Extreme Domesticity: A Book Review By Andrea Fontenot

This week, one of our featured books is Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins, by Susan Fraiman. Today, we are happy to present a review by Andrea Fontenot that originally appeared in 4columns.org.

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Domesticity is a difficult term to make urgent, powerful, extreme. It’s all the more challenging at a time of unprecedented inhospitality (to put it mildly) toward refugees, immigrants, transgendered children, “nasty” women—to cite a few of the groups targeted in the name of the nationalist, masculinist lifestyle brand that currently occupies the White House. Yet, Susan Fraiman’s book Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Marginsamazingly manages a reframing of the term that resonates powerfully in our current moment, as the notions of what counts as home and who is allowed to feel sheltered are at the very heart of today’s social and political woes.

Fraiman unfolds this feminist recovery through approachable and straightforward literary analysis, looking closely at the way homes are described, imagined, and used across a wide range of texts—from nineteenth-century novels to contemporary women’s magazines. To expose the overlooked progressive potential in domesticity, Fraiman must first strip it of its seemingly inherent relationship to conservative gender roles and reactionary politics. Looking to the margins—the people and homes that do not meet idealized, normative standards—she manages, at last, to get domesticity alone. At its simplest, it’s the pursuit of “several meals a day, a place to sleep, a degree of cleanliness and order, and perhaps a touch of beauty” and the virtues of “privacy, safety, stability, coziness, quiet, beauty, intimacy, and routine.” When domesticity is delinked from “conventional, sentimentalized notions of home,” the core principles it represents read like a list of basic human rights.

Read entire review at 4columns.org.

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