Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir by Wednesday MartinPrimates of Park Avenue: A Memoir by Wednesday Martin

Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir

byWednesday Martin

Paperback | May 31, 2016

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An instant #1 New York Times bestseller, Primates of Park Avenue is an “amusing, perceptive and…deliciously evil” (The New York Times Book Review) memoir of the most secretive and elite tribe—Manhattan’s Upper East Side mothers.

When Wednesday Martin first arrives on New York City’s Upper East Side, she’s clueless about the right addresses, the right wardrobe, and the right schools, and she’s taken aback by the glamorous, sharp-elbowed mommies around her. She feels hazed and unwelcome until she begins to look at her new niche through the lens of her academic background in anthropology. As she analyzes the tribe’s mating and migration patterns, childrearing practices, fetish objects, physical adornment practices, magical purifying rituals, bonding rites, and odd realities like sex segregation, she finds it easier to fit in and even enjoy her new life. Then one day, Wednesday’s world is turned upside down, and she finds out there’s much more to the women who she’s secretly been calling Manhattan Geishas.

“Think Gossip Girl, but with a sociological study of the parents” (, Wednesday’s memoir is absolutely “eye-popping” (People). Primates of Park Avenue lifts a veil on a secret, elite world within a world—the strange, exotic, and utterly foreign and fascinating life of privileged Manhattan motherhood.
Wednesday Martin is an American author who grew up in Michigan and received a doctorate in comparative studies from Yale University in 1996. Martin taught cultural studies and literature at Yale, The New School for Social Research and Baruch College. She worked in qualitative market research and advertising for several years. She is a ...
Title:Primates of Park Avenue: A MemoirFormat:PaperbackDimensions:272 pages, 8.38 × 5.5 × 0.7 inPublished:May 31, 2016Publisher:Simon & SchusterLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1476762716

ISBN - 13:9781476762715


Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fun and witty I'm not usually a fan of non-fiction, but I love the way the book is written as if the author is studying a different animal species. Very witty.
Date published: 2017-11-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun Read A great read, especially if you have an interest in anthropology. Fun, witty and informative
Date published: 2017-09-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from enjoyable It was witty and enjoyable. I read after online that there was much debate about how Wednesday Martin's book included exaggerations and was not representative of all upper east-siders. While that may be the case, it was still a fun read to see how different the lives of the ultra-rich are in NYC.Where there is smoke, there must be fire.
Date published: 2017-06-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Took some time to get into and I found I was skipping a lot of parts (too much details in the field study areas) but was an interesting first-hand look into that word.
Date published: 2017-02-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hilarious and witty Love how the author compared native tribes to the women of New York. It's a fascinating look behind the power, beauty and wealth of the upper east side - but with a touch of sarcasm and a lot of wit.
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun and Fascinating As an amateur enthusiast of urban/current anthropology Primates of Park Avenue is a read I would whole-heartedly suggested to any new mother or avid watcher of those 'Real Housewives' series. Giving you the view into what is required to survive in the wilds of Upper East Side Manhattan, Wednesday Martin informs us of the pack mentality of the troop of immaculately groomed women who strive daily to adhere to their species' expectations. While most who read this will find it a fun little read for the weekend (it's not an overly large book) I found it to be a most enlightening look at some of my own and others' behaviours in my own tribe and city; the day to day moments of understanding between 2 passersby, and with it came an appreciation of my own tribes ways and methods of co-existing. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-12-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Interesting read. Some details were drawn-out but overall good book. Gives perspective on how people live in the Upper East Side. #plumreview
Date published: 2016-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! I loved this book - Wednesday tells it like it is and doesn't spare us! It's so refreshing to read about the UES from an outsider/average joe perspective! Thank you Wednesday for this book! #plumreview
Date published: 2016-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! I loved this book because Wednesday tells it like it is, and isn't afraid to include all the details. These are the kinds of authors I admire! Thank you Wednesday!
Date published: 2016-11-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting read The author had a vantage point that made this an interesting read. Sure, the Birkin chapter was annoying but the book redeemed itself in the final three chapters.
Date published: 2015-06-24

