Friday, May 27, 2016

Nonfiction: All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister

I was extremely fortunate to be able to attend a panel that included Rebecca Traister, the author of All the Single Lades: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, at the 4th Annual San Antonio Book Festival. I even got to briefly speak with her, while she was signing my copy of her book, about one of the many points she made on the panel and expands upon in her book: the idea that a woman's life does not start until she gets married and how just untrue it is.

Genre, Themes, History: This is a nonfiction book that does just as its title suggests. Traister looks at the growing number of women in America who are either delaying marriage, or not getting married at all. The average age women are choosing to get married has been rising steadily, and while there are many things critics and politicians (mostly conservative) are ready to blame for this trend (because to them it is a problem that someone needs to be held accountable for), what becomes clear from the very beginning of the book is that it is not a straight forward issues with a clear source and a clear solution. Many things have contributed to women's decisions to get married later in life. Some women have decided that marriage is not for them; others believe that marriage is for them but have not found the right person; still others believe that marriage is for them, just not right now, even with the right person already in sight; and then there are those women who are divorced or widowed, single once again no matter what age they first got married. Whatever the reason, there are more single women - and men for that matter - in American than ever before, although some countries like Japan and Germany are still way ahead of us. Traister reaches back into history and looks at many single women who made history, often fighting for the rights of women today's singles are able to enjoy. Traister also interviewed a variety of women in the US of various ages, race, religions, life stages, and reasons for not being married. A few even decided to have children without having a partner, something else that has become a growing trend. As single women continue to become more comfortable in their own skin in the US, critics become more anxious as "the way it has always been" is steadily changing.

My Verdict: No matter what your stance is on the issue, this book is a thinker. From the beginning, Traister introduces so many facts and stats that the amount of information is daunting, almost overwhelming. But what kept me reading was just how fascinating it all was. And for me, what makes the book truly remarkable is that Traister does not do what many critics of this new trend continue to do well into the new millennium: she does not ignore the historical and current marrying trends of minorities and the economically disadvantaged. While many politicians bemoan the decision of today's woman to marry and have kids later in life, what they really object to is the idea of white socially well-off women putting off having a family. Traister points out that the data concerning African-American women, as well as Hispanics and Asians, has always been slightly different from Caucasians, but is rarely taken into consideration. Even without agreeing to every point Traister makes, I found this book incredibly interesting and somewhat validating of my own single status. 

Favorite Moment: I mostly enjoyed the personal stories from various women Traister interviewed. For some reason my favorite out of all of them was the story of Ada Li, a woman originally from China who moved to New York in 2001. She has now been with her husband for ten years and they have a son together. But the story I was really intrigued by was that of her parents, who recently came from China to live with her. Initially, her father decided he missed China and wanted to go back, but her mother told him he would have to go back without her because she liked New York and was staying. While he did go back without her, he ultimately decided he did not like it as much without his wife, so now he is back in New York.     

Favorite Quote: "When white flappers danced to black jazz beats, they were culture-shifting rebels; when, in he mid-sixties, white women busted out of their domestic sarcophagi and marched back into workforces in which poor and black women had never stopped toiling, when Betty Friedan echoed Sadie Alexander by suggesting that work would be beneficial for both women and their families, that was when the revolution of Second Wave feminism was upon us. It has long been the replicative behaviors or perspectives of white women - and not the original shifts pioneered by poor women and women of color - that make people sit up and take notice and that sometimes become discernible as liberation."

Recommended Reading: Even though it is of a completely different vein, I recommend Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I pick it because it is another book that takes a fascinating look at something that is easily ignored because of the kind of society we live in.

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