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One of the main topics of cultural conversation during the last decade was the supposed "fertility crisis," and whether modern women could figure out a way to way to have it all - a successful, demanding career and the required 2.3 children - before their biological clock stopped ticking. Now, however, conversation has turned to whether it's necessary to have it all (see Anne-Marie Slaughter) or, perhaps more controversial, whether children are really a requirement for a fulfilling life. The idea that some women and men prefer not to have children is often met with sharp criticism and incredulity by the public and mainstream media. In this provocative and controversial collection of essays, curated by writer Meghan Daum, thirteen acclaimed female writers explain why they have chosen to eschew motherhood. Contributors include Lionel Shriver, Sigrid Nunez, Kate Christiensen, Elliott Holt, Geoff Dyer, and Tim Kreider, among others, who will give a unique perspective on the overwhelming cultural pressure of parenthood.
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I've never needed approval for my decision to go childless through this world, but there've been times when I wanted company, a sounding board, a friend who wouldn't take the wrong way my desire to be occasionally ecstatic about not having babies and all the opportunities it affords me. "Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed "is all that and more. It's sweet, heartfelt...utterly (and by design) the opposite of its title. It's a triumph of honesty and sincerity. I imagine returning again and again to its many smart and caring voices.--Hannah Pittard, author of Reunion and The Fates Will Find Their Way
Put aside your moralistic assumptions. The sixteen probing essays collected here show how deeply individual-and varied, rich, and colorful-are the paths by which people arrive at the decision to not have children. This has to be one of the best of the many anthologies about women's (and men's) life stages-there's a lot at stake here for the writers, and for the readers as well.--Katha Pollitt, author of Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights and The Mind-Body Problem
To her illustrious list of literary accomplishments, Meghan Daum must now add "brilliant anthology editor. "In this thoughtful, hilarious, gorgeously written collection of original essays by anything-but-the-usual-suspects, Daum has taken a taboo subject and turned it inside out so that we see the seams, the stitching, and the bloody guts of one of the most personal and complex decisions any of us can ever make. This is a wonderful book.--Dani Shapiro, author of Still Writing and Devotion: A Memoir
Provocative.--Elissa Schappell "Vanity Fair "
[A] searing collection...The child-burdened should come away from this engaging collection with a rich sense of what they have missed.--Katie Roiphe "The Washington Post "
Refreshing for this reader, who's a parent but who also has no trouble identifying with non-parents; though we might come to different decisions (to become parents or not), we still worry and ponder and project in similar ways...The anthology's variation in tone proves that, like those with children, the childless aren't some monolithic group with identical motives....It's this kind of open-minded honesty that will move the topic away from its limiting us versus them binaries.--Edan Lepucki "The Millions "
Anthologies aren't famous for changing attitudes "en masse," but at the very least this one gives voice to the complexities of assuming and enjoying a 'child-free' life....The sixteen essays are cleverly arranged, creating a satisfying intellectual and emotional arc....The reader is treated to nearly every reason one might choose to forgo having children.--Kate Bolick "The New York Times Book Review "
Oftentimes hilarious and heartbreaking, and riddled throughout with truth.--Minda Honey "Los Angeles Review of Books "
Potent and sorely needed antidote to this toxic myth comes in "Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids," edited by the brilliant Meghan Daum-a writer of rare aptitude for articulating the unspeakable. The contributions-sometimes witty, sometimes wistful, always wise-come from such celebrated authors as Geoff Dyer, Anna Holmes, and Sigrid Nunez..."Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed" is a nuanced and necessary read in its totality.--Maria Popova "Brain Pickings "
A taboo will linger until someone writes lyrically enough to destroy it. Here, sixteen writers finally say what women are never supposed to but what we all know is true: pregnancy seems terrifying, birth even more so, baby lust passes, and, just as with men, work, creativity, and love affairs can crowd out everything else. Also, who really cares about getting a Mother's Day card? My three children are of course perfect in every way and yet, the longer I am a mother, the more it's obvious to me that it's not for everyone. Any woman who shares that instinct: Ignore your grandmother. Read this instead.--Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men: And the Rise of Women
MEGHAN DAUM is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, the author of The Unspeakable, My Misspent Youth, Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House, The Quality of Life Report, and the editor of Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, The New York Times Book Review, Vogue, and other publications.
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