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Cultural Practices That Sustain Family and Community Life
Whether related by biology, marriage, circumstance, or choice, aunts embody a uniquely flexible familial role. The aunt-niece/nephew relationship—though often overlooked—is critical and complex, one that appears at the core of a resilient, healthy family life.
In this engaging book, Laura Ellingson and Patricia Sotirin construct a consideration of “aunts” that moves from noun to verb. “Aunts” is more than a group of people or a role; instead, “to aunt” is a practice, something people “do.” Some women “aunt” as second mothers, friends, or mentors, while others play more peripheral roles. In either case, aunts nonetheless significantly impact their nieces and nephews’ life choices.
Drawing on personal narratives that represent a rich cross section of society, Ellingson and Sotirin construct a cohesive story of the diversity of aunting experiences in the contemporary United States. Skillfully written, Aunting recovers the enormous potential of this dynamic kinship relationship and offers a model for understanding and supporting the variety of families in society today.
Introduction: Why Aunts?
1. Caring for Kin
2. Constructing Kin
3. Aunts at a Distance
4. My Auntie, My Self
5. Mentoring and Modeling
6. Carrying on the Family
Conclusion: Aunting in the Twenty-First Century
"This place of kinship is a major role in the lives of many young people as they grow, and Laura Ellingson and Patricia J. Sotirin provide an expert analysis of this dynamic and its importance. Aunting is a fascinating twist on familial life, and makes for a very highly recommended read."
—Midwest Book Review, 2010 (20:11)
“Aunting adds immeasurably to the newly emerging literature on families and kinship. This is a wonderfully engaging book brimming with insight.”
—Robert Milardo, author of The Forgotten Kin
“A delightful read. I found myself in a constant mental comparison between the personal quotes from aunts and nieces and my own experiences living these roles. Aunting is heartily recommended to anyone whose life has been touched by an aunt, niece, or nephew, and to readers interested in family communication.”
—Lynn Turner, Professor of Communication Studies and Director of the Interdisciplinary Family Studies Minor, Marquette University
“As contemporary families assume ever more complex configurations, this fascinating, deeply researched book demonstrates that aunts have become more important than ever.”
—Steven Mintz, Columbia University, author of Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood
Laura L. Ellingson is Professor of Communication and Women's & Gender Studies at Santa Clara University. She lives in San Jose, California.
Patricia J. Sotirin is Associate Professor of Communication at Michigan Technological University. She lives in the Houghton, Michigan, area.