The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992

Book Reviews

... and the front seats of family flivvers headed for the woods." It is not in-
tended to be a scientific field guide to the ninety mountains that are more than
one mile high or the five thousand species of wildflowers but rather a lovely
tribute that awakens pride and desire to preserve the diversity of nature's leg-
acy in Texas.
The book would have been strengthened, however, by the inclusion of maps
locating the various areas and nature preserves. The impression that some of
the photographs seem overly dark was reinforced by comparing the picture on
page 111i i of the same scene by the same photographer reproduced on pages
o100-1o1 of the August-September 1990 issue of Modern Maturity.
Louisana State Unzverszty at Alexandria ANNA C. BURNS
The Mexican American Family: Traditzon and Change. By Norma Williams. (Dix
Hills, N.Y.: General Halls, Inc., 1990. Pp. x+17o. Introduction, notes, ap-
pendix, references, index. $34.95, cloth; $16.95, paper.)
This book is an important addition to the growing body of literature on eth-
nic families. The author examines Mexican American family life in the context
of chief life-cycle religious rituals (weddings, funerals, and baptisms), arguing
that knowledge of these traditional rituals and the family patterns associated
with them provides a baseline for evaluating changes in the contemporary
Mexican American family. In a concluding chapter it becomes clear that the
author is also addressing theoretical questions. She raises issues regarding the
role of ethnicity in shaping family life and challenges the assimilationist model
and the theoretical framework of symbolic interactionism as typically employed
for interpreting change in Mexican American families. I find the themes raised
in the conclusion especially provocative.
The author presents impressive documentation of the ritual events and their
significance in Mexican American culture; however, the attempt to use these
life-cycle rituals as a basis for examining changes in families presents several
problems. First, the author acknowledges that the importance of the rituals in
the past may be biased by selective memory and is certainly a factor of age/gen-
eration of the respondents. The accounts of rites of passage may also be
affected by romanticized myths of "how it should be" instead of accurate ac-
counts of the underlying disputes, conflicts, and tensions that often accompany
such public and formal family events. Second, though the author acknowledges
that the changes these families are undergoing are reflections of the patterns of
change affecting society in general, this issue is not resolved sufficiently. For
example, the Catholic religion is waning in its significance among Mexican
Americans while fundamentalist sects gain membership from this ethnic
group. The author does not address how one might analyze change in non-
Catholic families. Additionally, the life-cycle rituals have been dominated by
women and, accordingly, the patterns the author uses to illustrate the processes
of changing relationships focus on female "role making." The changes in male
roles in the families are only briefly touched upon, and the roles of children are
neglected completely. The areas analyzed in the study of decision making

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed December 27, 2014.