Ruth Whippman’s Refreshing Take on American Parenting

Ruth Whippman’s Refreshing Take on American Parenting

I wanted?to?plug a just-released book by my brilliant friend Ruth Whippman, which I had the good fortune of reading parts of in utero (uh, the book’s utero, not my own, though, fun fact: Ruth’s book release date was the same as my due date for Baby #2: October 4). America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks is out now, and it’s a doozy of a read: laugh-out-loud funny, incredibly insightful, at times infuriating in the way that things you know are true but don’t quite want to believe about yourself are infuriating, and above all, smart. Ruth’s premise? That here in the good old U.S. of A., we’re so concerned with making ourselves happy that we’ll try absolutely anything to get there?even when the tactics (yoga, mindfulness, self help, slavish devotion to work) leave us, ironically,?incredibly uptight and anxious.

Of particular note is her chapter on parenting, in which she gently disembowels the American practice of attachment parenting (frankly, on most points I’m with her) and illustrates with research and hysterically funny vignettes from the playground how American parents sabotage their own possibility of happiness by putting their entire emphasis on making their kids happy instead. My jaw dropped when she?described?a Facebook post in which a mom?laments telling her child to “wait a minute” while she finishes doing the dishes, and when the child cries, realizes that she’s mistakenly given her the (wrong!) message that cleaning comes before her own flesh and blood.?Ultimately, the mom reports, she’s decided she will “never make [her daughter] wait” again (and all her Facebook friends praise her for her selflessness). Talk about a nation of nervous wrecks.

This witty, from-the-trenches reporting is the hallmark of America the Anxious. Part memoir, part research study, it’s a thought-provoking and terrific read. Check it out!

Get America the Anxious?on Amazon

Or find it at your local bookstore!?(Here’s mine.)

Visit?Ruth’s website


Beautiful Book You Must Read: Holding Silvan, A Brief Life

Beautiful Book You Must Read: Holding Silvan, A Brief Life

It’s been a while since I’ve plugged a book on here, not because I haven’t been reading (I’m always reading!). I loved Karl Ove Knausg?rd’s My Struggle Books One and Two, for example, loved them because they took me so fully back to my time in Norway and because?Knausg?rd manages to elevate the?domestic to the sublime, to make regular old life seem like something very powerful and profound indeed. And I’ve been slowly but gratefully working my way through Bonnie Jo Campbell’s book of short stories Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. Currently, I’m turning most of my attention to my book club book for next month, a non-fiction number called Midnight in Broad Daylight by Pamela Rotner Sakamoto, which, if not entirely my cup of tea, is a good story nonetheless.

But last week I halted everything to?devour a memoir called Holding Silvan: A Brief Life by my new friend Monica Wesolowska.?


In Holding Silvan, Wesolowska describes how, after a seemingly normal pregnancy, labor, and delivery, her newborn baby is?determined to have massive brain damage?so massive that doctors predict it is only his brain stem that will ever fire. What happens next is the process of letting this baby, who will have no life to speak of beyond the one he could be afforded on machines, die.

It’s been a while since a book has affected me as physically or as intensely as Holding Silvan did. As I emailed to Monica the next day:

“During the part when Silvan is actively dying?if that’s not an oxymoron?I felt this almost physical energy tugging at my body, at my uterus and breasts and forehead, almost pulling me forward and out of my chair. Every fiber of me that’s a mother felt his dying, and I just read and read and sobbed and sobbed until L came in to see why I was crying and I just wanted to grab onto him and?hold.?This may sound overwrought, since our losses are so tiny in comparison to yours, but while I was reading and crying I also felt like I was healing some of the difficulties of our past five years, trying to have another baby, losing a seven-week fetus when we found out it was ectopic (and I nearly bled to death), all the near misses and dashed hopes…”

I did?I sat in my living room and sobbed for what felt like hours. And while that may not seem like the most ringing endorsement?I know some of you want reads that are “uplifting,” I have to say that my gratitude for this book, for its beautiful, careful prose, its pacing, and the lessons in it about letting go, death, and motherhood, were so profound to me that I think in a way it IS an uplifting book.

I hope you read it, and I hope when you do that you buy it from your local bookstore (ahem) or, if you must, from Powells or Amazon. And pass it on. And buy a copy for someone else you know. Monica’s book was put out by an independent?press, the terrific Hawthorne Books in Portland, Oregon,?and with independent press books it’s always a big help to spread the word, grassroots style.

Happy, poignant reading,


If you’re looking for more great memoirs, check this?and this out.



Are you a Maxed Out, American Mom on the Brink?

After I wrote my last post, about not wasting my life, it seemed like everything I read?like?this blog post?and?this blog post?reflected the state I was in. And then I discovered a terrific book by a local writer named Katrina Alcorn that REALLY spoke to me. It’s called Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink and I can’t recall a time I have been so simultaneously wrapped up in a narrative (I could not put it down) and validated by what I was reading. Alcorn describes the several-year span when she and her husband attempted to work demanding, full-time jobs (the kind with conference calls at all hours, off-the-hook?clients, and heavy travel) and parent three kids. In the course of running this rat race, Alcorn stops seeing her friends, stops exercising, fights with her husband, gets very little sleep, and seems to always be getting sick?but she works through it anyway. And then the crippling panic attacks start. Talk about wasting your life.

Maxed Out, in the midst of the kitchen clutter.

Maxed Out, in the midst of the kitchen clutter.

Despite the fact that I have only a moderately-demanding job, and only one kid, I nonetheless saw so much of myself in Katrina Alcorn. I of course connected with the?anxiety, but also with the sensation of always wanting to meet?some demand that just can’t be met: a cleaner house, a better book proposal, a smoother commute, less stressful mornings, a faster track to career success. In fact, as I was reading, I could see nearly every one of my mom friends in Katrina Alcorn (even the stay-at-home ones, because, let’s face it, running after your kids all day is a different kind of rat race). And what’s more, I could see my dad friends, too, and my friends who don’t have kids. The book, which couples a memoir-style-narrative with short essays about the realities of being a working mom in American society, ends up being a call to action not just for working moms to have more freedoms and time off, but for all Americans to work more reasonable and flexible schedules.?I recommended the book to about ten people in two days?one of them a friend without kids, one my incredibly hardworking cousin who’s single, and one my own husband.

And now, I recommend it to you. Walk, don’t run, to your nearest library or independent bookstore and pick up Maxed Out.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can check out Alcorn’s blog here.

Some Plugs, Some Whatnot

Happy Wednesday, pals.

Yesterday I got a newsletter from Meghan Ward over at Writerland that I had to pass on:

My colleague here at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto, Diana Kapp, is making and selling beautiful, unique necklaces for just $15 and donating ALL of the profits to help build schools for girls in Afghanistan.? Buy a necklace, and?ALL PROFITS? go to Afghan Connection.

"Feel Teal" necklace

“Feel Teal” necklace

Here’s the link to Diana’s etsy page, where you can read more about Jewels for Schools and buy a necklace! It’s a great cause, and the necklaces are super cool, too.

In other news, I just finished Popcorn blogger Tara Conklin’s debut novel The House Girl. I have to give it a plug. Read my Goodreads review, here. It’s a beautiful and extremely well-crafted novel with two likeable and believable heroines, and I recommend it highly.

Now I’m reading Kimber Simpkins’s memoir Full. So many good books, these days.

What are YOU reading?