The Genogram Journey

The Genogram Journey: Reconnecting with Your Family. By Monica McGoldrick. Softbound (2011), 384 pp., US $22.95. Published by Norton & Company, 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110.

You Can Go Home Again, the earlier incarnation of this volume, came out in 1995. Author Monica McGoldrick chose to update her book thanks to new information coming to the surface. Co-founder and director of the Multicultural Family Institute, in central New Jersey, she taught at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s Psychiatry Department.

In this update, McGoldrick illustrates complicated relationships with stories of famous families by using a genogram. Similar to genealogical charts, genograms go beyond depicting who’s who in a family tree; they are a visual of family dynamics, displaying interaction between relatives while highlighting physical and mental health. Monica McGoldrick not only pioneered the use of these specialized charts in therapy, she authored the bestselling Genograms.

By using these diagrams with brief narrative, the author gives readers a fascinating glimpse into the often complicated family lives of a number of celebrities. “We are born not just into our family, but also into our family’s stories, which both nourish—and sometimes cripple—us,” McGoldrick writes in a chapter on family stories, myths, and secrets. Here, she illustrates with the family of novelists Charlotte and Emily Bronte who apparently believed that leaving home was dangerous, a fear probably stemming from early illnesses and deaths in the family. A genogram for the Wright Brothers depicts Orville Wright’s severing ties with his sister because of her marriage. Through the pages of her book, McGoldrick teaches how to use a genogram to improve relationships within a family.

The families of other famous persons covered include Benjamin Franklin, Mahatma Gandhi, Maya Angelou, Diego Rivera, President John Adams, the Fondas, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Lindbergh, the Roosevelts, the Marx Brothers, Eugene O’Neill, Indira Gandhi, Ludwig Beethoven, Katherine Hepburn, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Kennedys, Sigmund Freud, Frida Kahlo, Franz Kafka, Charles Dickens, Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Robinson, George Washington, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, George Bernard Shaw, Barack Obama, Agatha Christie, Scott Joplin, and Marilyn Monroe, among others.

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