Only Child: Writers on the Singular Joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing Up Solo

Only children don’t have to share bedrooms, toys, or the backseat of a car. They don’t have to share allowances, inheritances, or their parents’ attention. But when they get into trouble, they can’t just blame their imaginary friends. In Only Child, twenty-one acclaimed writers tell the truth about life without siblings – the bliss of solitude, the ache of loneliness, and everything in between.

In this unprecedented collection, writers like Judith Thurman, Kathryn Harrison, John Hodgman, and Peter Ho Davies reflect on the single, transforming episode that defined each of them as an only child. For some it came while lurking around the edges of a friend’s boisterous family, longing to be part of the chaos. For others, it came in sterile hospital halls, while single-handedly caring for a parent with cancer. They write about the parents who raised them, from the devoted to the dismissive. They describe what it’s like to be an only child of divorce, an only because of the death of a sibling, an only who reveled in it or an only who didn’t.

In candid, poignant, and often hilarious essays, these authors – including the children of Erica Jong, Alice Walker, and Phyllis Rose – explore a lifetime of onliness. As adults searching for partners, they are faced with the unique challenge of trying to turn a longtime trio into a quartet. In deciding whether to give junior a sib, they weigh the benefits of producing the friend they never had against the fear that they will not know how to divide their love and attention among multiples. As they watch their parents age, they come face-to-face with the onus of being their family’s sole historian.

Whether you’re an only child curious about how your experiences compare to others’, the partner or spouse of an only, a parent pondering whether to stop at one, or someone with siblings who’s always wondered how the other half lives, Only Child offers a look behind the scenes and into the hearts of twenty-one smart and sensitive writers as they reveal the truth about growing up – and being a grown-up – solo.

Publisher: Harmony/Random House
Co-editor: Daphne Uviller

“Honest, insightful, entertaining.” -Time Out New York

“So what if only kids are sometimes coddled, spoiled, and a little lonelier than other kids? If the stories in this volume are any indication, they turn out great–sophisticated, sensitive, funny people, who used their extra time as only children to become very wise.” -Vanessa Grigoriadis of New York Magazine

“I hope my brother will forgive me when I say, with all honesty, that I wish I was an only so that I could have been included in this fascinating, entertaining, and groundbreaking book. Only Child is a work whose conception is as intelligent, witty, and wise as its authors. It is a terrific and timely anthology.” -John Burnham Schwartz (Author of Bicycle Days, Claire Marvel, and Reservation Road)

“In a culture that obsesses over every conceivable determinant of identity, from marital status to soft drink preference, a person’s ‘singleton’ status often goes unexamined. We ponder, needle, and envy onlys, woefully unable to articulate whether and how their childhood circumstances contributed to who they are. Finally, it seems, 21 acclaimed writers have taken on that challenging task. These essays promise to entertain and answer questions asked by every generation of parents and children; questions that today’s children will soon be asking in record numbers.” -Kaja Perina, Editor-in-Chief, Psychology Today


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