Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids

Edited by Meghan Daum. Picador, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-05293-3
Contrary to the title, none of the 16 essays in this absorbing collection reflect particularly selfish or shallow motivations for childlessness. As Daum points out in her introduction, she and the other writers surveyed here “are neither hedonists nor ascetics,” nor “do we hate children.” Some entries are heart-wrenching—especially Elliott Holt’s “Just an Aunt”—while others are downright hilarious. Geoff Dyer announces that he’s “had only two ambitions in life: to put on weight (it’s not going to happen) and never to have children (which, so far, I’ve achieved).” He pegs the latter goal in part to his reaction to the argument that having children gives life meaning, which rests on an assumption he doesn’t share: “that life needs a meaning or purpose!” In one of the more rigorous and thoughtful essays, Laura Kipnis deftly argues that the so-called maternal instinct is really a “socially organized choice masquerading as a natural one.” Pam Houston questions the familiar social message that encourages women to “have it all” by juggling motherhood and a fulfilling career. Elegantly giving voice to her childlessness, she observes that “love, like selfishness and generosity, is not exclusive to one demographic; it infuses every single thing we do and are.” (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 01/12/2015
Release date: 03/31/2015
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-250-05294-0
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-250-08164-3
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