The Book Self Blog

Review by Bookish Jen

I found No Kidding to be an enjoyable and interesting read. I think most childfree women will find a lot of support and understanding within the pages of No Kidding, and I bet a lot of moms will also appreciate some of the essays. There are many ways to leave a legacy that have nothing to do with having children. . . . READ MORE

Life Without Baby

filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Kathleen Guthrie Woods, September 19, 2014

Henriette Mantel was first introduced to me as the editor of No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Motherhood. In this collection of essays, some very funny women—including Margaret Cho, Wendy Liebman, Laurie Graff, and Nora Dunn—tackle the mostly serious topic of why they opted out of having children. Their stories are in turns hilarious and raw, inspiring and heartbreaking, and they all give voice to women who are traditionally shamed for their choices. . . . READ MORE

Life – Relationships – Relationship Advice

Shamontiel Vaughn, April 1, 2014

The best entries in the book are from funny women who are worth giving high-fives to because of how matter-of-fact they are on being childless: Margaret Cho’s “I Wouldn’t Know Where to Begin,” Andrea Carla Michaels’ “Mother to No One” and Suzy Soro’s “You’ll Never Babysit in This Town (Again).”

. . .

Sex & Relationships

Nico Mara-McKay, December 16, 2013

Henriette Mantel is a comedian, actor, producer, director, and writer. She is not, however, a mother. And, despite popular opinion, that’s ok.

In No Kidding, Mantel has collected more than 30 stories from comedians, writers, and actors, including Margaret Cho, Wendy Liebman, Laurie Graff. Many are older, some are settled (or not), with partners (or not), funny women who–for a variety of reasons–opted out of motherhood. . . . READ MORE

Bitch Magazine


Joshunda Sanders, Fall 2013 issue

One of the first rules of writing is to avoid writing about the absence of things. As a result, I don’t write about weird reactions I get when people learn I don’t have children. These interactions are both overt (“You don’t have a lot of time left!”) and subtle (“Who will take care of you when you’re old?”).

The brilliance of Henriette Mantel’s anthology, No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood is that it combines smart-ass answers with touching and honest responses to these questions. . . . READ MORE

Chicago Tribune

Childless writers address choice to forgo parenthood

Heidi Stevens, September 8, 2013
Excerpt – read the full article on
At a time when women are running Lockheed Martin (Marillyn Hewson) and Yahoo (Marissa Mayer) and Germany, for Pete’s sake (Angela Merkel), I’d think having children would represent just that: a choice. One of thousands that we trust women to make for themselves, without our prying or judgment.  . . .


BUST Magazine

Book Review: No Kidding

Rated “5 boobs out of 5: OMG AMAZING”
Kim Hedges, September 3, 2013
Excerpted – read the full article on
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.  . . .


The Washington Post Blogs

She the People

Are smarter women less likely to want children?

Keli Goff, August 7, 2013

Excerpted from the full post.

Someone who would beg to differ with Crouse that forgoing motherhood means missing out on meaningful joy is comedienne Henriette Mantel. Mantel is an Emmy Award winning actress and producer and edited No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood, a collection of essays by her famous friends and fellow comediennes, all of who have chosen to remain child-free.  . . .


TIME Ideas

I Just Don’t Want A Child

Deciding not to have a kid is like saying one big no and a million little yeses

Beth Lapides, August 1, 2013

Lately, I’m really getting how much energy it takes to not do something. And how much of not doing things I’ve done and sometimes not done. Not eating. Not smoking. Not becoming my mother. Not not becoming my mother. And, most pertinently here, not having kids.

Not having kids is saying one big no. No to the same thing over and over and over. So that you can say yes to everything else.  I picked one big no and a million little yeses. I didn’t want to have to say no all the time. I’m already such a negative person. Cheerful, but negative.

If you don’t believe me, maybe you will believe Greg. Greg is the man I didn’t have children with. Some women meet a man and think This is the father of my children. I met Greg and thought, Now here’s a man I cannot have kids with. READ MORE

[Excerpted from Beth Lapides’s essay in NO KIDDING]


Library Journal

Arts & Humanities Reviews

July 2013

Excerpted – read the full review on the Library Journal website

VERDICT An entertaining and hilarious collection of essays. These writings are sometimes bittersweet and will appeal to all readers, but especially fans of women’s studies and contemporary popular culture.—Erica Swenson Danowitz, Delaware Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Media, PA

Read the review on the Library Journal’s website.


Multiple GoodReads Book Reviews

June 18, 2013

Hilarious, compelling, and inspiring, No Kidding reveals a perspective that has too long been hidden, shamed, and silenced—and celebrates an entire population of women who have decided that kids are just not right for them.

