Primates of Park Avenue by Wednesday MartinLike an urban Dian Fossey, Wednesday Martin decodes the primate social behaviors of Upper East Side mothers in a brilliantly original and witty memoir about her adventures assimilating into that most secretive and elite tribe.
After marrying a man from the Upper East Side and moving to the neighborhood, Wednesday Martin struggled to fit in. Drawing on her background in anthropology and primatology, she tried looking at her new world through that lens, and suddenly things fell into place. She understood the other mothers snobbiness at school drop-off when she compared them to olive baboons. Her obsessional quest for a Hermes Birkin handbag made sense when she realized other females wielded them to establish dominance in their troop. And so she analyzed tribal migration patterns, display rituals, physical adornment, mutilation, mating practices, extra-pair copulation, and more. Her conclusions are smart, thought-provoking, and hilariously unexpected.
Every city has its Upper East Side, and in Wednesdays memoir, readers everywhere will recognize the strange cultural codes of powerful social hierarchies and the compelling desire to climb them. They will also see that Upper East Side mothers want the same things for their children that all mothers want: safety, happiness, and success;and not even sky-high penthouses and chauffeured SUVs can protect this ecologically released tribe from the universal experiences of anxiety and loss. When Wednesdays life turns upside down, she learns how deep the bonds of female friendship really are.
Intelligent, funny, and heartfelt, Primates of Park Avenue lifts a veil on a secret, elite world within a world: the exotic, fascinating, and strangely familiar culture of privileged Manhattan motherhood.
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WHEN our family moved from the West Village to the Upper East Side in , seeking proximity to Central Park, my in-laws and a good public school, I thought it unlikely that the neighborhood would hold any big surprises. For many years I had immersed myself — through interviews, reviews of the anthropological literature and participant-observation — in the lives of women from the Amazon basin to sororities at a Big Ten school. I thought I knew from foreign.
Consider the prototypical Upper East Side mommy: bleach blonde, whippet thin, perfectly manicured, stay-at-home, chemically preserved. Polite but not warm. Type A. Beautiful, sexless. Multiple houses, expensive preschools.
By Maureen Callahan. Nothing, she says, prepared her for the Upper East Side.
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By Isabel Vincent and Melissa Klein. It was just one of the many strange-seeming cultural practices that some women told me about. In the book, Martin says she and her husband moved from the West Village for her toddler son. She describes being forced to undergo an unusual interview to purchase her Park Avenue abode. The co-op board, she says, held the interrogation in her bedroom, where she was confined because of a difficult pregnancy. She wears a strand of pearls while propped up in bed, the board members gathered around her.
Martin, mother-of-two and wife of a banker, is the author of Primates of Park Avenue , part-memoir, part-study of young East Side mothers and their social customs. The book, published last week, has been variously described as sexist, harsh and inaccurate. It has certainly struck a nerve. The women of the district are up in arms. Many have objected to the idea of introducing primate studies to describe human dynamics. Some women, she concluded, were using their handbags to assert dominance, even brushing rivals with them. Martin, rich and diminutive, is no stranger to treading on sensitive territory.
Wendy " Wednesday " Martin    is an American author and cultural critic  who writes and serves as a commentator on topics like parenting, step-parenting, female sexuality, motherhood, and popular culture. Her doctoral work examined early psychoanalysis and anthropology. After Martin moved to the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan with her family in , she began researching and documenting her experiences there for her next book, Primates of Park Avenue. In her book Untrue , Martin focused on female sexuality and addressing untruths about women and sex. In May , several articles were published about the practice of hiring disabled guides to avoid lines at Disney World , which Martin uncovered during her research for Primates of Park Avenue. The New York Times characterized Martin's description of wife bonuses as "disputed". The book and its reception were the subject of multiple articles in the months before and after its publication in The New York Times ,    as well as covered by publications including Time ,  Vanity Fair ,  and NPR.