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I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids Hardcover – April 16, 2013
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“Jen Kirkman has written an excellent—and very funny—guide to promote not having children. Thanks girl, for saving me the time.” (Chelsea Handler)
“If you've ever been told you'd ‘change your mind’ about anything in life—when you knew that you wouldn't—this book is for you. Jen has a unique, fresh and funny way of reminding people that sometimes, you really do know what's best for you. I’m glad she didn’t change her mind about writing this smart, brave, and heartfelt book.” (Sarah Colonna comedian and New York Times bestselling author of Life As I Blow It)
“Boldly funny without being anti-mom.” (InTouch magazine)
“Very funny. . . . the core of the book is about not wanting to have children, and the ways in which society gets up in your face about it . . . I laughed out loud several times.” (TheHairpin.com)
“Candid, funny stuff.” (Sacramento Bee)
"A standup comedian's hilarious explanation for why, gee, thanks for asking, but she isn't going to change her mind about not having children." (Tampa Bay Times)
“Full of humor, wisdom, and laugh out loud moments.” (The Kentucky Democrat)
“Kirkman puts her comedic talent to use by snarking to her readers about the ridiculousness of baby culture, overly-enthusiastic parents, and total strangers who feel it necessary to publicly pry. And since it’s a good bet that those readers feel the same way, this book may very well strike a funnybone.” (Savannah Morning News)
“A seriously humorous stance on deciding not to have kids. . . . With the novelist’s penchant for self-flagellation and exploitation, and jokes punctuating at least every page, this book is ideal for the woman who needs a quick comeback for those who criticize her about not wanting kids, or for those just looking to laugh.” (Publisher's Weekly)
“Between these charming, cringe-worthy, and badass tales, Kirkman successfully convinces us she isn’t meant for motherhood. It’s safe to say she’s much better suited to birthing books.” (ThirdBeatMagazine.com)
“This book takes you through the journey of Jen Kirkman’s misunderstood child-free life. I’m now convinced of two things: Jen is freaking hilarious and she should definitely not have a baby—she should have a Valium.” (Whitney Cummings creator of Two Broke Girls and Whitney)
“Jen Kirkman’s wickedly original yet totally universal debut about the expectations of others kicks so much ass you'll agree with her even when you don’t. Not for the stupidly over-sensitive. For lovers of great!” (Greg Behrendt #1 New York Times bestselling author of He’s Just Not That Into You)
About the Author
Jen Kirkman is a world-touring stand-up comedian and the author of the New York Times bestseller I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales of a Happy Life Without Kids and I Know What I’m Doing—And Other Lies I Tell Myself: Dispatches from a Life Under Construction. Her Netflix original comedy special I'm Gonna Die Alone and I Feel Fine streams worldwide, and she has released two comedy albums, Self Help and Hail to the Freaks (which hit #13 on the Billboard charts). She was a longtime writer and panelist on the E! Network’s Chelsea Lately and the narrator of many episodes in the award-winning TV show Drunk History on Comedy Central.
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I've seen some people take shots at Jen Kirkman for being a child hater. If you read this book, you'll see that Jen doesn't hate kids at all. There was recently a story from the UK about a woman in her 50s who took to the press to tell the world that her greatest regret in life was having kids. (...).dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2303588/The-mother-says-having-children-biggest-regret-life.html).
That is someone who hates kids. Jen's story is quite the opposite. She knows she doesn't want kids and not having any is the most responsible thing she could have done.
But as much as the book is a thoughtful analysis of a person's life and how she is, indeed, very happy in a life without children (or a spouse), it's also an endearing and hilarious story about a person navigating her way through her own mind.
I'm a married guy without kids and this book really spoke to me. It's not just for women (with or without kids) and it really isn't like the books from others who work with Chelsea Handler (I think it's a lot more thoughtful and a lot less of the "I got drunk and slept around" theme). It's very funny, but not in a bawdy or crass way. Like her comedy, Jen Kirkman's book finds its humor in observational story telling with a positive, yet sardonic, bent.
This is a book for anyone who hasn't conformed, in one way or another, to what society expects of us.
"But what if you change your mind?!" is something often said to childless people who state their intent to remain childless. Of course, this ignores that fact that this question can also be used as an equal and opposite argument in the other direction. (It would also be a reason against buying a particular car or a house, or against taking a vacation, or indeed against ever doing absolutely anything at all). Kirkman relates the most common (often unintentionally insulting) things said to her when the topic of her decision to remain child-free comes up in conversation. She then takes those half-considered sentences and responds. Often with wit and sarcasm, but always with thought.
The book is structured mostly as a series of anecdotes from the author's life. My own personal favorite (and the one perhaps most representative of the book as a whole) is her inadvertently getting into an uncomfortable conversation about death and murder with a four-year-old boy she's babysitting and becoming increasingly unable to extract herself from it. It's personal but relatable. I've never been in that exact situation, but I could easily imagine the horror that she felt as she tried to smooth over an awkward discussion, and hoping beyond hope that she hadn't scared some poor innocent child for life.
One thing I appreciate when reading a book or an essay by a stand-up comedian is the careful attention they generally take towards their use of language -- more so I think than many other kinds of writers. They'll agonize for weeks or months over the exact phrasing of a joke, trying to determine which individual words in which precise order manage to convey the same information in the funniest or most clever possible way. This obviously translates very well to the written word. Whether or not Kirkman actually follows this preparation style isn't known to me, but the end result certainly feels very smooth, polished and considered. The language flows in a gentle comedic manner that pulled me gradually along its witty way. I became so used to the normal, on-going level of levity that when an especially funny bit leapt out, it became that much more hilarious.
The book's focus is on being child-free. While many of the book's passages will wander away from that point, each one eventually does return to the central premise. That said, Kirkman mentioned on her podcast that she plans to write a second book which will not be related to the themes of the first. I have no idea what her topic(s) will be, but based on the strength of her debut, I'll definitely be pre-ordering it.