Unlikely Friends: Bridging Ties and Diverse Friendships

Well researched and beautifully written … a much needed addition to the sociological literature on friendship.
Kathleen Odell Korgen, Ph.D., William Paterson University
Vela-McConnell shows that the connection between a categorical identity and an individual's values and beliefs is a social construction not just on the part of society but also on the part of people studying society like, for instance, me.
Paolo Parigi, Ph.D., Stanford University

There are those individuals who have established deep, lasting relationships with others from very different backgrounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. Research indicates that such friendships are a relatively rare phenomenon.

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While many study the reasons for this pattern, the research presented here focuses on the successes of the few:How have you broken down the social distance between you and bridged the social distance that separates you?”

This monograph traces the process by which people overcome the differences between them, starting with an in-depth look at friendship and friendship patterns in our society, how these boundaries shape the friendships themselves, how opportunities to establish such friendships are structured, and the interpersonal techniques for managing social differences. The book concludes with a consideration of how such friendships can shape the future of society.


Reviews:

“One of the first books to substantially focus on friendships that cross race, gender, and sexual orientation. Usually our friends are similar—here the friendships of people who are ‘different’ are explored and we learn how those differences can dissolve. This in-depth analysis of these diverse relationships is an important addition to the study of friendships.” —Geoffrey L. Greif, School of Social Work, University of Maryland & author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships

This is a highly readable and scholarly book that brings issues of diversity to the forefront of friendship research.
Peter M. Nardi, Ph.D., Pitzer College/The Claremont Colleges

“Unlike most books on friendship, Unlikely Friends takes a uniquely important approach by highlighting friendships that cross social boundaries. Fascinating interviews reveal how friends of various races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, ages, and classes bridge their differences and form enduring relationships. This is a highly readable and scholarly book that brings issues of diversity to the forefront of friendship research. Vela-McConnell clearly makes the case for studying the exceptions to the norm while providing, simultaneously, revealing stories that reinforce the normative meanings and role of friendships in people’s lives” —Peter M. Nardi, Ph.D., Pitzer College/The Claremont Colleges

“Well researched and beautifully written, Unlikely Friends: Bridging Ties and Diverse Friendships is a much needed addition to the sociological literature on friendship. James Vela-McConnell shines a spotlight on the important but largely neglected question: can friendships impact society? Scholars, students, and lay readers alike will be moved and enlightened by Vela-McConnell's findings on how ‘unlikely friends’ bridge the differences between them.” —Kathleen Odell Korgen, Ph.D., William Paterson University, author of Crossing the Racial Divide: Close Friendships Between Black and White Americans

[T]he insights we get from the interviews presented in the book are remarkable.
Paolo Parigi, Ph.D., Stanford University

"The use of qualitative tools with network concepts is quite fascinating.... His upfront discussion of how he created the sample of couples, along with the methodological appendix, was quite refreshing and a useful read for people interested in learning about qualitative methods." —Paolo Parigi, Ph.D., Stanford University, Contemporary Sociology, 42(1). 2013.