Domestic

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I'm sure that it's obvious why I picked this book out at the library, just by looking at the cover. But it was nothing like I thought it would be.

Let me start by saying that wow, the knitting on the front is incredibly deceiving. Knitting takes up maybe 2% of this book, and it's really only mentioned in conjunction with something else. Having a baby breastfeeding or a woman homeschooling or someone chugging raw milk would have been much more appropriate. It's not wholly about a resurgence of knitting as a hobby (which I had assumed), but rather about the entire new domesticity movement, the whole shunning-of-convenience thing, the "natural is better, and anyone who thinks otherwise is a horrible parent/wife/husband/etc." thing, the "I'm quitting my job to homeschool my kids and make everything from scratch and save them from everything horrible about the world" thing.

Sorry if I sound a little skeptical. But I'm only following Emily Matchar's example.

Nevertheless, I was determined to finish it. I hate abandoning books, and I try to do it as little as I can, so after about 100 pages (just about the point when it hit me that this book wasn't going anywhere I thought it was going), I made up my mind to just finish it. And it's taken a loooong time. The time I've spent reading it is time spent multitasking; It's a page or two here, a paragraph or two there, and a lot of backtracking to remember what the hell it was that I just read. I had this book in my possession for a grand total of 8 weeks and still on the day I finally went to return it I sat in the parking lot for a few minutes beforehand finishing those last five pages.

ANYWAY.

So, even though this book wasn't particularly about knitting, would I recommend it? Maybe, and only if you're interested in the topic. It was that kind of book - you know, the one that's written with the assumption that anyone reading this is reading it because they want better insight, not because they really want to learn anything new. It's not really an educational-type historical-y non-fiction book - which, as a history student in college, was a majority of what I read in the non-fiction genre. Part of me picked this up because of the fact that I wanted to read non-fiction that wasn't history, but this one was so broad and so repetitive and so generalized that it made finishing it a struggle. It's an interesting topic and an interesting idea, and one I'd like to know more about. I just kind of wish I had started with a different author who didn't present things through such a dubious and negative lens. It's because of this that I found myself partly taking on her opinions as my own, and reading everything with a skeptical eye.

You want to quit your job and take care of your kids? Good luck if your husband decides to divorce you and you're left with no income.

You want to make your own food from scratch? Good luck trying to do that while juggling three kids under the age of five.

You want to start your own business online? Good luck getting anyone to pay $15 for something they could buy at Target for $5.

You want to make money on your "urban domesticity" blog? Good luck with that. You might as well not even bother blogging at all.

It was just all very cynical, and it drove me crazy. Yeah, okay, she had some good points, and some of it was kind of eye-opening regarding the real lives of women who decided to quit their jobs to raise a family instead, but I disliked how Matchar seemed to go in with preconceived notions and wrote her book in a way that only confirmed them.

I guess my biggest qualm was that she didn't dive deep enough: Used basic history. Seemed to only interview white upper middle class women, or women with the means to make it on one salary (i.e. women whose husbands worked a relatively low-paying job but who lived in the middle of nowhere, and not in Manhattan, where that would literally be impossible). Spoke mostly with women who stayed home with their kids because they wanted to, not because they had to, women who are educated and could find a well-paying job if they decided to go back into the workforce. There's a whole history of lower middle class women staying home to raise their families out of necessity completely missing from this narrative. She mentions it briefly, and I'm pretty sure that those women aren't really embracing the new domesticity idea, but I'm of the opinion that you can't just show one side of the story and expect what you're writing to be taken seriously by those who know another side exists. If there was one takeaway from all that research and writing I did in college, that was it. And Matchar doesn't quite do that, and when she does, it's halfheartedly.

I guess this book was worthwhile in that way: It made me think about what she was writing, and then realize that I needed more. Give me another 100 pages, Matchar, and then we'll talk.