The basics: Wednesday Martin is an anthropologist, originally from Michigan, who moves from the West Village of New York City to the Upper East Side and turns her anthropological training on Upper East Side mommies.
My thoughts: Since having a baby, I find myself drawn to narratives I might not have been before. I'm fascinated by how people raise their children, in this country, throughout different times in history, and around the world. (See also: How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, How Not to Calm a Child on a Plane and Bringing Up Bebe.) As a mom, I find myself remarking, "these people are crazy!" as often as I do "I can't believe I think this is normal now!" So much of parenthood seems to be finding people with whom you agree and finding people whose choices make you feel better about your own. To that end, Primates of Park Avenue is both.
It's entertaining, at times alarming, and informative. A few chapters dragged a bit for me (most notably the Birkin chapter, which felt overly long and dull, but I'm not one drawn in by fashion or purses.) There are things I could relate to in it, even as raising a single child in Des Moines is so different from raising children in Manhattan. But there are also plenty of outrageous rich people stuff to make me feel superior at times. In many ways, this book reminds me of why I so loved several of the Real Housewives franchises for many years: rich people doing crazy things they think are normal and finding the shared humanity in unlikely places.
There's also enough anthropology of both primates and other cultures to make me feel smarter about raising children in different cultures. I learned things about other cultures and creatures, I was able to gawk at rich New Yorkers, and I was able to find some common ground with both.
The verdict: I was surprised not only by how much I enjoyed Primates of Park Avenue but also by how much I learned from it. I was entertained and enlightened, and Maby's audio performance made me feel like I was gossiping with an old friend over wine.
The controversy: Shortly after I finished this book, The New York Post fact-checked it and found some inaccuracies. Some of the inaccuracies bother me more than others. While I still quite enjoyed the book, some of these inaccuracies are so completely unnecessary, I find myself baffled by Martin's motivations.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 8 hours 9 minutes (256 pages)
Publication date: June 2, 2015
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Primates of Park Avenue from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
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