Lit Guide: All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation, by Rebecca Traister

   Literature

Rebecca Traister’s latest book has made waves, garnering excellent reviews from renowned publications: The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, and The Guardian, to name a few. Traister has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and currently works as a writer, editor, and journalist. I should note that she has no background in the social sciences.

 

All the Single Ladies presents an investigation of the sexual, economic, and emotional lives of single women in America. Traister believed this book would be a work of contemporary journalism, but ended up presenting a social science-tinged study of New York women. In her research, Traister discovered that the phenomenon of the single woman was not new; in fact, its history is complex, enlightening, and far-reaching.

 

Inevitably, Traister’s book falls short of its purpose: to provide an inside look at the lives of America’s single women. The women featured in the text are overwhelmingly white, young, middle-class, and childless. Her choice to omit older women, poor women, women of color, and single mothers paints a very limited view of singleness in America. To that end, Traister notes that she has personal relationships with many of the women featured. At times, it feels as though Traister wanted to simply write a book about her white, single, self-care preaching friends.

 

Though Traister includes impressive qualitative research in the portions of her book dealing with the history of singlehood, I have to question the validity of most—if not all—of her claims. She is not a social scientist, and so her data gathering method is remarkably problematic. Not only did she have a very small sample size, but there was no randomization process. There is no inclusion of survey or interview tools; as a reader, I found myself continuously believing the interview subjects were provided with leading questions.

 

Had Traister marketed this book as a look into the lives of a specific group of women, I would not have had a problem. Her writing is bland but straightforward, and the reading yielded a net-positive experience. However, the book is passed off as hard social science. I believe this practice to be incredibly dangerous; the conclusions drawn in the book may be true for her subjects, but they are in no way indicative of singlehood and womanhood in 21st century America.

 

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