Read from the Book

Primates of Park Avenue CHAPTER ONE Comme Il Faut Fieldnotes Environment and ecology The island is a geographically, culturally, and politically isolated landmass roughly seven times longer than it is wide. The climate is temperate, with relatively harsh winters and extremely hot and humid summers that, in recent years, approximate tropical conditions due in part to two centuries of intensive land clearing and industrial practices. The island’s longitude is 40°43'42" N, and its latitude is 73°59'39" W. Island dwellers live in a state of ecological release—resources such as food and water are abundant and easily procured; disease is minimal; there is no predation. Living in a niche characterized by literally unprecedented abundance, untethered from hardship, the wealthiest islanders are able to invest heavily in each and every offspring and to invent elaborate and complex social codes and rites, the observance of which are time-, labor-, and resource-intensive. In spite of the extraordinary abundance of food, water, and other resources island-wide, there is persistent and marked poverty in some areas. The isolation, extreme population density, and vast discrepancies in wealth, as well as traditionally gender-scripted roles and behaviors around child rearing and work, may inform and in part account for many of the strange-seeming behaviors of the wealthiest island dwellers, discussed in the following pages. Island dwellings The island’s inhabitants are primarily vertical dwellers, making their homes directly on top of one another in structures of finely ground stone. Living in these “vertical villages” allows inhabitants to maximize physical space, a precious commodity in short supply on their tiny and remarkably densely populated island. In some locations, particularly where the wealthiest islanders reside, these vertical villages are notably restrictive, with a secretive “council of elders” presiding over who will and will not be allowed to live there. Scouting out a dwelling is one of the most labor-intensive practices of the female members of the tribe I studied—most often the task is undertaken by primaparas. Almost without exception, “dwelling shamans” guide these women in their quests for homes—which are also quests for identity. The shamans offer specialized knowledge, counsel, and emotional support throughout this costly, protracted, and painstaking initiation process. Geographical origins of islanders Island dwellers have heterogeneous geographical origins. Many dispersed at sexual maturity from their natal groups in distant, smaller, and even rural villages, immigrating to the island for enhanced professional, sexual, and marital prospects. Other island dwellers are indigenous; their status is higher than that of the nonautochthonous residents, particularly if they were raised in certain corners of the island or attended particular “learning huts” while growing up there. Beliefs of and about islanders Whether they are autochthonous or émigrés, island dwellers are believed by outsiders, many visitors, and their countrymen to harbor haughty attitudes about themselves and their island. They are known throughout the land for their brusqueness; intellectual gifts; dazzling adornment practices; and acumen in barter, trade, and negotiation. Increasingly, their trade is in invisible ideas and abstractions, enhancing the sense that they have privileged knowledge and even “magical” powers. The journeys and tribulations of those who move to the island and struggle to succeed there are the stuff of legend, literally—there exists a long oral and written tradition about the supposedly indomitable and unique spirit of people who are able to “make it there.” Once they have established themselves on the island, it is said, they can “make it anywhere.” Resource acquisition and distribution On the whole, the island dwellers are the richest in the entire nation, living untethered from the environmental constraints that have such a profound impact on life-history courses in other habitats worldwide. Obtaining adequate calories for themselves and their children, the main ecological challenge to parents worldwide and throughout our evolutionary prehistory, is a simple given for wealthy island dwellers. However, as in many industrial and postindustrial societies, fathers of the very traditionally gender-scripted tribe I studied tend to focus on the job of provisioning their wives and families with less-tangible resources, including financial, social, and cultural capital. While many island-dwelling females work outside the home, during the childbearing and child-rearing years, many wealthy female islanders believe it is their “role” to remain home with their children, where they are often assisted by alloparents—individuals other than parents who take on parental roles. They call these alloparents “housekeepers,” “nannies,” and “caregivers.” Island organization The island is organized, in the minds of island dwellers, into four quadrants: Up, Down, Right, and Left. The “Up” and “Down” areas are believed to be markedly distinct—with Up being preferable for raising children and Down being considered primarily a place for pre-reproductives, cultural “outsiders,” feasting, and ecstatic nighttime rites. Islanders further divide their island into left and right hemispheres. “Left” and “Right,” like “Up” and “Down,” are believed to have different—even polar opposite—characteristics. Left is believed to be more casual and progressive, in contrast to Right’s perceived formality and conservatism.

Editorial Reviews

"I absolutely loved this memoir and could not put it down! It's incredibly clever; Martin uses anthropology to analyze Upper East mothers, and it's astonishingly illuminating. Somehow, Martin manages to be caustically perceptive but also generous, funny, moving, and erudite all at the same time. This is one of the most fascinating books I've read in a long time."