Kids Today

From the August/September 2015 Print Edition

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids
edited by meghan daum
picador, 288 pages, $26

The Dadly Virtues: Adventures from the Worst Job You’ll Ever Love
edited by jonathan v. last
templeton, 192 pages, $24.95
These days it is widely assumed that a woman who doesn’t want to have children is reacting—perhaps overreacting—to damage that was done to her in her childhood,” writes novelist Pam Houston. “I can’t refute this claim with any certainty,” notes Houston in her contribution to a new collection of essays, “because the usual trifecta of abuse (alcohol, sexual, physical) did indeed define my own.” The usual trifecta? Is this way of growing up so common nowadays that we can simply place it in parentheses? Before reading Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids, I would have been reluctant to engage in such cheap psychoanalysis, but a surprising number of these childless writers seem to have had miserable upbringings—parents who beat them, parents who abandoned them, parents who showed no interest in them or who were absent for long periods or died young and left behind another parent too stricken with grief to care for children. Continue Reading »

Embattled Middle

From the January 2015 Print Edition

The New Class Conflict
by joel kotkin
telos, 230 pages, $29.95
About five years after we graduated from college a friend called me from Philadelphia. She had spent some time bouncing between San Francisco and New York working in finance and consulting, and had decided to start her own business and settle in the City of Brotherly Love. “You have to come see this place,” she announced breathlessly. “The houses are free.” Well, not quite, but the cost-of-living gap between those cities that are hubs for media, finance, and technology and those that are not is hard for any young person to ignore. Indeed, the cities in America that are growing the fastest are not those that would seem the coolest to recent college grads. Houston, Dallas, Charlotte, Orlando—these are not the destinations to which the so-called creative class aspires, and yet these are the places where more jobs are created, where housing is affordable, and, not surprisingly—perhaps as a result—where people are happiest. Continue Reading »

Interfaith, Interracial

From the November 2014 Print Edition

A few weeks ago, I found myself speaking about interfaith marriage at a Reform synagogue in a wealthy suburb of New York. I’ve given many of these talks since the publication of my book on the topic, ’Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America. During the Q & A session, a woman whose daughter had recently married a non-Jew started a familiar speech. She kept saying to me and the other audience members, “There’s nothing you can do. Your kids will go out and meet all sorts of people. They love the diversity.”“Love the diversity.” It’s an odd turn of phrase, and not entirely accurate. It’s true that many champion “diversity” as a moral ideal and social good. But it’s never entirely clear what counts as diversity. Official statements notwithstanding, for all practical purposes Asians in higher education today no longer count as “adding to diversity.” Moreover, “love” isn’t quite right either. By my reckoning, Americans are motivated more by the fear of seeming narrow or intolerant than by a desire for something as vague as “diversity.” Continue Reading »

Cherished Children

From the March 2013 Print Edition

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon Scribner, 976 pages, $37.50 At the most superficial level, raising children is about getting to the next stage: getting them to sleep through the night, to eat solid food, to give up the pacifier, to use the toilet. . . . . Continue Reading »

Poor Explanations

From the February 2012 Print Edition

Faith and Money: How Religion Contributes to Wealth and Poverty by Lisa A. Keister Cambridge, 254 pages, $27.99 In the age of Occupy Wall Street, remarking on American inequality has become our national pastime. Look at how wide the gap has grown between rich and poor. And what are the causes? . . . . Continue Reading »

A Generation Detached

From the November 2011 Print Edition

Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood by Christian Smith, with Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson, and Patricia Snell Herzog Oxford, 296 pages, $27.95 A few years ago, an intern came to me with what he no doubt thought was an exciting new idea for a piece about “the youth . . . . Continue Reading »

A More Public Yeshiva

From the January 2004 Print Edition

The investiture of a university president”that is, the ceremony in which the authority and symbols of that office are first conferred”is a celebratory occasion, but it must also be an anxious one. The responsibility for leading a large educational institution has always been tremendous, . . . . Continue Reading »