Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Highlight: Family Secrets: Shame and Privacy in Modern Britain [Hardcover] Deborah Cohen

Family Secrets: Shame and Privacy in Modern Britain

We live today in a culture of full disclosure, where tell-all memoirs
top the best-seller lists, transparency is lauded, and privacy seems
imperiled. But how did we get here?

Exploring scores of previously sealed records, Family Secrets offers a
sweeping account of how shame-and the relationship between secrecy and
openness-has changed over the last two centuries in Britain. Deborah
Cohen uses detailed sketches of individual families as the basis for
comparing different sorts of social stigma. She takes readers inside an
Edinburgh town house, where a genteel maiden frets with her brother over
their niece's downy upper lip, a darkening shadow that might betray the
girl's Eurasian heritage; to a Liverpool railway platform, where a
heartbroken mother hands over her eight-year old illegitimate son for
adoption; to a town in the Cotswolds, where a queer vicar brings to his
bank vault a diary-sewed up in calico, wrapped in parchment-that
chronicles his sexual longings. Cohen explores what families in the past
chose to keep secret and why. She excavates the tangled history of
privacy and secrecy to explain why privacy is now viewed as a hallowed
right while secrets are condemned as destructive.

In delving into the dynamics of shame and guilt, Family Secrets explores
the part that families, so often regarded as the agents of repression,
have played in the transformation of social mores from the Victorian era
to the present day. Written with compassion and keen insight, this is a
bold new argument about the sea-changes that took place behind closed

Deborah  Cohen
About The Author  

Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, DEBORAH COHEN was educated at Harvard
(BA) and Berkeley (Ph.D.). She is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of
Humanities and Professor of History at Northwestern University. Her
specialty is modern European history, with a focus on Britain.

Cohen's new book is Family Secrets, published in the UK by Viking
Penguin and in the US by Oxford. She's also the author of Household
Gods: The British and their Possessions (Yale, 2006) and The War Come
Home: Disabled Veterans in Britain and Germany (California, 2001)

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