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Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir Hardcover – June 2, 2015
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"An eye-popping insider's guide." (People)
“An amusing, perceptive and, at times thrillingly evil takedown of upper-class culture by an outsider with a front-row seat…Martin’s writing is confident and evocative…Her reading of the fashion attire of real estate brokers for ‘triple mint’ apartments is brilliant…at a time when a social comedy of the rich a la Tom Wolfe has been lost in national discourse…it’s fun to dip into a sophisticated, if silly, look at the Upper East Side’s Twilight Zone. Primates of Park Avenue is also a good reminder that as much as we may envy the wealthy, they fight every day for a place in their own social hierarchy, too.” (New York Times Book Review)
"Juicy, sexy, bawdy stuff...the perfect summer beach book...the tasty tome we'll all be devouring when the weather warms." (New York Daily News)
“Applying the chimpanzee research of Jane Goodall or the observations of bonobos by Frans de Waal to one's neighbors and co-workers is great fun…Martin rewards those of us in humbler circumstances the undeniably pleasant frisson of superiority that comes with finding fault with those better endowed financially, socially, sartorially.” (Chicago Tribune)
"Think privileged NYC wives are another species? Martin goes undercover in this dishy memoir and reminds us that we all have something in common." (Glamour)
"Hysterical and cutting." (Harper's Bazaar)
"Think: Gossip Girl, but with a sociological study of the parents." (InStyle.com)
“Put this book at the top of your summer reading list!...astute and entertaining.” (Miami Living)
"Amusing...incisive...a wryly entertaining guide to this rarefied subculture." (The Economist)
"Recalls Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique…Primates is pacy and skillfully weaves cultural insight with personal anecdote…This is an intriguing insight into a closed world. It is easy to dismiss the subjects as frivolous and mean, which many seem to be. But our envy and schadenfreude makes the rich a compelling curiosity.” (Financial Times)
“Fascinating…The author has a Ph.D. and a background in anthropology and primatology, so it’s not long before she’s analyzing her fellow mommies in terms of what she knows about olive baboons. The book is at its best when Martin analyzes her population this way. Comparing a group of women to primates, their family planning to those of birds, their interactions with men to groups of mice—these make for compelling insights…Engrossing.” (The AV Club)
“Picture ‘Real Housewives,’ add in pop-science, and you have Wednesday Martin’s new book.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
“A very funny, and slightly scary, look at the denizens of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.” (Connecticut Post)
"Any population is fair game for anthropological research, so why not the super-rich, super-thin, and oh-so-well-dressed mothers of New York's Upper East Side?... Illuminating and fun." (BookPage)
“Martin puts her academic background (anthropology classes and a doctorate in cultural studies) to witty good use in describing this wealthy tribe’s extremes…it became clear to me, reading Martin’s book, that our Bay Area tribes aren’t so different from those of New York.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
A Jane Goodall wielding an American Express Black Card, the author leads readers through the hierarchical benchmarks of Upper East Side mothers. This anthropological journey into the wilds of New York City’s most exclusive zip code could have easily devolved into condescension, but instead it proves that mothers everywhere want the same thing: health and happiness for their progeny. (Library Journal, starred review)
"I absolutely loved this memoir and could not put it down! It's incredibly clever; Martin uses anthropology to analyze Upper East mothers, and it's astonishingly illuminating. Somehow, Martin manages to be caustically perceptive but also generous, funny, moving, and erudite all at the same time. This is one of the most fascinating books I've read in a long time." (Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and The Triple Package)
If anthropologist Jane Goodall had landed on Park Avenue with a Birkin bag instead of the wilds of Tanzania with a notebook, this is the book she would have written. Primates of Park Avenue is a smart, funny, and original dissection of the tribal rites of rich and striving New Yorkers as they migrate between Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the Hamptons. (Steven Gaines, author of Philistines at the Hedgerow)
“I am a huge fan of everything Wednesday Martin writes - her astute observations are filled with wisdom and humor, and more than once have helped me see the world through different eyes.” (Jane Green, New York Times bestselling author of Saving Grace)
