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Primates of Park Avenue

3.12  ·  Rating details ·  14,813 ratings  ·  1,801 reviews
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 anth
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published June 2nd 2015 by Simon Schuster
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Liz it is supposedly non fiction, however see the New York Post Review and the disclaimer added by the publisher. I personally think it is more aptly cate…moreit is supposedly non fiction, however see the New York Post Review and the disclaimer added by the publisher. I personally think it is more aptly categorized as a fictionalized memoir. (less)

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Chantel Worley McCray
This woman moved to the Upper East Side from Downtown in her head to toe Marc Jacobs and realized it was going to be SO HARD to find an apartment on Park Avenue so her kids could go to a good public school!

She pretended she was studying the mega rich & superficial stay-at-home moms of her new neighborhood from an anthropological viewpoint, but really she was dying to fit in and be just like them. But it was SO HARD not having as much money as everyone around her! She could only spend $600 on a
Petra X thanks everyone for their good wishes xxx
The author calls models who strut the streets like they think they are somebody, 'professional narcissists'. I love that. Best quote in the book.

However she went on for a whole chapter on the importance of owning an Hermes Birkin handbag if you want to prove you have "arrived" gaining acceptance from some women and causing envy in others. She says all women want one but one woman in a million pretends they don't. Actually they don't. I don't like celebrity accessories. The Kardashians, the Beckh
May 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: nyc, culture
I am baffled by the positives review of this book. Its observations of the uber-rich upper-east side Manhattanites arent particularly insightful, the details generally uninteresting and the framing device of an urban Jane Goodall, which has been so praised, felt forced, pretentious and a transparent effort to distance the author from the culture she's cataloging. ...more
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it

Author Wednesday Martin

Living a sumptuous life among the millionaires and billionaires of Manhattan's Upper East Side may sound like a dream come true, but it's tougher than you might think. Wednesday Martin learned this when she moved to upper Manhattan with her husband and toddler son, thinking this was a great place to raise a family. Martin immersed herself in the world of 'Upper East Side mommies' for six years, and relates her experiences in this book.

Martin, who grew up in Michigan, is un
Miranda Reads
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Monkey see, Monkey do

We follow Wednesday Martin as she first struggles and then excels at fitting in with the other rich New York Mommies.

It's a jungle out there.

If we take all her musings at face value, she's lucky to have survived so long with such peers. There's far too many unsaid rules and regulations for any sane person.

Yet, as she describes it, no matter who our peers are, we always feel the need to fit in. It's a primate thing. And thus with that justification, we watch as Martin begin
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
It would be easy to trash Primates of Park Avenue because it deals with the crazy neurotic world of the over privileged in the Upper East Side in Manhattan. But I really enjoyed reading this book. It's a clever concept, and it's well executed. Originally from the mid-west, the author marries an obviously high income producing man who was born and bred in Manhattan. After her first son is born and they move to the Upper East Side, the author sets off to understand the world she now lives in so th ...more
Jun 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing free access to an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I don't think it's ever been much of a secret that very rich people do some crazy shit, and these days, even with assiduous attempts at avoidance, it seems even more difficult than ever to escape the endless bombardment of information about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. And yet -- TV shows and books like this one somehow still keep showing up. I can only assume that means the
Elyse  Walters
Jun 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Looking for a new audiobook on my app from the library while being out on the trail, I came across this book.
I had remembered seeing the cover - but couldn't for the life of me remember what it was about - good - bad - or indifferent.
So...I just downloaded and began listening.

Aw... It's a memoir. "Ok, good deal....I've had good luck with audiobook's that are memoirs". I'm thinking, "I've experienced audiobooks can enhance a memoir".

I enjoyed the prologue and the first chapter. I was engaged in
Doris Dvonch
Jul 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book made me practice how long I can sustain an eye-roll. Whole chapters are devoted to exercise classes (Barre vs. SoulCycle), mean mommies, getting a Birkin Bag, "settling" for a Park Avenue condo - all told with no irony and no humor. I was expecting some juicy tidbits a-la Nanny Diaries but all I got was a mindless plea to feel sorry for the ultra-rich white privileged women of the UES. The book bills itself a pop anthropological study which in the end kind of infuriated me because the ...more
Linda Robertson
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Premise of the book was interesting, but I found the author to be rather precious. She went "native" early on and it was difficult to maintain the illusion of being an anthropologist, studying the very wealthy.

I had little sympathy for any of the characters including the author. Women who must depend on their husband's status, to determine their own status is so over. Didn't we get past that in the 1970's? Can't believe they still exist. The point of the book is that they are terribly stressed o
Ivonne Rovira
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Trained as an anthropologist and primatologist, author Wednesday Martin turned her sights on the other mothers she met in her sojourn on New York City’s ritzy Upper East Side. While this nonfiction book has a twee beginning, it quickly morphs into a fascinating look at the social-climbing, sleek, entitlement-fueled Queen Bees of what’s long been called the Silk Stocking District.

