book review: The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children

I was sent a free copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children (2013) for review. Like, some time ago. I dunno. I read it, not right when I got it but after a busy semester, when I had a chance to take a breath. And I never have gotten around to reviewing it.

Usually I write a review pretty much right away.

Usually I don’t hate the book, though.

I haven’t read the original Artist’s Way, so I don’t know how this compares. When I read the book’s title and accepted a review copy, I didn’t also read the subtitle … and I guess I expected a book about creating space for creativity in our lives as parents. In fact, this book is very much about raising children so they turn out in a particular way (artistic, creative, successful). I hate that. On the other hand, it was instructive and useful for me to read an entire parenting book that’s so mainstream and normal: after all, the parenting culture I want to push against in my book is all about better! more obedient! smarter! more successful! happier! children.

The Artist’s Way for Parents definitely contains some reasonable points. It’s just that they seemed obvious to me:

  • Everybody is creative.
  • Don’t mock a child’s creative efforts.
  • Do fun stuff together.
  • Labeling a child as “a genius” is just about as unhelpful as labeling a child as “unmusical” or whatever.

I mean, yeah, that’s all true. Yay. But it hardly requires a whole book.

Meanwhile, the book’s schmaltzy 12-step-y Higher Power tone really rubbed me the wrong way. It just comes off as terribly patronizing. (I am a child of AA and Alanon, “the program” was a big part of my family-of-origin culture, and that background noise was just blaring throughout the book for me. By the time she finally mentioned 12-step programs and their aphorisms on page 105, I was like, OMG stop already I get it.)

Underlying class privilege makes a lot of the author’s assumptions seem bizarre. I personally know zero parents who feel their child should always be practicing the violin rather than playing or reading, for example. (And I’m pretty freaking privileged.) I guess an extraordinarily tightly-wound person might find some of the “chill out” reminders/permission useful? But, like, who ARE these parents?

Finally, the book … just sort of in passing and very casually … makes  some questionable gender assumptions. And it problematically embraces the importance of mothers ‘getting our bodies back’ as part of taking care of ourselves, being happy (=thin/fit?), etc. Helping girls look pretty and “use discernment with makeup colors and application” (as in the “Beauty Inside and Out” class praised on pp. 40-41) is not, in fact, the same as empowering them. Uh uh.

Should I say “I was given a free copy of this book for review purposes, but the opinions contained in this review are my own”? Or is that just sort of obvious at this point?

One thought on “book review: The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children

  1. Well, I won’t be adding this to my bookshelf. :) But seriously, I too hate the “read this to make your child more THIS” trope. Blech.

    Also, your last sentence might be the very best disclosure I’ve ever seen. Made me laugh out loud.

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