In this "refreshingly relatable" (Outside) memoir, Slate editor Dan Kois sets out with his family on a journey around the world to change their lives together.
What happens when one frustrated dad turns his kids' lives upside down in search of a new way to be a family?
Dan Kois and his wife always did their best for their kids. Busy professionals living in the D.C. suburbs, they scheduled their children's time wisely, and when they weren't arguing over screen time, the Kois family-Dan, his wife Alia, and their two pre-teen daughters-could each be found searching for their own happiness. But aren't families supposed to achieve happiness together?
In this eye-opening, heartwarming, and very funny family memoir, the fractious, loving Kois' go in search of other places on the map that might offer them the chance to live away from home-but closer together. Over a year the family lands in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, and small-town Kansas. The goal? To get out of their rut of busyness and distractedness and to see how other families live outside the East Coast parenting bubble.
HOW TO BE A FAMILY brings readers along as the Kois girls-witty, solitary, extremely online Lyra and goofy, sensitive, social butterfly Harper-like through the Kiwi bush, ride bikes to a Dutch school in the pouring rain, battle iguanas in their Costa Rican kitchen, and learn to love a town where everyone knows your name. Meanwhile, Dan interviews neighbors, public officials, and scholars to learn why each of these places work the way they do. Will this trip change the Kois family's lives? Or do families take their problems and conflicts with them wherever we go?
A journalistic memoir filled with heart, empathy, and lots of whining, HOW TO BE A FAMILY will make readers dream about the amazing adventures their own families might take.
Kois, a parenting podcaster and editor at Slate, believed that he, his wife, and two daughters "were doing being a family wrong" and tells of his radical step to rectify their situation. He decided they should spend 2017 living in new locations far from their Arlington, Va., home, spending three months in each location. The experiment's results are varied and delightful to read about: their happy idyll in beautiful Wellington, New Zealand, is packed with friendly neighborhood barbecues and a rejection of American helicopter parenting. The Dutch in Delft, in the Netherlands, seem a cooler lot and obsessed with "normalcy," though Kois a serial enthusiast is entranced by their social cohesion and bicycles. Bug-infested Samara, Costa Rica, is appealingly laid-back, though its roughness starts straining family ties. Back in the vaunted "Real America" of Trump-voting Hays in western Kansas, Kois is as intrigued by the close-knit religious town as he is with the locales abroad. He fills his narrative with both ironic, self-deprecating humor and earnest soul-searching ("A place never solves anything") as he comes to the realization that "you can't actually change your kids but your kids change nonetheless." This "foolhardy jaunt" into experimental family life hacking consistently pleases and surprises.