The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives

Michelle Janning (Author)
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Product Details

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Publish Date
May 05, 2017
6.3 X 0.9 X 9.2 inches | 1.1 pounds
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About the Author

Michelle Janning is professor of sociology at Whitman College. As a board member of the Council on Contemporary Families, she specializes in family and gender studies and cultural sociology. Her work has been published in sources such as the Journal of Family Issues and the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, and she has been quoted in media such as Women's Health and Real Simple.


In The Stuff of Family Life, Michelle Janning brilliantly explains the implications of how our culture is visibly on display in our homes. For the last two decades in my career I have witnessed changes in households, and the families dwelling in them, and imagined the reasons behind these dramatic alterations. From the types of rooms to the objects in them, I have guessed answers to the questions Janning's book provides in an easy-to-read voice. She shares valuable knowledge on how these changes are a reflection of the shifts in our society and family life. I am grateful to have my quest for answers satisfied in such a fun and interesting read!--Amy Bates, owner, Merry Maids of Oklahoma
Stuff and space, and how we interact with and relate to them, are at the intersection of house and home--and at the heart of this wonderful book. They shape our most intimate interactions, and therefore our relationships, our families, and the larger social world that they reflect and create. Michelle Janning leads us on an enthralling sociological journey through the objects and spaces of home--from LEGO and love letters to tables and toilets--to illuminate the social life of families.--Philip N. Cohen, University of Maryland
With artful prose and imaginative analysis, Janning explores how the stuff in our homes can tell us about much more than you might think. From where we place our furniture to what we keep on our coffee tables, Janning has an uncanny ability to uncover just how much we can learn by looking deeply at the spaces in which we reside. Homes tell us about much more than the collections of people that reside within; they provide windows into the most pressing social issues of our time, if only you know what to look for. This book is devilishly intelligent, passionately and poignantly written. You'll never see a home the same way again.--Tristan Bridges, The College at Brockport, SUNY
In this remarkable book, Michelle Janning helps us understand the material objects of our lives and in our homes, as an anthropologist of the future might do. With her own and others' research, she illuminates the cultural meaning of our everyday household "things." You'll never look at your own home, or others', quite the same way again.--Barbara Risman, University of Illinois at Chicago, executive officer of the Council on Contemporary Families
From the definition of home to the items we use every day from birth to death, The Stuff of Family Life covers the under-the-surface meaning of the placement of "stuff" in our homes. An asset to any professional organizer who wants to support their clients in de-cluttering, and to anyone else interested in the process. A must read!--Tammy Schotzko, certified professional organizer, We Love Messes
The Stuff of Family Life, by Michelle Janning, is a fascinating sociological exploration of what material goods say about people and society.... The book is intelligent. It is also a relatable and entertaining read.... The Stuff of Family Life is an illuminating, well-researched and remarkable book. The insights it offers afford an opportunity to examine the personal effects every family surrounds themselves with and to perhaps find insight into who they are as individuals, as families, and as members of society.--Foreword Reviews
Have you ever considered why your house has a dining room? Or have you thought about which rooms in your house are public (such as the living room) or private (like the bedroom)? Sociologist Janning looks at spaces and items in modern American homes to understand the boundaries between public and private lives for families, examine how homes illustrate broader social issues, and discuss how homes shape lives. For each section of her analysis, she chooses two objects to illustrate larger implications and relationships. For example, LEGO bricks allow Janning to explore modern childhood and approaches to parenting. LEGOs demonstrate what 'good parenting' looks like for a specific socioeconomic class: toys that are educational and enjoyed safely indoors. Her writing is conversational and humorous as she explains various research projects and sociological concepts. Whether familiar with sociological methods or not, readers will be fascinated by Janning's ideas and the connections she draws between household items and family life.--Booklist
Focusing on the meaning of objects associated with 'home' and with family-related social processes such as parenting, divorcing, and aging, Janning takes a sociological glimpse at several seemingly trivial but terribly relevant family topics. Her subjects are far ranging, including owners' suites; living spaces with great rooms, toys, and photo albums; dining rooms, with evidence of social class distinctions and dishes that link individuals to past and future families; spaces symbolizing transitions to adulthood or new family groupings; home offices with work bags and calendars; and bathrooms. Rather than an overarching theoretical focus, Janning introduces three general themes early in chapter 1 and then reintroduces them at the end of each section to tie together the many short glimpses into this wide range of family-related topics. The themes are the boundaries between public and private life, the connection between home life and larger social issues, and the symbolic and channeling functions of homes.... Summing Up: Recommended. All public and academic levels/libraries.--CHOICE
The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives speaks to the everyday reader through easy-to-follow text and language.... Janning truly combines education and entertainment in a nonfiction book accessible to casual readers through dedicated sociology students. I find her use of amusing anecdotes especially engaging. I found myself chuckling as I read some of the stories. Overall I am quite impressed with the book, and definitely recommend checking out a copy to anyone interested in the sociology of the modern American family. If you are interested in learning more about the dynamics of the family within modern American culture, I recommend checking out The Stuff of Family Life: How Our Homes Reflect Our Lives by Michelle Janning.... I personally enjoyed the many amusing anecdotes included throughout the book. If you have ever wondered what the placement of your TV in your home or the contents about your underwear drawer say about your family dynamics, pick up a copy of The Stuff of Family Life today to learn more about the fascinating topic!--The Parenting Patch: Where Parents Grow
[The Stuff of Family Life] is well-stocked with fun examples and intriguing analyses of how our homes and the stuff within them reveal more than we might have imagined. It's a fascinating class in social issues, with Janning as a likable teacher.--Notre Dame Magazine
"Janning raises the discussion to a level higher than Snoop Dogg. . . . Janning made me think differently about the stuff in our homes, our connection to it, its meaning, and what it says about us."--Pasadena Star-News