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Amateur Hour: Motherhood in Essays and Swear Words

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  582 ratings  ·  118 reviews
An emotionally honest, arresting, and funny collection of essays about motherhood and adulthood...

“Being a mother is a gift.”

Where’s my receipt?

Welcome to essayist Kimberly Harrington’s poetic and funny world of motherhood, womanhood, and humanhood, not necessarily in that order. It’s a place of loud parenting, fierce loving, too much social media, and occasional inner mon
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 1st 2018 by Harper Perennial
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I wrote this book.
I am def gonna give it 5 stars.
What am I, an idiot?
Not looking for an actual answer.
Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ Campbell

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Full disclosure, I received an advanced reader's copy of this from the Goodreads Giveaways - my first win in years! - so I'm really excited about that. Hard copy ARCs are so fun.

This ended up becoming a #StealthRead because I have the flu, and my eyes were hurting so much I couldn't look at a computer screen, so I took a nap and then I read physical copies in bed instead of ebooks (which is how you know I'm feeling truly wretched, becaus
Kate Rope
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I mean, I love, love, love it. I am a 45-year-old mother to two who writes books for a living while also writing other things that actually pay money and being a full-time mom. WHICH IS TO SAY I DO NOT READ BOOKS ANYMORE. At least not all the way through. Usually not more than a quarter of the way through. I'm lucky if I read one essay in a New Yorker. I can barely make it through NY mag's Approval Matrix anymore. I want to start a catalog club, because those I finish. My god, ...more
Apr 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Amateur Hour is a collection of essays on motherhood and adulting that is raw and laugh out loud funny. This collection covers everything from lighthearted topics such as meal trains and bake sales, to tough subjects such as miscarriage and marriage troubles. Kimberly Harrington attacks these subjects with humor and wit, leaving the reader feeling like you just sat down with your best girlfriends. Like most essay collections, there are some that are better than others. By the end of the book I w ...more
”We can never know what’s coming. We can’t know what’s heading our way a year from now; we can’t know it just for tomorrow. I look around and think constantly, We are all fragile; we are all strong.

Some odd things have happened while I have been reading this book. First of all, the title of the ebook on Goodreads has changed to one of the essays within this volume. Granted this essay is probably one of Harrington’s most famous, “Please don’t get murdered at school today,” but that change is weir
Jul 24, 2018 rated it liked it
wildly uneven personal essay collection. Some funny/observant [e.g., extended take on getting interrupted while working at home as a freelancer with small kids], some devastating [her miscarriage], some touching [a really kind appreciation of her husband, who otherwise I imagine might have some trouble reading parts of this book about their fragile relationship, and some other Dads in their circle who take the kids camping each summer]......

......mixed in with a good deal of bitterness and almos
Sarahbeth Chargois
Jun 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
Not a usual book I gravitate toward, and I’m not sure why I felt compelled to pick up this one, but it was just not my cup of tea. Harrington comes off as crass, self-absorbed, narcissistic, and the roll your eyes kind of feminist that complains a lot but does very little. Hard pass.
Amy Lafayette
May 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was a hilarious dose of birth control.
Rebecca McPhedran
This book is pretty spectacular in its brutal honesty and hilarity.

Harrington is the master at making her readers ponder in one essay, while laughing in the next. She is a woman (like many of us), stuck in the middle. The middle of tasing children, the middle of her marriage, and the dreaded middle age. She approaches love and loss with amazing clarity and strength.

Let me just end with a few great quotes from a few of her essays.

