In 1994, Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia
created a new awareness of how the healthy development
of adolescent girls is threatened by sexualized media messages. Pipher decried our culture’s power
to transform self-confident, adventurous little girls into self-conscious, self-loathing, self-destructive
young women. As a direct result of her work, parents, educators, counselors, and youth mentors around the
world have worked to help teen girls stay strong.
Just two years later, Pipher wrote another revolutionary book. In The Shelter of Each Other she
turned her attention to families and how we can revitalize the bond we have with those closest to us. She
also makes an irrefutable case for why we, as a nation, need to do just that. Pipher is resolute when
she points out how much of our culture, and the media that reflects it, is not in the best interest of families. “Ideally
children learn from their families what to love and value,” she writes. “Some parents have the
impression that they shouldn’t impose their values on their children. But if parents don’t teach
their children values, then the culture will.”
In language rich with insightful details, Pipher recalls her mother’s childhood on a Nebraska farm
during the 1920’s and 1930’s. The family’s survival depended on everyone working together.
She describes the immeasurable value the family gained as a unit and as individuals from their closeness
to nature and their interdependence upon each other.
Most of the book, however, focuses on contemporary families who, in their various states of disconnect,
reflect the norm for too many families in America. Using the words of her own family therapy clients,
Pipher pinpoints what we lose as individuals, as families, and as a culture, when we lose our connection
to family. And what we reclaim when we consciously rebuild that connection.
The Shelter of Each Other is an important and inspirational book.
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