Sex Roles, Vol. 41, No . 3/4, 1999
Boo k Re
U nderstandin g D iv e rse Fam ilie s: What Practitio ners Need to Know.
Barbara Okun, Guilford Press, 1996, $21.95 pape r.
A s the title of this book implie s, Barbara Okun is writing for the be ne ® t of
clinicians. ``Although we all le arn enorm ously from our clients, remembe r, it
is not the responsibility of clie nts to educate the ir the rapists. Rathe r, it is
the therapist’ s re sponsibility to take the initiative for continue d se lf-aware-
ne ss and learning’ ’ (p. 199) . This admonition from the author is one she
lives as evide nced by he r emphasis on reviewing pre vious research. She
summarizes the storie s of 187 familie s she has worke d with in therapy
and intervie ws volunte er familie s who have either adopte d/be e n adopte d/
re linquishe d pare ntal rights, have hom ose xual partne rs /pare nts/childre n,
have biracial marriage s/childre n, have multie thnic pare nts/childre n, re pre-
se nt single pare nts by choice , are grandpare nts raising childre n, or are
familie s who have used re productive te chnology to conceive.
In therapy, she invites clie nts to discuss issue of race , gende r, and
dive rsity. ``I ask clients at the e nd of a ® rst session how the y fe el about
working with me, a White female . Do they be lie ve my ge nde r or race will
inte rfe re with my unde rstanding them? A re the re any speci® c reasons
why the y chose me? ’’ (p. 282). This invitation is re issue d intermittently
throughout future therapy se ssions with inte re sting results. Thus, the burde n
of discussing prejudice , as it effects the family and individuals within the
family, does not rest with the ide nti® e d patie nt or family. That is, the
burde n of discussing pre judice doe s not re st with the victim of pre judice .
If you re ad this book, you will no longe r be complace nt and assume that
it is responsibility of the minority membe r to inform the me mbe r of the
majority group of the possible issue s inte rfering with communication and
re lationship. Rathe r, both partie s are re sponsible for the ir efforts to improve
communication and subseque ntly community. A s cite d, the norm ative two-
pare nt family re pre sents le ss than one half of all A me rican familie s ( U.S.
Bure au of the Census, 1994) , and previous ge ne rations’ conce ption of nor-
mative is not norm ative but statistically less frequent. Thus, Understan ding
erse Fam ilies is important for all of us to read, not just those who have
role s as practitione rs.
0360-0025/99/0800-0307$1 6.00/ 0
1999 Plenum Pu bl ish in g Corporation