My Books

True Story: What Reality TV Says about Us

In True Story: What Reality TV Says About Us (Farrar, Straus & Giroux 2022), I examine reality TV through a sociological lens. From the first episodes of The Real World to countless rose ceremonies to the White House, the genre has not just remade our entertainment and cultural landscape (which it undeniably has). Reality TV, I argue, uniquely reflects our everyday experiences and social topography back to us.  By taking reality TV seriously, we can better understand key institutions (like families, schools, and prisons) and broad social constructs (such as gender, race, class, and sexuality). From The Bachelor to Real Housewives to COPS and more (so much more!), reality programming unveils the major circuits of power that organize our lives―and the extent to which our own realities are, in fact, socially constructed.

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Here’s what others are saying about True Story:

“In compulsively readable chapters on everything from COPS to Honey Boo Boo, Lindemann illuminates how reality television both reflects and creates us, while also codifying our deep conservatism and fragile hierarchies of power…Reading True Story is like seeing the matrix—you’ll never watch Bravo the same way again.” ―Esquire, “15 Best Nonfiction Books of 2022 (So Far)

“[With] exhaustively researched chapters…[Lindemann] has a wry eye and ear for the key role that status plays in these confabulations…” ―The New York Times book review

“You don’t have to be a regular Kardashian keeper-upper to enjoy Lindemann’s dissection of such public figures, which is not only rigorous and erudite but entertaining as well, wringing scholarly treasure out of so-called cultural trash.” ―Chicago Review of Books, “12 Must-Read Books of February

“Balancing the authority of a scholar with the spirit of a fan, [Lindemann] explores representations of race, class, gender, and sexuality within the genre, recognizing reality television for the ‘funhouse mirror’ it is while resisting the pull to pass judgment on those of us who, like herself, understand the appeal of indulging in the distortion.” ―Vulture, “49 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2022

“Danielle J. Lindemann’s book seems like a sharp sociological analysis of how race, gender, and class intersect within the genre.” ―Literary Hub, “Most Anticipated Books of 2022

“Lindemann…crafts a thorough, well-plotted argument that shows how MTV’s Real World franchise, reality competitions like the Survivor series, and the universe of Real Housewives stars both influence popular culture and are shaped by it.” ―Kirkus reviews

“[An] insightful study . . . [Lindemann] makes astute points by tracing the history of the genre all the way back to MTV’s The Real World in 1992, and offering analysis of popular shows such as SurvivorKeeping Up with the Kardashians, and the Real Housewives franchise . . . [True Story] takes the guilt out of a popular guilty pleasure.” ―Publishers Weekly

“An insightful and thoughtful study of reality TV that fans of the genre will appreciate.” ―Library Journal

True Story is not only an amazing dissection of the true meaning of the reality TV genre, it’s also an adept exploration of sociology through the accessible lens of all of our favorite shows. A must read for any true fan of the reality television arts and sciences.” ―Brian Moylan, author of The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives

“Danielle Lindemann writes with deep curiosity about reality TV ― both its faults and its promises ― and what it says about our social world. She moves expertly between the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo as well as social constructs like the family, class, and gender, showing how the genre poses fundamental theoretical questions about ourselves and authenticity. True Story is an important guide for both pop culture enthusiasts and readers who want to learn more about sociology. There is surprising wisdom here, and sharp insights into the reality of social life.” ―Ashley Mears, sociologist and author of Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model

“Don’t be all, like, uncool. Be sure you read True Story. Lindemann has written the definitive sociological interpretation of reality television, using a variety of shows to define major concepts and our field. After reading this book you will know how to defend your favorite ‘guilty pleasure’ to friends and family.”
―Hilary Levey Friedman, sociologist and author of Here She Is and Playing to Win

Commuter Spouses:

In Commuter Spouses: New Families in a Changing World (Cornell University Press, 2019) I focus on dual-income couples who live apart in service to their geographically-incompatible professional careers.  Based on 97 in-depth interviews with individuals who lived apart from their spouses due to professional demands, I argue that these couples are uniquely situated at the nexus of broad structural and cultural shifts that have been occurring in the United States since the 1970’s.  These changes include the rising labor market participation of married women, an increasing emphasis on individualism (particularly within marriage), changing job markets, social responses to new technologies, and greater gender parity within heterosexual marriage.