When I read The Nanny Diaries, I had thought that the social-climbing, self-centered mother in that book was an outli
Aug 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
Intrigued by the premise, I was excited to read this. Halfway through I found myself irritated with everything about it. I took a break, then got back to it and had to force myself through, while ignoring animal kingdom references. After reading articles about falsities in the book as well and learning that the author has never actually been to the referenced animal tribes, the book lost all credibility.
May 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
I read this after reading "How the Other Half Lives", as a palette cleanser.

Provides good descriptions of the anxieties faced by the uberwealthy housewives of the UES.

The author, who has a PhD from Yale in Sociology - a fact she brings up several times in the book, and further reminds us about it with her long, drawn out comparisons between UES housewives and various indigenous tribes and primates she studied at school.

She goes overboard with the comparisons.

I found myself, throughout the book,
Mandy Jacobs
Jul 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
first things first - take this book out of the library because i assure you, the author does NOT need your money. wednesday martin is a social climber, plain and simple. and if she had written a straight forward memoir of her efforts, then this book would be a lot easier to stomach. but instead, she insists on having your sympathy for the poor little rich girl who isn't allowed to sit at the cool table at lunch. her grasping attempt at anthropology is laughable at best, and does nothing to bolst ...more
Mrs. Palmer
Jun 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, 2015
This book did not really live up to the hype. An entire chapter on a Birkin bag-yes, that was real, and it was boring. The author tries to make the book more legit by throwing in references to ape studies and primate studies and anthropology, but it mostly distracted from what was a very middle of the road memoir about being very rich. It was a glimpse into a world I don't envy, nor care about. Perhaps the most bizarre part of all: the author, while trying to describe how she was trying to fit i ...more
An interesting peek into NYC's elite UES, told by a former middle-class anthropologist who married a wealthy native. Warning: be prepared to endure one entire chapter -- that's 28 pages -- on the pitiful pursuit of a Hermes Birkin. Note: UES extravagance is far more understandable than the author's rather dubious morality. Take this quote, made after discovering married folks never dally with the opposite sex :

"What, I wondered, was the point of life and having a body you worked on like crazy i
This is a memoir of life on Park Avenue, the most exclusive address in New York City. Wednesday Martin looks at the life there, primarily of wealthy mothers, through the lens of an anthropologist. She uses her research into various cultures of animals and humans to make sense of the world in which she lives.

Martin moves from the more relaxed, creativity-focused downtown scene with her family and young son to the far more conservative and competitive (as well as extraordinarily privileged) Upper
Jordana Horn Gordon
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I wanted to loathe this book, as poor/made-up reporting pisses me off to no end. The bit that showed up in the NYT piece/excerpt piquing everyone's interest (the "wife bonus") is, in my opinion, nothing more than a sexy distortion of the truth: i-banker types get most of their take-home pay in bonuses at the end of the year, and therefore their stay-at-home wives also get/are 'given,' depending on your perspective on marital relations, a part of that bonus at year's end. So that bothered me. If ...more
Lauren Cecile
Jun 05, 2016 rated it liked it
I rate this 2.5 stars.
I assumed it would be fluff but I needed something from the Hudson News store to get me through a four-hour plane ride. It was mildly entertaining and I liked the originality of viewing UES (Upper East Side) women in NYC through the lens of a trained anthropologist.
The parallels between apes, ethnotribes, etc. was well-done. Still, I expected a bit more insight than the author gave. This is probably because she was one of the UES species being studied so she lacked object
Christina Mitchell
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
I am happy I will never be rich. Seriously. If this book has even a shred of truth to it, we need to wall off the Upper East Side of New York and let the primates eat each other (which I've no doubt they'd be more than willingly happy to do as long as it didn't blow their diets - though I'm guessing there are not many calories in the carcass of an extremely privileged, injected, siliconed, tucked, anorexic nincompoop). I gave it two stars because it did speak a lot to the hazards of conducting p ...more
Ahhh, how do I describe this book? Another Goodreads user has once said that you cannot write a great memoir if you're in the thick of your situation. That definitely applies here. Author moves from downtown to the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where the uber-wealthy, including her husband's entire family, live. (HINT: Her husband is fabulously wealthy and well-connected. Totally unlike you or me.) She pretends that she's not like the other neighborhood mommies as she observes them and their var ...more
Jun 30, 2015 rated it did not like it
I literally had to push my way through this book. A whole chapter about a purse? Talking about fitting in with these people, when all she desperately wants to do is become one of them? If she was richer she would be as mean as the alphas are.
Oct 27, 2016 rated it liked it
This interesting anthropological look at the very wealthy of New York City was fun to read. Looking at the seemingly odd behavior of well-to-do mothers in the exclusive Upper East Side through a sociologist's lens was the best part of the book.

