Brown Contributes to Award-Winning Book on Parenting from Afar

Brown Contributes to 
Award-Winning Book 
on Parenting from Afar

Jill Brown, a young woman from small-town Nebraska, sat beneath a tree in the dusty heat of Owamboland, Namibia, and watched her future take shape.

Six-year-old Timo had just reclaimed his spot on the mat where he and Jill, then a 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer, were reading with two other children. He had left to pay his respects to a woman Jill had not seen before, despite living almost two years in the same home as the boy.

Who was that? Jill asked.

Timo’s mother, she was told.

Brown recounts her surprise in a new book to which she is a contributor and one of three co-editors.

“I had lived with this family for almost two years and had missed a crucial piece of information,” she writes. “Timo was not their biological child.”

That moment in 1996 gave Brown, now an associate professor in the Department of Psychological Science, the life direction she had sought — setting her on a decades-long path of investigating various forms of parenting, in Africa and beyond.

Her latest contribution to understanding the evolving nature of parenting in light of an emerging global economy — parenting often conducted at great distance — is the book Parenting From Afar and the Reconfiguration of Family Across Distance.

Published by Oxford University Press, Parenting From Afar has been awarded the 2019 Ursula Gielen Global Psychology Book Award, which is conferred annually by the International Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association.

The book consists of 16 chapters, each written by different academics based on their experiences in the field. The chapters, taken as a whole, describe the yearning for the support, security, encouragement and friendship that can be found in family relationships. They recount the experiences of people separated from their spouses, children and extended family by economic necessity, military duty, incarceration, migration or persecution.

From Filipino domestic workers making a lonely living in Singapore, to traditionalist Poles adjusting to the gender equalities of Scandinavia, to Brown’s Namibian family for whom informal “child fostering” is a cultural norm, the book investigates the ways people across the globe maintain — and sometimes create — family ties in the face of lengthy separations.