In fact, I think Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has had a huge hand in the whole neo-domesticity/homesteading movement going on right now. I also think I’d be terribly suited for farm life (you can’t sleep until 11 when you have to milk the cows!) but love reading the memoirs. I think it taps into some kind of primal Laura Ingalls Wilder thing…

  • Interesting how many of these titles are sexual puns.

  • I think you are right, or at least i hope so! farm lit really is the new chick lit, because i think the “chick” in pop culture is starting to get her hands a little dirtier. Even Williams-Sonoma has chicken coops and raised-bed garden kits now. Farming on a homestead level is becoming more popular.

    If anyone has any questions about my book or farm life, feel free to holler.

    • Emily

      I’m holding out for an Anthropologie chicken coop ;)

      Seriously, y’all, if you haven’t read it, Jenna’s book is amazing (and I’m sure the second one is too – can’t wait to read)!

  • I wish I had a dollar for every one of these books that have come across my desk in the past four years. I would definitely say that “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” was one of the first…

  • Katy

    I can see how you linked these books (I just wrote ‘texts’ by mistake, ah university) to chick lit, but on reflection I’m wondering if they aren’t actually cousins of the Tuscan villa repair memoir – with that same fish out of water motif (and with all the othering that implies…