Hell Is Other Parents
And Other Tales of Maternal Combustion
By Deborah Copaken Kogan
(Hyperion, Paperback, 9781401340810, 224pp.)
Publication Date: August 2009
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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.
Deborah Copaken Kogan worked as a photojournalist from 1988 to 1992, and her photographs appeared in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, L'Express, Liberation and Geo, among many other international newspapers and magazines. She spent the next six years in TV journalism, including a time as a producer for Dateline NBC. Her writings have appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times and elsewhere. She lives in New York City with her husband, Paul Kogan, and their three children.
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
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
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 The End of Him
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
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