“People aiming to study primates in the wild are carefully taught to avoid anthropomorphism. Reading human motivation into the behavior of free-living primates is a no-no. But what about using information from primate field studies to interpret human behavior “chimpomorphically”? Confronted with the need to cope with sociopathological conditions on New York’s ultra-wealthy Upper East Side, Wednesday Martin delved deeply into her knowledge of primate behavior. The result is this book in which primatology leads to a deeper understanding of the human hearts that beat beneath their designer-clad exteriors. A tour de force” (Robert Martin, Ph.D., Professor of Biological Anthropology and Curator Emeritus, Field Museum of Chicago and author of How We Do It: the Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction)
"When mean girls and wannabes grow up, they become the women so perfectly depicted in Wednesday Martin's funny and intelligent memoir. How wonderful that she survived the jungle of Park Avenue with strong female friendships intact." (Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes)
"Dr. Wednesday Martin is a genius. This book is a must for anyone fascinated by people, trends, and tribes." (Lucy Sykes, author of The Knockoff)
"Upon relocating to New York City's Upper East Side, a wannabe socialite assimilates by anthropologically decoding the behaviors of mom natives in this memoir about fitting in while standing out." (O Magazine)
About the Author
Wednesday Martin, PhD, has worked as writer and social researcher in New York City for more than two decades. The author of Stepmonster and Primates of Park Avenue, she has appeared on Today, CNN, NPR, NBC News, the BBC Newshour, and Fox News as an expert on step-parenting and parenting issues. She writes for the online edition of Psychology Today and her work has appeared in The New York Times. She was a regular contributor to New York Post’s parenting and lifestyle pages for several years and has written for The Daily Telegraph. Wednesday received her PhD from Yale University and lives in New York City with her husband and their two sons.
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Top Customer Reviews
The writer also tends to drive a subject into the ground. The Hermes bag episode goes on and on. Lady I get it you want an 18,000 dollar bag so you can eat lunch at the popular table. Pretty sad for a woman in her forties.
If your were a fan of the 'Nanny Diaries' like I was, this book will sure to be a disappointment.
(1) All the hype in the press basically revealed most content before publication, so when reading the book I felt like I had already read the material.
(2) There are not really any well-developed characters. It basically lumps these moms all together. For sure, they have different an interesting stories. I understand her not wanting to betray the trust of friends by revealing their stories. I would not either, but the book suffers because of it.
(3) I read the book in about 4 hours and with Kindle it's hard to get a sense of how long a book really is, but I didn't feel it was worth the money spent on it. Related to this, if I understand correctly, she lived with these people for six years. It seems like this book would have taken about 1-2 years to put together at most.
What she says does ring true. I attended an elite (top 4) New England boarding school and had a window into this world (many of the students were from wealthy NY families). Given that that was 20 years ago, I understand some things have changed (I found the very wealthy families were not as outwardly materialistic in terms of clothes and the like). But the social climbing aspect was huge and drove those on the lower rungs to do some pathetic things to try to get in with the queen bees. The kids themselves were somewhat removed from that, but the parents were bad. Now I live in an upper-middle class area with kids in private school and the moms are very similar to what she describes only scaled way, way down to local incomes. But it's the same thing about "Jake's mom", etc., rather than the name of the actual woman.
I think the author captures the culture accurately. It's just that there's relatively little content. The lack of content could be off set by some interesting personal stories, but those aren't there either.
The oyster thing keeping me from giving it 5 stars is that sometimes the time sequence felt out of whack and frankly made it a little confusing at times. It didn't make a huge difference, as it's still a good read.
Also I couldn't stop feeling like there was a lot of bragging and self-congratulation on her part. Like she felt she was "special " and uniquely entitled. She coyly wouldn't discuss what her husband does to afford this uber expensive lifestyle. I just felt talked down to a lot.
But after the first few chapters, and although they were hilarious, I began to realize that this was one woman's saga of how she wanted to be so accepted by the masters and mistresses of the universe.
Yes, there are some women who are exactly as described in the book, but the majority are not. We've never had problems making play dates with any our kids and their classmates and my wife does not obsess over Birkin bags.
Perhaps this reflects the rarified world of the mega-rich , but it is sad to see how the author , although innocently portraying herself as a "downtown " person, tries desperately to insinuate herself into their world.
It's sort of like a rich person lamenting that they couldn't be richer...