Monday, April 14, 2014

Review of "Broken Patterns" by Anita M. Harris

I attended a recent book signing event at which author Anita M. Harris gave some of the background that led to her revising and publishing a Second Edition of her landmark book, "Broken Patterns" first published in 1995.  She recounted an experience she had with someone who was interviewing her who had asked, in effect, "What was your agenda in writing this book?"  Having already sampled several of the chapters of the book by that time, I jumped into the fray and offered the following comments, which comprise the gist of my review:

The author is not coming from a place of having an ax to grind or an agenda to push.  Her research is driven by an honest inquiry into how professional women who entered predominantly male fields of work in the 1970's and 1980's were doing in balancing the demands of their lives, and how they viewed their lives in comparison with the lives of their mothers and grandmothers.

It is clear in reading the 40 in depth interviews that make up the core of this book that Ms. Harris brought to the task a great sensitivity and intellectual curiosity.  As a result, many of the women she interviewed found themselves expressing deep thoughts and emotions that they had not previously been aware of harboring.  A pattern emerges that generations of women who were primarily "Stay at home wives and mothers" would often be followed by a generation of women that sent many of its members to the work force.  The author sees this pattern as neither linear nor cyclical, but rather "spiral."

Many of the women she interviewed expressed strong love and respect for the lives that their mothers had led, yet also expressed equally strong desires not to emulate or repeat the patterns of their mothers' lives.

This well-conceived study and well-written book sheds light on a topic that continues to evolve as society changes and opportunities and choices for women increase and proliferate.  Old patterns are being broken and replaced by new patterns informed by individual choices and cultural consent.



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