Ellen LewinDec 2, 2011
Narratives of Family and Citizenship in America
University of Chicago Press 2009
When anthropologist Ellen Lewin gave a preliminary report on her research on gay fathers, a member of the audience asked how she could write about such "yucky people." Yes, that's the technical anthropological term for same-sex attracted men who parent children. But here's the punch line: the questioner was not a homophobe who believes that gay men who wish to share their lives with children must be pedophiles. Rather, the questioner was what Lewin terms a "queer fundamentalist": someone who believes that gay men (or lesbians) who wish to parent are assimilationists, undermining the radical potential of queerness. In her award-winning book, Gay Fatherhood: Narratives of Family and Citizenship in America (University of Chicago Press, 2009), Lewin explores the intersection of two worlds that many on both sides of the "culture wars" assume to be mutually exclusive: gay manhood and parenting. How do gay men become parents? How do they understand their relationships to extended family; to religious, racial, and ethnic communities? What meanings do they attribute to their choices in parenting? How do assumptions about the gendered nature of parenting - or should I say mothering - shape their struggles? And how do they reconcile a gay identity with their day-to-day lives as parents? A professor of Anthropology and of Gender, Women's and Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa, Lewin has written a readable and humane account of a group that's charting new territory. I learned a lot from this book, and you will too.