Reibstein, Janet 1946-
REIBSTEIN, Janet 1946-
PERSONAL: Born December 7, 1946, in New York, NY; daughter of Louis (a businessman) and Regina Smith (a public administrator and poet) Reibstein; married Stephen Monsell (a university professor), June 27, 1977; children: Adam, Daniel. Education: Sarah Lawrence College, B.A., 1969; University of Chicago, M.A., 1976, Ph.D., 1981.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—University of Exeter, School of Psychology, Exeter EX4 4QG, England.
CAREER: University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, research assistant, 1981-84; University of Oxford, Oxford, England, research psychologist, 1986-88; University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, lecturer in social and political sciences, 1987-99, University of Exeter, Exeter, England, lecturer in psychology, 2000—. Engaged in private practice in psychology in Cambridge, England, and London, England.
(With Martin Richards) Sexual Arrangements: Marriage and the Temptation of Infidelity, Scribner (London, England), 1992.
(With Robert Bamber) The Family through Divorce: AGuide to the New Divorce Laws, Thorsons (London, England), 1997.
Staying Alive: A Family Memoir, Bloomsbury (London, England), 2002.
WORK IN PROGRESS: The Best-Kept Secret; research on couples who have been together at least nine years and who consider themselves "happy."
SIDELIGHTS: A psychologist and professor, Janet Reibstein has long had an interest in family dynamics. In 1992 she and coauthor Martin Richards published a study of one of the thorniest issues in marriage, and one that has ended a number of them. In Sexual Arrangements: Marriage and the Temptation of Infidelity the authors find that "all marriages—even good ones—are susceptible to affairs," in the words of Library Journal reviewer Linda Greene. Through interviews with over 200 people who admit to having gone outside their marriage vows, the authors produce "a set of interesting stories about affairs, sexuality, and close relationships," according to a Contemporary Psychology reviewer. At the same time, Reibstein addresses some fundamental questions about whether modern ideals of marriage are unrealistic and even harmful, and whether the secrecy inherent in modern affairs is more damaging than the affairs themselves. In thus "dispassionately assessing the nature and effects of marriage as our culture practices it, they reach the intellectual—if not moral—nub of the matter," concluded a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
In her next book, Reibstein confronts one of the possible results of infidelity in a number of marriages: divorce. In The Family through Divorce: A Guide tothe New Divorce Laws Reibstein and her coauthor, a lawyer, provide advice for the emotional and legal thickets surrounding divorce in the wake of some changes in British family law. As Family Law reviewer Rose Leigh wrote, "The book is unusual in combining the skills of an experienced family lawyer and mediator with the skills of a psychologist specializing in families and marriage." While much of the book is applicable only to divorce cases in British courts, there are also sections for a much broader audience, including a checklist on how divorcing parents should tell children of their decision. While the book is too short to be comprehensive, "At the very best it sign posts the various issues to consider," concluded Solicitors Journal contributor Hugh Howard.
More recently, Janet Reibstein has a written a more personal book, a study of her own family's battles with a terrible disease. In Staying Alive: A Family Memoir she discusses the struggles of her mother and two maternal aunts before succumbing to breast cancer. Growing up at a time when breast cancer was little discussed, and even somewhat shameful, Reibstein's mother Regina had to overcome ignorance and medical inertia to take charge of her treatment, while dealing with the deaths of her two sisters. "What keeps this from being mere medical melodrama is the author's warm, meticulous reconstruction of her relatives' lives," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. When Janet Reibstein herself decides on an elective mastectomy as a kind of "proactive strike" against breast cancer, the book becomes even more intimate. "Reibstein openly shares her harrowing intellectual, emotional, and physical journey to wellness," wrote Margaret Flanagan in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded, "There are many fine stories here—about dying with dignity and disability—and about the courage to sacrifice vanity in order to live without fear."
Janet Reibstein told CA: "I primarily write about something that interests me—mainly to explore areas of relationships. However, in writing Staying Alive: A Family Memoir, the writing drew on a different motivation. This was a desire to get clarity around the difficult theme of illness that had shaped the lives of the women in my family over a number of generations. Moreover, I'd been handed my mother's diary, written in her final years, which led to a desire to integrate my own feelings and experience into what she'd written, which I'd felt offered extraordinary insights into the subject."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 15, 2002, Margaret Flanagan, review of Staying Alive, p. 185.
Contemporary Psychology, September, 1994, review of Sexual Arrangements, p. 914.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1993, review of Sexual Arrangements, p. 705; August 1, 2002, review of Staying Alive, p. 1105.
Library Journal, July, 1993, Linda Greene, review of Sexual Arrangements, p. 103.
Publishers Weekly, July 8, 2002, review of StayingAlive, p. 41.