This text, like much of my research, focuses on how individuals who behave non-normatively can illuminate broader social processes.  By observing an extreme result of the historical dynamics noted above, I argue that we can better understand these dynamics.  At the same time that these couples can help us learn about change, they also shed light on the durability of some cultural ideas about gender, marriage, family, and work, even within seemingly non-traditional relationships.

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Here’s what others are saying about Commuter Spouses:

“Lindemann skillfully uses commuter marriages as a lens to examine larger social forces. Her findings highlight the ways that independence and interdependence can coexist and reinforce one another, a salutary lesson for couples everywhere.” – Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO, New America

Commuter Spouses is an engaging read and gives us the comprehensive examination of commuter marriages that has been needed for decades.”  – Laura Stafford, Professor of Communication, Bowling Green University, and author of Maintaining Long-Distance and Cross Residential Relationships

“Danielle Lindemann’s Commuter Spouses flows beautifully. Lindemann skillfully weaves research on commuter marriages into compelling stories and shows how these unique relationships can help us learn about the contours of gender, work, and family life.” – Melissa Milkie, Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto, and coauthor of the award-winning Changing Rhythms of American Family Life


Based on in-depth interviews with sixty-six women who work as professional dominatrices in New York City and San Francisco, Dominatrix (University of Chicago Press, 2012) focuses–as all of my work does–on the ways in which a non-normative social space can shed light on the contours of American society more generally.  While the realm of the professional dominatrix may appear to be an exotic corner of the social landscape, detached from everyday processes, the dominatrix’s dungeon can teach us more about a set of classic tensions at the heart of our daily lives: between professional and client, dominator and dominated, artist and customer, purist and commercialist, researcher and informant, man and woman, and subversion and conformity.

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Here’s what others are saying about Dominatrix:

Dominatrix has vibrant passages of sparkling writing that demonstrate Lindemann’s talent and promise as a culture critic.”  -Camille Paglia, Review in The Chronicle of Higher Education

“With such careful scholarship and nuanced study, Lindemann demonstrates that we can learn a good deal about our familiar social world by peering into strange ones.”  -Ashley Mears, Review in the American Journal of Sociology

“Dominatrix is an interesting, well-written, and important study on, not just pro-dommes and their clients, but also gender, power, work, art, and play.  I can see this book on sexuality and gender syllabi, but I would also encourage consideration in courses on employment.” -Mimi Schippers, Review in Gender & Society

“In the tradition of the great occupational ethnographies, Danielle J. Lindemann takes us into professional dominatrices’ worlds and shows us, with graceful and consistently engaging prose, how the women she studied build careers, negotiate with clients, and develop accounts that make sense of their work and of the relationships it entails. Dominatrix has much to teach us about gender and sexuality, but it is equally a contribution to the sociology of culture, illustrating the ways in which creative workers employ criteria of distinction and modes of self-understanding shared with members of high-status art worlds to assert authority over clients and claim status within their profession.”—Paul DiMaggio, Princeton University

“In wonderfully evocative vignettes and provocative analyses, Danielle J. Lindemann’s stunning ethnographic study of professional dominatrices shows just how much supposed deviance has to tell us about the normal, the ordinary, and the everyday. Theoretically innovative and methodologically perceptive, Lindemann’s work shows a sociological imagination at its most engaging.”—Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, Columbia University

Dominatrix is a must-read for anyone interested in sociology, sex, pleasure, pain, work, or gender, but this isn’t just a book about gender and power. It’s also an occupational study rooted in the venerable tradition of Everett Hughes and his colleagues and protégés of the Chicago School of Sociology. This is sociology—and the exercise of the sociological imagination—at its finest.”—Greg Scott, DePaul University

“Any reader interested in an intelligent critique of the myriad workings of power underlying gender and sexuality relations in our contemporary, still overwhelmingly heteronormative, world could do no better than to pick up a copy of Dominatrix.” –Lisa Downing, Times Higher Education


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