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Not in This Family
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Not in This Family
Gays and the Meaning of Kinship in Postwar North America

Heather Murray

312 pages | 6 x 9 | 25 illus.
Paper 2012 | ISBN 9780812222241 | $26.50s | Outside the Americas £19.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Politics and Culture in Modern America
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Winner of the 2011 Lawrence W. Levine Award from the Organization of American Historians

"Not in This Family represents both an important new direction for historical research in lesbian and gay studies and a useful addition to the literature on the American family."—Journal of American History

"Elegantly written and exemplary in its approach and method, bringing the 'evidence of experience' into conversation with social, cultural, political, and national contexts in ways that are both nuanced and deeply felt."—Journal of Family History

"Not in This Family is wonderfully fresh and innovative. Murray manages to train her eye on children and parents both and is especially adept at examining their exchanges, longings for understanding, and mutual frustrations. This generational angle also allows Murray to perceive larger transformations in norms of privacy, disclosure, and intimacy. Most impressive is her ability to show how new kinds of relationships between parents and children emerged as cultural politics shifted: from the 'gay banishment' motif of the early postwar period, to the liberationist confrontations of the 1970s, to the 'ritualized' parental empathy of the 1980s, to the coming-out narrative of the 1990s. On top of all that, the book is lucidly written and a pleasure to read."—Sarah Igo, author of The Averaged American: Surveys, Citizens, and the Making of a Mass Public

Many Americans hold fast to the notion that gay men and women, more often than not, have been ostracized from disapproving families. Not in This Family challenges this myth and shows how kinship ties were an animating force in gay culture, politics, and consciousness throughout the latter half of the twentieth century.

Historian Heather Murray gives voice to gays and their parents through an extensive use of introspective writings, particularly personal correspondence and diaries, as well as through published memoirs, fiction, poetry, song lyrics, movies, and visual and print media. Starting in the late 1940s and 1950s, Not in This Family covers the entire postwar period, including the gay liberation and lesbian feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s, the establishment of PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. Ending her story with an examination of contemporary coming-out rituals, Murray shows how the personal that was once private became political and, finally, public.

In exploring the intimate, reciprocal relationship of gay children and their parents, Not in This Family also chronicles larger cultural shifts in privacy, discretion and public revelation, and the very purpose of family relations. Murray shows that private bedrooms and consumer culture, social movements and psychological fashions, all had a part to play in transforming the modern family.

Heather Murray teaches history at the University of Ottawa.

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