Editor Henriette Mantel shares more than a lack of children with her fellow contributors to No Kidding—all have professional backgrounds in writing and performing, most of them in comedy. Yet despite these similarities, the 37 by-turns-funny-and-poignant essays showcase a diversity of perspectives, experiences, and voices. Some women had been fairly sure since they were children themselves that they didn’t want kids, some simply never thought of it, some were always too engaged with careers they loved, some had prohibitive health issues, and several who’d been long ambivalent on the subject made sudden and ultimately unsuccessful baby-making attempts as their fertility windows were closing—the extent to which they reconciled with this outcome varies.
With most of the essayists being professional funny ladies (Margaret Cho, Wendy Liebman, and Merrill Markoe among them), I expected to be entertained reading No Kidding—and indeed I was. At the same time, there is a distinct existential weight to the collection, given that the core issue is, of course, the creation of life. Some writers also examine complex or difficult family relationships, especially the ones they have with their mothers.
Whether witty or reflective, these essays display their authors’ commitment to being true to themselves as architects of lives that are rich and full—even without offspring.