HELL IS OTHER PARENTS
I read No Exit in my early twenties, and I remember thinking hell might very well be other people, okay, sure, but under what far-fetched conditions would anyone ever actually be trapped forever in the company of strangers with no sleep or means of escape?
Then I became a parent.
From Deborah Copaken Kogan, the acclaimed author of the national bestseller Shutterbabe, comes this edgy, insightful, and sidesplitting memoir about surviving in the trenches of modern parenting.
Kogan writes situation comedy in the style of David Sedaris and Spalding Gray with a dash of Erma-Bombeck-on-a-Vespa: wry, acutely observed, and often hilarious true tales, in which the narrator is as culpable as any character. In these eleven linked pieces, Kogan and her husband are almost always broke while working full-time and raising three children in New York City, one of the most expensive and competitive cities in the world.
In one episode, exhausted from a particularly difficult childbirth, Kogan finds herself sharing a hospital room with a foul-mouthed teen mother and her partying posse. In another, Kogan manages to crawl her way to her own emergency appendectomy, which inconveniently strikes the same week her infant’s babysitter is away on vacation, her adolescents are off from school, her New York Times editor needs his edit, and the whole family catches the flu. And in the book’s capper essay, she drives twelve hours, solo, with a screaming toddler in a rent-a-car in a futile effort to catch a glimpse of her eldest child in his summer camp play.
Yes, Shutterbabe is all grown up and slightly worse for the wear, but her clear-eyed vision while under fire has remained intact: You’ve never read funnier war stories.
PRAISE & REVIEWS
“Kogan’s essays are witty and smart…readers will find plenty to ponder and laugh about as they follow this self-described ‘laissez-faire’ parent…”
“The former war photojournalist delivers funny, surprisingly riveting ‘tales of maternal combustion’ in this book of collected essays.”
“Kogan has a way of keeping things in (global) perspective…[she] is at her best when chronicling small minds making stupid, compassion-free decisions…She’s also excellent at chronicling what life is like when you don’t have quite enough money to make Manhattan life easy.”
—New York Post
“One of the best pieces, about Kogan’s experience having appendicitis in a New York emergency room, is a stellar argument for the urgency of health-care reform.”
“[Kogan] brings a biting wit to such topics as meddlesome parents spreading not-very-nice gossip about your child at school; dealing with an unexpected illness amid family crises and the editing of a piece for the New York Times, and becoming a reluctant stage mom as your son embarks on a fledgling movie career. The problems Kogan and her family encounter aren’t that much different from the ones we all face in our daily existence — she just describes them better. And as you methodically make your way from story to story about transportation problems, health-care issues, dealing with both parents working and kids with a raft of activities, you will find yourself (as I did, many times) nodding your head in acknowledgment, ‘Yes, I’ve been there!'”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Raw with humor and honesty, Kogan does a wonderful job being candid about the good things about motherhood as well as the not-so-good. Energetic (although after going through everything that she has, where does she find the energy?) and realistic, this is not a how-to book that teaches parents tips on raising their children in big cities with all the disadvantages it sometimes brings, but instead a laugh-out-loud book that will pick you up when feeling close to your own parental-combustion moments.”
—All Headline News
“Hell Is Other Parents deserves a place on any breeder’s bookshelf, because the pieces about raising not just children but a family – creating a communal unit despite vagaries of income, the stresses of city life, and yes – the disdain of other parents – are unlike any you’ll read anywhere else. Kogan writes with the surefooted aim she uses behind the camera: Point, click, truth.”
—The Book Studio
“Writer and journalist Kogan hilariously calls all smug parents to task in this collection of essays. What the brash title doesn’t hint at, though, is the thoughtfulness with which she writes about her parenting experiences, ranging from sharing a maternity room with a teenage mom to going to Pakistan with her young son.”
