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 Christensen, Elliott Holt, Geoff Dyer, and Tim Kreider, among others, who will give a unique perspective on the overwhelming cultural pressure of parenthood.
This collection makes a smart and passionate case for why parenthood is not the only path to a happy, productive life, and takes our parent-centric, kid-fixated, baby-bump-patrolling culture to task in the process. In this book, that shadowy faction known as the childless-by-choice comes out into the light.
For readers of Brigid Schulte and Debora Spar
“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
“[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
“A round of applause to Meghan Daum for putting this book together....Entertaining and heartfelt.” —The Boston Globe
“Provocative.” —Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair
“The 16 essays--variously funny, devastating, infuriating, insightful, and, yes, occasionally smug--not only dismantle the assumption of selfishness, they shed light on a stigma that's remained stubbornly pervasive...Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed is generally very strong, bringing together a diverse range of voices and styles to riff entertainingly on a subject that has seemed, up until now, unriffable. But as a collection of manifestos, it's hugely significant.” —TheAtlantic.com
“Some [essays] are moving, some are clear-eyed and straightforward, and some are straight-up funny.” —The Guardian (London)
“I highly recommend the book. Each essay is unique and thought-provoking.” —Bitch.com
“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
“Shallow conversation-changers are nowhere to be found in this searing collection.” —The Huffington Post
“Oftentimes hilarious and heartbreaking, and riddled throughout with truth.” —Minda Honey, Los Angeles Review of Books
“The most recent and high-profile addition to the developing canon of writing by childfree women on their lives--and recommended reading for anyone who wants fascinating, thrilling, and occasionally frustrating insight into the lives of the childfree.” —Bustle
“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
“Maybe I really am selfish, shallow and self-absorbed. But at least I'm not alone, and this collection was a fantastic reminder.” —BlogHer
“[An] absorbing collection....some entries are heart-wrenching...while others are downright hilarious.” —Publishers Weekly
“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
“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
“Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed doesn't seek to settle the issue of children vs. childfree. But it will make you think. It will make you sit up in your chair. As a parent it provoked a strange reaction in me--a mirror to the same defensiveness I perceived in so many of the essays. But that is a good thing. Daum's assemblage of these essays does what it's intended to do: inspire us to think about why we live the way we live....A provocative collection that will inspire a lot of conversation.” —The Rumpus