When you read or hear the title Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids, you most likely have a reaction. That reaction might be anger, frustration, elation, a simple laugh, and so on. For me, it was intrigue.
This is a rare moment into my personal life on the site. I am currently childless and childless by choice. No, like the majority of the author's in this book, I do not hate children. In fact I am a person who is blessed with a plethora of nephews and a darling niece (not to mention all my friends' kids who are like family). I draw with them, share my favorite books, and make the appropriate silly faces. I am happy to see my favorite people in the world ensuring future generations for the human race.
Who knows, I might even be a mother one day (biologically or through adoption), but the fact remains, and it is something that I am firm about: children are an option, but not a requirement for my life. This is a statement that has resulted in many reactions over the years. I have friends who share this sentiment, friends and family who completely respect my decision, and those who have tried to convince me I am wrong and broken in some way. Of course, it is the latter that led me to request this book from the library.
The authors in the book, Kate Christensen, Tim Kreider, Paul Lisicky, M.G. Lord, Rosemary Mahoney, Sigrid Nunez, Jeanne Safer, Lionel Shriver, Geoff Dyer, Danielle Henderson, Courtney Hodell, Anna Holmes, Elliott Holt, Pam Houston, Michelle Huneven, and Laura Kipnis sometimes have a similar thought process or questions they addressed in their lives, which makes sense, given they are all writers. For them writing is not an occupation, but who they are; they are writers to their core. I admired their honestly, even at the times it might have been made me uncomfortable. Editor Meghan Daum said as much in her introduction (though we could have reacted to very different authors or situations). The short stories do not seek to change minds, or take a social stance, but to shed light on why each individual author is childless - even for those who have contemplated having children.
It is a book that might be polarizing, but I feel if you choose to read it, it should be from a place from interest, devoid of prejudice or judgment, even the "finally people who are similar to me" attitude. If you can do this then you will take away a good deal from the book. Otherwise, insert "trigger warning here." You may get angry, annoyed, and insert yourself into their lives. Though all writers, they are all unique individuals and their stories are entirely their own: from troubled upbringings, to anxieties, never the right time, to complete and utter honestly about never wanting children. It is enriching to see into such a personal part of their lives and I thank them for sharing their stories.