Vasquez-Tokos, Jessica. Marriage Vows and Racial Choices. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2017.xvi +372 pages. Paperback, $35.00.
Jessica Vasquez-Tokos's new book, Marriage Vows and Racial Choices, grows out of her first work, Mexican Americans Across Generations, which looked at cultural assimilation. In that book Vasquez-Tokos found that respondents fell into two categories; some practiced "thinned attachment" and were more likely to marry out, while others practiced "cultural maintenance" and tended to marry in. Marriage Vows focuses more closely on the question of marriage, trying to understand how race and class shape marriage choices. Vasquez-Tokos argues that inter-racial marriages are not merely markers of assimilation but an important locus of multidirectional assimilation that destabilize racial boundaries (p.71).
Using 109 interviews from two sites, Kansas and California, Vasquez-Tokos explores both exogamous and endogamous marriages among Latinos, a term the author uses as a racial rather than an ethnic designation (p. 28). Looking at Latino/White, Latino/Minority, Cross National Latino, and Mixed Generation Mexican marriages, the author finds a number of patterns indicating shifting gender norms among Latinos living in the USA. First, she found that many Latina women are motivated by experiences or conceptions of Mexican or Latino machismo to marry out, across racial and national boundaries. Others either left marriages or transformed their partners. For instance, Audrey left her husband after he became angry that his underwear drawer was empty, while Raven challenged her husband to change the cycle of abuse encountered in their youth (p. 244, 257). Many men in the survey had experienced abusive and domineering fathers and re-imagined their own masculinity through marriage and parenthood. The interviews also highlight the way that economic and structural factors shape gender norms and practices. In one example a respondent, Sarah, left her "traditional" Brazilian husband after moving to the United States where the couple could no longer afford a maid (p. 150). In another, Valentina felt as though the laws protecting women in the U.S. allowed her more freedom to disagree with her husband, whereas in Columbia the police would not come out for a domestic abuse case (p.151).
Marriage Vows and Racial Choices also highlights the construction of racial categories and the way individuals creatively reimagine them. Vasquez-Tokos...