The Secret Life of Families by Evan Imber-Black
Truth-telling, Privacy, and Reconciliation in a Tell-All Society

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When do I have the right to keep a secret?  Who has a responsibility to open a secret?  How do I know the time is right to maintain a secret or to open it?  How do I make it safe for myself and others?  What are my obligations to the people I love where secrets are concerned?

An HIV-positive man fears losing his job if his health status becomes known. . . . A wife keeps a secret bank account. . . . A husband has an affair. . . . A teen refuses to say where she goes at night. . . .

Secrets come in all shapes and sizes.  And for families as well as individuals, they are built on a complex web of shifting motives and emotions.  But today, when personal revelations are posted on the Internet or sensationalized on afternoon talk shows, we risk losing touch with how important secrets are--how they are used and abused, their power to harm and to heal.

In fact, what we choose to share or to keep silent about can affect, for better or worse, our health, our work, our relationships, our future.  Evan Imber-Black eloquently and compassionately describes how to maintain a balance between candor and caution to ensure that secrets remain a creative rather than a destructive force in our lives.  She helps us understand:

The distinction between healthy privacy and toxic secrecy
What to tell--and not to tell--young children
How to safely confront a family "zone of silence"
Why adolescents need to have some secrets--and where to draw the line
The role of gender, race, religion, and class in shaping our secrets
The effect of "official" secrets, like sealed adoption records and medical testing
What to consider before revealing an important secret
And much more

Filled with moving first-person stories, The Secret Life of Families provides perspective on some of today's most sensitive personal and social issues.  It is a book that gives voice to our deepest fears and to our power to overcome them--a book that will be talked about for years to come.

About Evan Imber-Black

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Evan Imber-Black, Ph.D., is Director of Program Development at the Ackerman Institute for the Family in New York City and Professor of Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.  She is also immediate past-president of the American Family Therapy Academy.  Her previous books include Rituals for Our Times (with Janine Roberts, Ed.D.) and the professional book Secrets in Families and Family Therapy, which she edited.  The mother of two grown children, she lives with her husband in Westchester, where she practices family therapy.
Published March 2, 1998 by Bantam. 336 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Parenting & Relationships, Self Help. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Imber-Black (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Ackerman Institute for the Family) is a specialist in family therapy who sees both value and danger in keeping secrets but feels that our current reluctance to hide any skeletons at all in the closet ignores ``the complicated consequences to our r...

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Publishers Weekly

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Using case studies (with names changed to protect privacy), the author discusses what she considers toxic family secrets and instances of misguided secret telling by institutions, including privacy-breaching talk shows (some now provide ""aftercare"" therapy);

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The Secret Life of Bees, written by Sue Monk Kidd, isn't just about bees, though bees are a part of the story.

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Spirituality & Practice

Fourteen-year-old Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) desperately wants to know more about her mother, who died in a gun accident when Lily was just four.

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