Primates of Park Avenue

Primates of Park Avenue

A Memoir

Book - 2015 | First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
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Like 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, and 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 Wednesday's 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 Wednesday's 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.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2015.
Edition: First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
ISBN: 9781476762623
Branch Call Number: B MARTIN WEDNESDAY
Characteristics: vii, 248 pages ; 23 cm


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Sep 06, 2017

Not sure I want to go any further with this one: I'm in the middle of the chapter where she describes wanting/needing/requiring a Birkin bag (minimum price around $10,000) so that she can keep her head up in her Manhattan neighborhood, and I find I'm just honestly not caring about her or her family or her snobby neighborhood any more! The concept of the book (studying this uber-wealthy society and the people who live there, particularly the 'mummies', in terminology mostly used by scientists studying animal behavior) has worn thin for me. I gave it three stars because she writes well, but .... yuck.... what a lot of tripe.

Aug 15, 2017

The book was not the best in terms of writing, but it was interesting when you consider that it was describing the rich. I would give it 3 stars.

Nov 10, 2015

The book is not as well written as I had hoped, but amusing enough. It seems much like the Preppy Handbook for newcomers, though without the sarcasm.

The most interesting aspect is how naive Ms. Martin is about parenting challenges everywhere--her issues are mimicked every day in every community, not only the UES. Here we have similar cliques, competition to get into the "right" preschools, the "right" playgroups, attend the "correct" yoga studios or gyms, be on the correct boards, attend the correct charity benefits, have our children overscheduled and well balanced with perfect nutrition, art & music time, extracurricular activities, charity and community service time, and limited screen time--if you don't believe that that is true in every community, you haven't actually become a parent yet, as these rites are imitated across the globe of the modern world, even if some are admittedly distasteful. Of course, all the Moms here wear Lululemon & puffy vests too (with a touch of Under Armor, unless they're going for Crossfit), but the bag of choice is LV, Longchamps, or Coach. And yes, we laugh about the ridiculous of it all too.

ss1989 Oct 13, 2015

couldn't even finish it. I was bored within the first 10 pages but struggled to at least page 52. I don't care about white people with money to burn and awful personalities and their lives in general but the way it was written in general wasn't very interesting either. All you folks on the waiting list for this, it's your lucky day. I can't return this book fast enough.

Oct 12, 2015

GOOD read! Haven't lived on the UES but have resided in a couple of duplicate neighborhoods. Would love to have lunch with her.

Oct 10, 2015

When I started reading this and realized that it was written from an anthropological viewpoint it was instantly more interesting that I had anticipated. At first the rituals and behaviors of the primates described here seemed too ridiculous for words but in comparison with other primates there does seem to be some reason for them. Always interesting to learn about the ultra rich.

Sep 28, 2015

It's an interesting read and walks the line pretty well about not being a tell-all while being descriptive. However the ending is disjointed and the story doesn't match the author's actual life story (she only had 1 kid while on UES), which takes away from the whole premise.

JMFlaherty Sep 19, 2015

I gave this book 5 stars. Yes, five stars. That's right. Because I live in Manhattan (not on the Upper East Side) and this type of societal bubble, which Wednesday describes splendidly, exists all over New York City to one degree or another. You run into them all the time (god forbid you bump one). This country is quickly becoming a many-tiered caste. And I hate to tell you folks, but the caste is coming to your nabe soon, if it hasn't already hit. It probably began in Manhattan. sigh.

Confession: I love The Real Housewives franchise, except when they fight. I just want to sit back and watch their conspicuous consumption and their warped priorities and their commitment to unflattering clothes. If this rings true for you, read this book. Rich people are anthropologically interesting, and Martin makes a case for the UES being a "tribe." The book isn't perfect - some of her cutesy anthro-speak feels forced, and, particularly in the beginning, her smugness belies her inner craving for a Birkin. However! Still a lot of fun, and will probably make you glad you don't live there.


this memoir provides a few chuckles despite seemingly being grounded in an academic writing style; it's okay.
the seventh chapter is the strongest aspect of the book and redeems the shortcomings of the previous six.

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