After a battle for rights that reportedly included such power players as Warner Bros., Amazon, and Netflix, MGM has acquired the rights to Wendesday Martin’s controversial book Primates of Park Avenue.
The book—which shot to the #2 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List for combined print/ebook upon its June 2 release—is Martin’s inside take on the closed world of wealthy Manhattan motherhood on the Upper East Side. EW’s Leah Greenblatt wrote in her review that Martin goes further than simply observing these women from the outside, “anointing herself a sort of intrepid urban explorer—Jane Goodall infiltrating New York City’s gilded tribe of ruthless, leather-leggings-clad Upper East Side Mommies by bravely becoming one of them.”
Martin earned her PhD in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from Yale, and leaned on this academic background while writing the book. Despite its bestseller status and movie deal, Primates has seen plenty of controversy since its release, which the New York Post outlines here—Martin only lived on the Upper East Side for three years, though her fieldwork spanned six years, and she frequently makes reference to places like a Physique 57 fitness studio and a Ladurée pastry shop that didn’t yet exist at the time she was ostensibly visiting them. Martin explains these perceived discrepancies on her blog:
Primates of Park Avenue describes my personal experiences on the Upper East Side both while I lived there and while my children were in programs there over a period of six years.
Potentially identifying details were altered, including some timeframes left unspecified and chronologies adjusted, in order to protect the identities of others and to explore issues by topic.
Simon & Schuster is adding a clarifying note to the ebook and subsequent print editions about this common writing technique.
Motherhood and wealth have always been hot button topics in New York City and around the world and I’m glad to have started a robust conversation about that!
Primates’ publisher, Simon & Schuster, said it will include a “clarifying note” in future editions of the book to explain that “some of the memoir’s details and chronologies were changed.”
CORRECTION: This post has been updated to include Martin’s explanations for the book’s perceived timeline errors, which can be attributed to standard practices in memoir writing: Changing dates and certain details to protect the identities of those involved.