Friday, January 15, 2016

Staff Pick: Primates of Park Avenue

syndetics-lcHave you ever wondered how the 1% of the 1% really live? Then you may enjoy Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday Martin. It provides a very interesting look inside the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where the crème de la crème of the wealthy population make their homes. Wednesday Martin lived with her husband in downtown New York City, but decided they had to move to the Upper East Side for the sake of their offspring. Already living in Manhattan, they wanted to be closer to family and have access to the best public schools and children's resources - and of course, proximity to Central Park.

Martin peppers the book with 'Fieldnotes' between the chapters, looking at Manhattan and its residents through an anthropological lens, and viewing them as strange primates for the benefit of those completely unfamiliar with their culture. These notes are quite amusing and sometimes insightful, even for readers who may never encounter such beings in the wild. She documents her family's search for housing, schools, and playdates, and the unspoken social rules that govern seemingly every interaction. Her experiences with other UES mothers make for a fascinating read, even as I was horrified by the women's atrocious behaviour. Martin tries to redeem the women in the last part of the book after a personal tragedy, showing that they are in fact human. Nonetheless, I'd rather read about this strange population than live among them.

I Totally Meant to Do That by Jane Borden is another book documenting a Southern debutante's attempt to fit into the jungle that is New York City. Alternatively, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua and Bringing Up Bébé: one American Mother discovers the wisdom of French parenting by Pamela Druckerman give very different views on parenting practices from different cultures.


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