“The author confronts family challenges that make covering carnage in Afghanistan (which she has done) seem easy by comparison. Her frank take on Mommy & Me classes, life as a reluctant stage mother and encounters with parents who espouse decidedly different childrearing philosophies (i.e. helicopter parents) is delightful. So too are her flashbacks to younger and wilder days: days before she and her family of five must squeeze into a two-bedroom Manhattan apartment and get by on a freelancer’s pittance. Above all, do not miss the chapter about sharing a room in the maternity ward with the world’s rudest postpartum teenager.”
“Hell Is Other Parents is much more than a series of treatises on horrific parents. Rather, the 11 essays are a mini memoir, dealing with subjects such as her son the actor, her misdiagnosed appendicitis, the drug dealer with whom she shared an apartment while a student at Harvard and a former lover who must be among the most self-centered people in history.”
—Washington Jewish Week
“This is a funny, wise, sad, joyous, and smart book.”
“It’s a testament to Deborah Copaken Kogan’s lively writing style that she totally sucked me in, and I ended up hooked…Writing with equal parts humour and pathos, Kogan has an easy and amiable intimacy.”
—Postcards from the Mothership
“Kogan is a wonderfully clear, intelligent writer whose ability to tell a good story is complemented throughout this highly readable book by her skill in keeping some very familiar material (awkward toddler moments, wildly over-involved ‘other’ parents) fresh and novel. Best of all, though, Kogan avoids mawkishness and the over-sharing of overly personal details that are often hallmarks of this type of narrative. All in all, a smart, thoughtful and, yes, very funny read worth every penny of its price…an excellent addition the new subgenre of witty parenting memoirs written by smart women that offers much more than its title suggests.”
—Debra Ginsberg, Shelf Awareness
“These essays will speak to any parent attempting to raise children in the new millennium.”
“Funny, relevant, personal…a perfect book to keep in your car to read while waiting in the carpool line, or waiting at the pediatrician’s office, or waiting at the soccer fields.”
—5 Minutes for Mom
“For anyone who’s ever been a parent, had a parent, or wanted to choke a parent, Deborah Copaken Kogan’s book is for you. With obscenely funny and frighteningly dead-on insights, this book is so close to my heart I want to put it in a locket and wear it around my neck. I plan to buy Hell Is Other Parents by the carton and hand it out at the playground.”
—Julie Klam, author of Please Excuse My Daughter
“Deborah Copaken Kogan writes with verve, warmth, and passion about the complexities of parenting, her love for her children, and all the comedies and melodramas that the complexities and the love together make us perform.”
—Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon and Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York
“The next time you see a modern American mom walking down the street and think you know what’s going on in her life, Hell Is Other Parents will remind you that you don’t know the half of it. Like Larry David, Deborah Kogan isn’t obsessed with putting her best foot forward. Rather, she unloads what’s truly on her mind. She’s not afraid to show her anxieties, her vanities, her deepest desires. The results aren’t always pretty, but it’s a thrilling, hilarious, nerve-wracking ride–a mother’s high-wire balancing act–that I wouldn’t have dared miss.”
—Stephen J. Dubner, author of Freakonomics
“Brave, funny, and charged with equal measures of regret and joy, Kogan’s parenting misadventures spring from the page. Though her battles with smothering or totally deranged moms take place in nanny-ridden Manhattan (a world she and her husband can’t afford), her stories will resonate with anyone who ever changed a diaper or comforted a weeping child.”
—Tad Friend, author of Lost in Mongolia: Travels in Hollywood and Other Foreign Lands and Cheerful Money: Me, My Family, and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor
“This is the stuff of life. Okay, maybe not the stuff of your life, but luckily for us, though maybe not always for Deborah Copaken Kogan, it is the stuff of her life, and she has made it delightful stuff to read about.”
—Patty Marx, who is not a parent so don’t blame her; author of Him Her Him Again
“Deborah Copaken Kogan goes where no mom has gone before in these hilarious and affecting tales of motherhood and marriage, Manhattan style.”
—Darren Star, writer and producer of Sex and the City