Reclaiming Cities as Spaces of Middle Class Parenthood, by Johanna Lilius (Singapore, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019)
Reviewed by: Jeffrey A. Raffel, University of Delaware
Reclaiming Cities as Spaces of Middle Class Parenthood is written on two levels. First, the book is a study of why middle class parents, despite the image of cities as poor places to raise children, choose to stay in the city of Helsinki, Finland after having children, and how the increase in families in Helsinki is changing the city as the city is changing family life. Second, Reclaiming Cities is a review of research and thinking about the attraction of cities to families across the globe.
The book’s author, Johanna Lilius, a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Architecture, Aalto University, Finland, is a participant observer, researcher, and theoretician about what keeps families in Helsinki despite the traditional draw of the suburb. In recent years more and more parents are choosing to remain in Helsinki to maintain their urban life style enjoying social and cultural amenities such as cafes, coffee shops, shopping, festivals, wine bars, museums, and restaurants as well as public transportation.
Lilius uses a variety of lenses to view parenthood in Helsinki including research on gentrification, gender, planning, geography, architecture, and urban affairs from various countries in an array of languages. Her mixed-methods approach includes participant observation, ethnographic fieldwork, structured interviews with urban parents (24), academics (4), politicians (3), shopkeepers (12), and day care and social workers (5) in the inner city, and documentary analysis. While Lilius claims that research on inner-city families is limited, she has marshalled an impressive list of helpful references to shed light on urban attraction and change.
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