I was rather annoyed by the book Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture.
Author Shannon Hayes, herself a radical homemaker and author of organic meat cookbooks, took upon herself the task of meeting and interviewing numerous individuals and families who were "pursuing homemaking as a vocation for saving family, community, and the planet." (p. 1.) She then wrote this book, in two parts: the first half, in which she gives a brief history of homemaking and a short critique of our American economic system and culture, and the second, in which she shares insights and lessons learned from her interviews with multiple individuals seeking to live their lives "off the grid" (to differing degrees).
Frankly, I agreed with a lot of her points in the critique of our system. You can't stay home with your kids these days without noticing that you do have choices, and these are it: go to work, and take your kids to daycare; stay at home and spend most of your day scheduling and attending your children's activities and playdates so they're "socialized" before they even get to school; or do neither and feel slightly off for about six years while you and your kids wander around your suburban neighborhood, which is a ghost town, because most people have opted for the first two choices. So yes. I think a lifestyle where money and over-scheduled children are the only goals is not real fulfilling. But still. Does that mean I'm ready to move back to the farm, grow my own food and build my own house?
And I can't say that Hayes really convinces me otherwise. I'll admit, whenever I read a book on this subject, I always flip to the index and look for "health care" or "health insurance," because how an author treats that subject usually lets me know how seriously I have to take them. And this is what I found in this book:
"For many of the homemakers, locally produced, organic and nutrient-dense foods were more reliable guarantees for health than medical insurance. 'The way that we eat...keeps us healthier, so we're not spending a lot of money on doctors bills...or medicines,' says Eve Honeywell who, aong with her husband, became so passionate about good food that she began farming..." (p. 148.)
And if that's not enough of a humdinger, here's the next page:
"A sound home-based health insurance policy requires living a joyous, fulfilling and consequential life. Indeed, in their research on well-being, Ed Diener and Shigehiro Oishi have found that positive states of well-being correlated with better physical health." (p. 149.)
This is the radical homemaking answer to health care and the need for health insurance? Healthy food and a positive attitude? Well, let me just say, as someone who ate totally healthy food the first 18 years of her life, and whose extended family all eats healthy food, um....fuck that. I'm pretty sure my nutrition and attitude didn't have a whole lot to do with my huge old ovarian cyst that required major (expensive) surgery, and I know it doesn't have a lot to do with some other health issues in my family, even though we are basically healthy people.
Although, as you can tell, I probably don't have the required positive attitude that makes it possible to live without health insurance.
Anyway. Once I saw that was the homemakers' answer to health insurance, I rather gave up on taking this book seriously. But I did read the whole thing, and I think the author did put in quite a bit of work doing a lot of personal interviews. So my question remains: has anyone read a good book about trying to live a slightly different lifestyle, but one which still recognizes the absolute necessity of having health insurance in America today?