Synopses & Reviews
While the aunt is one of the most iconic and beloved figures in popular culture, the societal role and import of real-life contemporary aunts are difficult to pin down. In some settings, she is the sole supporter, caregiver, or surrogate mother and exceeds her familial function as an aunt. In others, she subtly--or not so subtly--transgresses the assumed narrative of feminine identity. Surveying characters from Aunt Bee and Auntie Em to Bernie Mac's Aunt Wanda and House of Payne's Aunt Ella and countless living, breathing aunts across the country, Where the Aunts Are re-visions the ideals of family, femininity, and kinship and, in the process, offers a hopeful and progressive recognition of the multiple possibilities of womanhood in modern culture.
"Where the Aunts Are is an exacting examination of narratives of feminine identity, domestic life, and models of extended family. This smart, lucid book reveals how the aunt extends and transgresses normative feminine roles. Sotirin and Ellingson's expertise is on full display as they draw on a wide range of historical and cultural contexts to provide an in-depth feminist, post-structuralist analysis of the aunt as unconventional maternal substitute."
--Robin R. Means Coleman, Associate Professor of Communication Studies and of AfroAmerican and African Studies, University of Michigan, and author of Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present
"Who knew that the figure of the aunt in popular culture was so rich a subject for analysis, or could reveal so much about our culture's gender norms and values? Where the Aunts Are is a richly nuanced, feminist re-visioning of the aunt that draws out the small but myriad ways in which popular culture aunts transgress normative femininity and may even serve to reinvigorate a feminist agenda in the public sphere.
--Sharon R. Mazzarella, editor of Girl Wide Web 2.0: Revisiting Girls, the Internet, and the Negotiation of Identity
"A mandatory read for all interested in popular culture, media, race, and gender that should be returned to again and again. Sotirin and Ellingson make iron-clad arguments about the contemporary landscape of family and feminism."
--Elizabeth Bell, Professor and Chair, Department of Women's and Gender Studies, University of South Florida
"Aunts! Those much maligned women who play such an important role in our communities have at last found recognition and acknowledgment in this book. Ellingson and Sotirin have done an excellent job of placing the role of 'aunt' in our post-feminist world. Where the Aunts Are
is an essential book."
--Norma Pecora, Professor Emerita, School of Media Arts and Studies, Scripps College of Communication, Ohio University
How aunts in modern culture shape and subvert the traditional role of women
About the Author
Patricia J. Sotirin is Professor of Communication at Michigan Technological University and co-author of Aunting: The Cultural Practices that Sustain Family and Community Life with Laura L. Ellingson. Laura L. Ellingson is Professor of Communication and Women's and Gender Studies at Santa Clara University and co-author of Aunting: The Cultural Practices that Sustain Family and Community Life with Patricia J. Sotirin.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Whats Up with Aunts?
1. (Not) Like a Mother: Black and White Maternal Aunts
2. “Othered” Aunting: Race, Class, and Institutionalized Misogyny
3. Like a (Bad) Mother: Neotraditional and Malevolent Aunts
4. Wisdom and Witchcraft: Magical Aunts and Nieces
5. Eccentric Aunts: Sanity, Sexuality, and Spectacle
6. Commodifying the Aunt
Conclusion: The Impact of Aunts
Appendix I: Aunt Websites
Appendix II: Popular Sources