“If you have grandparents, visit them. Go because no one will e
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm not a mother myself, but you don't have to be to enjoy this book. Kimberly's commentary on womanhood, motherhood, and adulthood (an especially the marriage of all three) will ring true to any woman who picks up this book. It's relatable, funny, and at times will push your emotional buttons, bringing up feelings of nostalgia for your own childhood (if you don't have kids) or your kids' childhood (if you do). Kimberly says the things we've all thought or felt but haven't said, either because w ...more
Hailey Radvillas
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I cried at the end of this book. I also laughed out loud at other parts. While the author isn't a "new" mother, she covers that time period, and later down the road, showcasing the push and pull that is being a mother. I've never seen my own feelings written out so well by another person. I would hope anyone who knows me would read this book to better understand the struggle I've had in becoming a mother.
Meghan Lyons
May 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Started out reading this one essay at a time...generally before bed. Some of these were laugh out loud funny, and then at some point they turned serious. Almost too close to home. I ended up reading the last 100 pages or so in the course of a day during quarantine. Probably not the best thing to read when you’re depressed at home. Regardless, the writing was good and it was a very accurate picture of various phases of motherhood.
Susanne Mills
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely hilarious, fantastic bunch of poems. I am not a poetry reader at all but this appealed to me. I have not laughed so much at a book for ages, it’s a completely honest and funny book. It details life from baby to teenagers, from family trips to marriage and death. Brilliant reading :)
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Would highly recommend it to future mothers, people who know or knew mothers, or anyone interested in an in-depth perspective about the potential realities of motherhood from an outspoken, flawed woman.
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow. What a book. It’s a love letter to her children. It’s an ode to her family members. It’s funny and thoughtful. I’ve ear marked my copy for my favorite essays and quotes to reflect on again. I really enjoyed this book.
Shweta Ganesh Kumar
Mar 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
It was everything I wanted it to be. Real, gritty, funny, emotional and thought-provoking.
A couple of essays seemed like they might have done better elsewhere, but otherwise I’d highly recommend this to moms and dads alike.
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Listen when I say there are portions of this book that I absolutely loved - I mean it. On the flip side, there are also segments/sections of this book that are forgettable. I'm still giving this book high marks because the good parts are THAT good! My favorite section of the book was the section titled "Vows" - What an emotional roller coaster! Having said that, you should be in the right mind set to read this book in order to enjoy it. The author is crass, honest and erratic in the the most won ...more
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: funny-memoirs
Kimberly Harrington is freaking hilarious. I laughed so hard at times, I almost forgot how massively sleep deprived I am from raising a newborn. Yay, motherhood.
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Outstanding!! This book made me laugh, cry, and laugh until I cried and almost hyperventilated. When I picked it up, I expected it to be funny; I didn’t expect it to be so touching. Hands down the best perspective on motherhood that I’ve read.
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This cracks open motherhood and spills its guts onto 300 or so extremely readable pages. Endlessly quotable.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I laughed, cried, and most importantly I feel so much less alone when trying to pretend I have things in common with other parents, feel invisible as a woman over 40, or try to balance conflicting feelings of fierce love for my kids with disillusionment about motherhood.
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Amateur Hour was an unexpected treat--gripping from the first chapter, heartfelt, gritty, full of surprises. It is a book about motherhood, but also marriage, generations of family, and the ups and downs of life itself. I could have done without a few of the chapters, but I plan to pass my copy along because I know it will bring others the same laughter and tears it brought to me.
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you have mommy friends on the interwebs, chances are you’ve clicked on one of Kimberly Harrington’s viral parenting essays: “Job Description for the Dumbest Job Ever” (e.g., “This position manages to be of the utmost importance and yet somehow also the least visible and/or respected in the entire organization”), “I Am the One Woman Who Has It All” (e.g., “I have kids who have forced me to do everything in my life with greater efficiency and the professional assumption that I’m now less effici ...more
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I hadn't heard of this book before spotting it in the "new arrivals" section of our local library. My 3-year-old daughter helped me choose it from a few books that piqued my interest. I'm so glad she chose this one.

Within the first 60 pages, I had already both cried and laughed out loud. My favorite essay was "Let's Have the Wedding Later," which I immediately shared with my husband of a decade and texted to two close friends - one married longer than us and another engaged to be married next su
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book, and actually finished reading it in a week, unliked the stack of 6 other books I've had in progress since my baby was born 6 months ago.

As a very new mom myself, I appreciated her perspective about how quickly kids grow up and it reminded me to cherish these moments because they won't be accessible to me forever. Kids stop wanting to hold mom's hand at age 12? Sad to think about already. Her insights as both a working and stay at home parent were an interestin
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Amateur Hour is a collection of essays written mostly about parenthood and the struggles of moms who try to have it all. The tones of the writings vary greatly, and you never know what you’re going to get with each piece of work. At times, she laments about participation trophies, school bake sales, and Mother’s Day, using profanity and bordering on irreverent. However, she also writes candidly and profoundly about her marriage, body image, having a miscarriage, and talking to her kids about sch ...more
Maura Muller
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book and want to know why I couldn't have a neighbor like Kimberly Harrington? Especially when my son was little.

I read this book during a week when I got the following 2 messages from my 19 year old son who is a camp counselor this summer at an "adventure camp".

The first one laced with many swear words basically said, " Oh my God, now I know what you and Dad went through raising me. I'm SO sorry. I love you guys." Kiddo, you have NO idea! Kimberly Harrington has an idea
Emma Sedlak
Jun 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved the first third of this book, but somewhere towards the middle, Harrington’s humour started to grate on me. To be fair, I’m in the midst of reading many collections of non-fiction narrative on parenting, and I’m less than four-months into the infant hazing zone, myself. When I was frustrated with the tone of Harrington’s narration, it’s because I felt like she portrayed parenthood with an irreverent perspective, which is exactly the opposite of the frame I’ve adopted in order to get me t ...more
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
omph. Harrington is about a decade ahead of me in the kids department, but boy did she capture the phase I'm in (and was in...and will be in). With much candor, grace, and wit, she identified many of the feelings I've had/are having/probably will have about being a parent, a married person, a mom, a working mom, a mom who got laid off, and so many other mom-roles I've had... And she actually put them into words worth following (so I don't have to, yay!). These aren't the most elevated essays in ...more
Oct 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Kimberly Harrington worked in design, a world where appearance and packaging helps sell products, few of which you actually need, most of which are designed to play on desires and guilt and self-image which have been themselves carefully promoted and sold to you. To step away from the 'accepted' norms of neat lawns, new minivans, the PTA and the bake sales and the coffee mugs that have never ever held wine in them is subversive to some, liberating to others.

Lest you not notice the pink hand gr
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Kimberly Harrington is the author of AMATEUR HOUR (2018) and BUT YOU SEEMED SO HAPPY (2021). She’s a regular contributor and columnist for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Cut. She is also the co-founder and editor of parenting humor site RAZED (RIP).

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“We swaddled and attachment parented the shit out of those kids and yet. Apparently we should’ve been doing some attachment marriage-ing as well.” 0 likes
“You are all the joy I hope to absorb and observe, love and learn from in the years and decades to come. I have given myself over to you both in ways you will never know. And that’s okay. That’s what mothers do. I hope you will fall in love—with yourselves, with your lives, with only the people who truly deserve you. And I am beyond words and thoughts and thank-yous that you are mine.
My perfectly imperfect children.”
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