Sunday, July 19, 2009

"Babysitter: An American History"

New from New York University Press: Babysitter: An American History by Miriam Forman-Brunell.

About the book, from the publisher:
It’s Friday night and Mom and Dad want to have a little fun together on the town. But who can they call to watch the kids? For nearly a century, it’s been the babysitter. Miriam Forman-Brunell brings critical attention to the ubiquitous, yet long-overlooked, role of the babysitter in American history.

Drawing on her extensive research on the history of girls’ culture and employing a broad range of vibrant sources, Forman-Brunell analyzes the figure of the babysitter in the popular imagination. In her quest to gain a fuller picture of this largely uncharted cultural phenomenon, she amassed a wealth of popular artifacts and texts from which to draw: the Babysitter’s Club book series, songs such as the Lunachicks’ "Babysitters on Acid" and the 1960s hit "Baby Sittin’ Boogie," the Little Lulu cartoons, Barbie doll babysitting accessories, the suburban horror movie The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, urban legends, magazines, newspapers, television shows and more. What emerges is a fascinating and multifaceted history.

Forman-Brunell shows that in addition to the obvious fears involved in leaving one’s children in another’s care, babysitters have often been targets for social, cultural, generational, and sexual anxieties, and thus present a fascinating mirror for American society. She also delves into the world of the babysitters, gaining important new perspectives on how the American teenage girl responded to the roles and responsibilities placed upon her throughout the decades.

Maligned as incompetents, airheads, home-wreckers, and worse, babysitters have played an important part in the history of the American home and workforce. With this comprehensive, insightful, and even-handed study, they finally get the attention they deserve.