What We Are Reading Today: Making Motherhood Work by Caitlyn Collins

Updated 12 January 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Making Motherhood Work by Caitlyn Collins

  • Caitlyn Collins explores how women navigate work and family given the different policy supports available in each country

Women struggle to balance breadwinning with the bulk of parenting, and stress is constant. Social policies do not help. Of all Western industrialized countries, the US ranks dead last for supportive work-family policies: No federal paid parental leave. The highest gender wage gap. No minimum standard for vacation and sick days. The highest maternal and child poverty rates. 

Can American women look to European policies for solutions? Making Motherhood Work draws on interviews that sociologist Caitlyn Collins conducted over five years with 135 middle-class working mothers in Sweden, Germany, Italy, and the US. She explores how women navigate work and family given the different policy supports available in each country, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Mothers in western Germany and Italy, where maternalist values are strong, are stigmatized for pursuing careers. Meanwhile, American working mothers stand apart for their guilt and worry. Policies alone, Collins discovers, cannot solve women’s struggles.

Easing them will require a deeper understanding of cultural beliefs about gender equality, employment, and motherhood. With women held to unrealistic standards in all four countries, the best solutions demand that we redefine motherhood, work, and family.

 


What We Are Reading Today: Chaucer: A European Life by Marion Turner

Updated 20 March 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Chaucer: A European Life by Marion Turner

  • Marion Turner reconstructs in unprecedented detail the cosmopolitan world of Chaucer’s adventurous life

More than any other canonical English writer, Geoffrey Chaucer lived and worked at the center of political life—yet his poems are anything but conventional. Edgy, complicated, and often dark, they reflect a conflicted world, and their astonishing diversity and innovative language earned Chaucer renown as the father of English literature. Marion Turner, however, reveals him as a great European writer and thinker. To understand his accomplishment, she reconstructs in unprecedented detail the cosmopolitan world of Chaucer’s adventurous life, focusing on the places and spaces that fired his imagination, according to a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Uncovering important new information about Chaucer’s travels, private life, and the early circulation of his writings, this innovative biography documents a series of vivid episodes, moving from the commercial wharves of London to the frescoed chapels of Florence and the kingdom of Navarre, where Christians, Muslims, and Jews lived side by side. The narrative recounts Chaucer’s experiences as a prisoner of war in France, as a father visiting his daughter’s nunnery, as a member of a chaotic Parliament, and as a diplomat in Milan, where he encountered the writings of Dante and Boccaccio. The book also offers a comprehensive exploration of Chaucer’s writings.