EVANSTON, Ill. --- Three cheers are in order for Northwestern University historian Deborah Cohen. Her book, “Family Secrets: Living with Shame from the Victorians to the Present Day” (Oxford University Press, April 2013), has been named a best book of the year by writers at three United Kingdom publications: The Spectator, The Sunday Times and The Times Literary Supplement.
In the book, Cohen, the Peter R. Ritzma Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History, takes an intimate look at how social change happens at home. She investigates the role that family secrets, so often associated with repression, have played in the transformation of social mores from the Victorian era to the present day U.K.
“Starting with the premise that a private life and a secret life no longer mean the same thing, Deborah Cohen’s rigorous and relevant ‘Family Secrets: Living with Shame from the Victorians to the Present Day’ explores the shameful history of how we have covered up our shameful histories,” wrote Frances Wilson in The Times Literary Supplement. “She brings together the families who harbored secrets, the individuals -- illegitimate, mentally handicapped, mixed-race -- who were secrets, and the current rage for uncovering the secrets of our ancestors (one in six people who have explored their heritage on Internet sites have apparently discovered something that a previous generation sought to hide).”