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Climbing Jacob's Ladder: The Enduring Legacy of African-American Families.

Andrew Billingsley, Ph.D., knows how to destroy stereotypes about the black family. He does so repeatedly in his book Climbing Jacob's Ladder: The Enduring Legacy of African-American Families. He also contends that, far from vanishing, the black family is adapting to the economic and social changes in America.

Using numerous studies, Billingsley, the chair of the Department of Family Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, documents black family strengths that are seldom acknowledged. He focuses on the working class, using numerous examples to explain that its economic condition is a community barometer. Weaving personal stories of family successes among the charts and graphs, Billingsley does not dodge the issue of single-parent families; instead he points to unwed mothers and fathers who are providing for their children.

Yet Jacob's Children is unsatisfying. Unfortunately, the author has a scholarly, stilted writing style, that makes the book read like a textbook. He also has a grammar problem, writing about his many sources in the present tense. For example, former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan is written about as if he were still in office. Another problem: Spelling errors abound. Two of the more glaring: Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy is called Courtland Malloy, and Pentecostal is spelled Pentacostal.

Billingsley worked on this book since 1973 and it shows. Some of the studies cited are from 1990, but others stop at 1960 or 1980, raising questions as to how the black community has changed since the data were collected.

The most impressive feature of Jacob's Ladder is its provision of a well-researched answer to misconceptions held by the media, whites and even blacks. But, the didactic quality of the book and its long transition from idea to print ultimately leaves readers with a flawed work. --Karin D. Berry

Climbing Jacob's Ladder: The Enduring Legacy of African-American Families by Andrew Billingsley, Ph.D.; Simon & Schuster, New York, 1993, 444pp, $27.50
COPYRIGHT 1993 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Berry, Karin D.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1993
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