Unfortunately, there simply was not enough of the science. Most of the book was about the author's attempts at fitting in with this new 'tribe' of hers, first by observation and then by deciphering the unusual social protocols in her new circle of friends.
Irmak Ertuna-howison
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
i will leave the appalling subject matter (which is ironically the only appealing thing about this book) aside and just comment on the writing itself: it is neither a pop anthropology nor a well-written memoir. The analogies of glam SAMs with primates & other tribes are so weak, there are not enough testimonies to take this "anthropological" journey through, it is not personal enough, nor is it objective. in other words, this would be a good beach read but should not be taken seriously by any st ...more
Gina *loves sunshine*
this is one of those books you read because you want to learn a little bit more about the female behavior of the wealthy upper east side New Yorkers. It's interesting, comical, nauseating, etc etc. read it for what it is....kinda like watching the housewives or whatever else represents a tiny speck of the population....yet entertains us! Nobody knows who Wednesday Martin is and she doesn't really share the real side of her life in this autobiography. She spends most of the book making fun of the ...more
Jul 04, 2015 rated it did not like it
As any sort of anthropological study, the book fails. Wednesday Martin lives this realty; she is in the thick of this nonsense. She also seemed to feel that she was being "swept away" into this lifestyle; she had no control so she might as well conform. The upper east side mommy struggle is real. Poor thing. It all really made me feel sick. The wealth, the egos, the jealousy, the competition. Not sure why I read this book. Thankfully in the midst of something else with actual merit and beauty. ...more
Heidi The Reader
May 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoirs, non-fiction
Primates of Park Avenue is a glimpse into the life of the privileged mothers of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It's weird, otherworldly, and off-putting, at first, but then as Wednesday struggled more and more to fit in and, ultimately, thrive, I found myself cheering for her. I can see how this book isn't for everyone though. If you don't like reality television or the details of petty power plays between ridiculously rich socialites, you may want to read another memoir.

As a mother myself, I
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
When I read Jon Krakauer's book "Into Thin Air" I thought to myself, "I have no desire to *ever* climb Mount Everest." I had similar feeling upon reading Wednesday Martin's new book "Primates of Park Avenue" -- despite the luster, I have no desire to *ever* live on Manhattan's Upper East Side (not that it's even in the realm of possibility).

Part memoir, part anthropological/sociological research, "The Primates of Park Avenue" is Martin's look at what life is like for the uber-rich of Manhattan's
KL (Cat)
Mar 30, 2015 rated it liked it
I actually have no idea what to rate this? Thought it was chicklit but nope, 3/4ths of it was like from a social anthropologist's notebook... a memoir?

Three stars because I didn't hate or love it.


It goes into great detail what the upper middle/upper class is like living on Upper East Side, so if that's your cup of tea, go at it.

You also get to understand why people say that a six figure income is not enough.
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Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., is a social researcher and the author of Stepmonster: a New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do (2009). She is a regular contributor to Psychology Today ( and blogs for the Huffington Post and on her own web site ( She has appeared as a stepparenting expert on NPR, the BBC Newshou ...more

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“Access to your husband's money might feel good. But the comparative study of human society and our primate relatives shows that such access can't buy you the power you get by being the one who earns it. And knowing this, or even having an inkling of it, just sensing the disequilibrium, the abyss that separates your version of power from your man's, could keep a thinking woman up at night.” 4 likes
“One of the biggest shifts in the last decade of anthropology, one of the discoveries in the field that has changed everything, is the realization that we evolved as cooperative breeders. Bringing up kids in a nuclear family is a novelty, a blip on the screen of human family life. We never did child rearing alone, isolated and shut off from others, or with just one other person, the child’s father. It is arduous and anomalous and it’s not the way it “should” be. Indeed, for as long as we have been, we have relied on other females—kin and the kindly disposed—to help us raise our offspring. Mostly we lived as Nisa did—in rangy, multifamily bands that looked out for one another, took care of one another, and raised one another’s children. You still see it in parts of the Caribbean today, where any adult in a small town can tell any kid to toe the line, and does, and the kids listen. Or in Hawaii, where kids and parents alike depend on hanai relationships—aunties and uncles, indispensible honorary relations who take a real interest in an unrelated child’s well-being and education. No, it wasn’t fire or hunting or the heterosexual dyad that gave us a leg up, anthropologists now largely concur; it was our female Homo ancestors holding and handling and caring for and even nursing the babies of other females. That is in large part why Homo sapiens flourished and flourish still, while other early hominins and prehominins bit the dust. This shared history of interdependence, of tending and caring, might explain the unique capacity women have for deep friendship with other women. We have counted on one another for child care, sanity, and survival literally forever. The loss of your child weighs heavily on me in this web of connectedness, because he or she is a little bit my own.” 2 likes
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