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Homemaking While Homeless

A recent book explores domesticity on the margins.
A homeless woman in Los Angeles stands with her dogs at her encampment.
A homeless woman in Los Angeles stands with her dogs at her encampment. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

The term “domesticity” often invokes something created by middle-class women—a white picket fence archetype associated with “family values” and steeped in imagery of 1950s suburbia. Susan Fraiman, a professor of English at the University of Virginia, troubles this normative idea in her recent book, Extreme Domesticity: A View from the Margins. In it, Fraiman uses novels, women’s magazines and advice manuals, ethnographies, and first-person accounts to explore versions of home created by “outsiders” to the norm, including those who are working class, queer, trans, immigrant, and homeless.

CityLab caught up with Fraiman to learn about these versions of home and the assumptions they call into question.