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Review: Black Sheep And Kissing Cousins

E. Stone. (1988). Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins. New York City: Times Books.


Through her own rich history of family stories and experiences with stories as professor of English at Fordham University, Stone became fascinated by the effects stories have on individuals and the families that tell them. This book can be found in hard or paperback in most libraries and bookstores.

The author seeks, through illustration and analysis of her own and others’ stories, to provide insight about why families tell stories, what stories mean, and how they shape the lives and characters of the families that tell them. The author’s love of her rich Italian heritage serves as the foundation for this book.

The book addresses:

  • Family Stories and the Family.
    • Family ground rules.
    • Family definitions.
    • Family monuments.
    • Family’s underground rules.
    • Family myths.
  • Family Stories and the World.
    • The pecking order and how to survive it.
    • Of money, self-worth, and lost fortunes.
  • Family Stories and the Individual.
    • Legacies (“You’re just like your grandpa.”).
    • Fairy godmothers and patron saints.
  • In pursuit of freedom.

The book basically asserts that we are who our family stories say we are, both individually and corporately. The author addresses both the cohesive, enabling qualities of stories and their condemning, limiting powers. The book is lively and immensely pleasurable to read. While not a true academic text, it thoroughly and thoughtfully deals with its subject.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What are some of your family’s significant stories?
  2. What do these stories tell you about you and your family?
  3. What are ways in which the meanings of these stories are uniquely understood by your family?


  1. Stories tell us who we are as families and as individuals.
  2. Stories provide us a framework from which we can interpret our lives and world.
  3. Knowing the stories of others gives us insight into who they are.
  4. Through seeing ourselves with fresh understanding, we are better prepared to serve others.

Steve Sherwood
© 2018 CYS

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