Monday, September 20, 2021

Audiobook review: All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister


Title: All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation
Author: Rebecca Traister
Publication Info: 2016, Simon and Schuster Audio. 11.5 hours. Hardcover, 2016, Simon and Schuster, 339 pages.
Source: Library digital services
Publisher’s Blurb:
In 2009, award-winning journalist Rebecca Traister started All the Single Ladies about the twenty-first century phenomenon of the American single woman. It was the year the proportion of American women who were married dropped below fifty percent; and the median age of first marriages, which had remained between twenty and twenty-two years old for nearly a century (1890–1980), had risen dramatically to twenty-seven.

But over the course of her vast research and more than a hundred interviews with academics and social scientists and prominent single women, Traister discovered a startling truth: The phenomenon of the single woman in America is not a new one. And historically, when women were given options beyond early heterosexual marriage, the results were massive social change—temperance, abolition, secondary education, and more. Today, only twenty percent of Americans are married by age twenty-nine, compared to nearly sixty percent in 1960. 

My Review:
I feel like I was sucked in by false advertising on this one. From the blurb, I expected something largely focused on history, and the things women have done, especially single women. And yeah, that stuff's in there. But in the end, Traister did what she originally set out to do: she wrote a book largely about being urban and single in 2009. Not surprisingly, I wasn't in the mood for a treatise on all that's wrong with marriage, still less one that focused on aspects of life among the single women that I never experienced during my 31 years of single life. I get it: some things have changed since I married in 1994. Some things, I suspect, have not.
Ultimately, the book felt to me like a paeon to the single life. What's more, it slid quickly over some of the drawbacks. While discussing the deep female friendships that Traister feels are more satisfying to women than spousal relations, she slid rather quickly over the many ways that these friendships can fail, vanish, or be distracted. It's not that I don't think female friendship is important. I rely heavily on my female friends, and long have. (And, for that matter, on my male friends.) It's just that the friends of your 20s may or may not be around for your 60s. That's not news--I just felt that presenting those friendships that in a sense substitute for marriage as something that any woman can have (but only as long as she doesn't marry?) was disingenuous at best.

Obviously, my life choices and experiences influenced how I felt about this book. I probably should have DNF'd it, since it wasn't what I expected. But I kept going, hoping for that book on women's history the subtitle and blurb led me to expect. What I got, instead, was a feeling that somehow I'd failed as a single, because the single life she described wasn't, for the most part, the one I experienced. Nor, I suspect, is it the experience of most working-class women, ones who single salary doesn't fund a glamorous lifestyle, or even a decent climb out of poverty.

My Recommendation:
If you are a fan of Sex and the City, and especially if you feel like that's your life, you'll probably like this. If your experience was more like mine, you're more apt to feel like it's a slap in the face. There are some good points, especially about women reaching that point where we build ourselves and adult life without waiting to be married first. They just got sort of buried in the author's rush to prove that being single was a good choice.

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of All the Single Ladies from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”   

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
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  1. Hmm. Yes. As a single lady, I have views on this, but maybe my views are not those of a single lady in New York in 2009. Since several of my aunts were single, I bet they would have views on it too. But heyho. She did some research and this is the book. I wonder if she looked outside north America? Even a brief glimpse of the stats might have told her something.

    1. I don’t think she did do anything outside the US. And honestly, I think I reacted badly mostly to that feeling that she was lumping us all in with the NYC 2009 crowd, and anyway, I really wanted more history and less about the joys of singleness.


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