July 31, 2013

… covers a lot of ground in a remarkably humorous and touching way …

All of these women surprised me with their candor as well as the compassion and humor they brought to hot button issue.



LA VIE CHILDFREE: Talk Childfree & Beyond with Laura Carroll

… These women’s stories reflect a truth about how women end up bypassing motherhood – that it’s often not just a straight path to it happening or not.

Like so many things that evolve and unfold in life, their stories show us that often it happens as a result of many different factors, decisions, priorities, and things that happen to us in life.

Keep in mind that it represents a unique slice of the childless/childfree population – Mantel’s childless/childfree friends who went against the motherhood tide. It’s not an overall representation of the baby boomer generation of women with no children, nor is this Mantel’s intent.

The intent that stands out is to relate personal stories, inspire discussion, and impart some pearls of wisdom. And that Mantel and her friends definitely do. Here are just a few of those pearls:

“Socrates said, ‘Know thyself.’ I may not understand a lot of things … but one thing was certain to me — I was not meant to be a mother. It is the greatest thing I never did.” ~Julie Halston

“I’ve never actually wanted children, but I don’t usually think about what I don’t have, nor do I describe myself by others’ terms.” ~Andrea Carla Michaels

“To thine own self be true … those words have served me well. Although we may try, we cannot deny who we are. And we are our best when we are self-defined.” ~Judy Morgan

“…it looks like I am going to be using my life-giving skills elsewhere. I’m a natural teacher, healer, nurturer; and I’m hysterical on stage. I’ll give life, all right. I’ll create culture.” ~Vanda Mikoloski

“Occasionally, some over-extended, stressed-out friend-parent of mine utters, ‘You’re so smart you didn’t have kids.’ And you know something? They’re right. For me, it was smart. Because it’s not just accurate — or interesting — to assume everybody’s life plan looks the same.” ~Cheryl Bricker … READ MORE


BlogTalkRadio: Comedy Concepts

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Amazon review: Henriette Mantel’s No Kidding is a wonderful, uplifting collection of stories about women who each deal with life’s childless choices. Humorously written, honest … and incredible brave stories told and shared from the heart. It helps you connect with the mother in all of us whether you are a mother or not…. We all have the instincts to protect and nurture, and this book expresses how even without gestation you are whole and happy.

Radio interview with Henriette Mantel: Actress/Writer Comedy Queen

35 minutes:


Appeal-Democrat | Aiken Standard | Times Leader

No Kidding is long overdue

Thursday, May 23, 2013 | Saturday, May 25, 2013

Terri Schlichenmeyer

Does it sometimes seem as though everybody around you is pregnant? Are you a wee bit tired of talk about wee ones? Then you absolutely need to read No Kidding.

You will never feel alone in the oh-baby-no-baby department when you’re reading this book because editor Mantel has gathered the thoughts of more than three dozen child-free (and childless) women writers who are more than happy to weigh in on the subject.

Some of the stories are funny. Some fairly drip with droll. Others are militant or a little on the sad side. Together these essays show readers that choices can be made, and it’s OK that not having kids is one of them.

I really liked this book for its reflective nature and because it attempts to show all sides of the non-parenthood issue. If your mind’s made up, I think you’ll like it, too, because what’s inside No Kidding is long overdue. … READ MORE


Patricia Raskin’s Positive Living by VoiceAmerica™

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Radio interview with contributor LAURIE GRAFF

To listen to the audio podcast (22 minutes), mouse over the title BYPASSING PARENTHOOD on THIS PAGE and click PLAY.


Sunday, May 19th, 2013
on Reading Around

“Spend some time with these cool ladies. You won’t regret it.”

I cried for my disappointments. I cried for my mistakes, I cried for my losses. I was a failure as a woman. No one loved me enough to commit to me. I was embarrassed. I felt I needed to apologize for my life. I screamed at God and cried out for my mother. I was not going to “have it all.” I cried and cried and my body shook until all I could do was fall asleep… – Kathryn Rossetter

To have children or not to have children – a private reality that devils women of a certain age, and often seems to be the first thing people notice, and the last thing they stop talking about. Diving headfirst into a topic that is every bit as private and personal as your favorite sexual position – yet often times treated conversationally as fair game by friends and strangers alike – No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood drags out into the open a woman’s decision to not have children in a fresh and compelling way.

Edited by Henriette Mandel with a forward by Jennifer Coolidge, yes – Stiffler’s mom Jennifer Coolidge – I started reading No Kidding with trepidation. What would I learn about women who didn’t have children (like me), of a certain age (like me)? Would I feel better or would I feel worse? Would I feel camaraderie or would I throw my hands up in annoyance, wondering why life sometimes feels like a bad parody of bad TV? The answer is, none of the above. No Kidding illuminates the angles of the non-motherhood experience in a way that helped me feel less alone, and also made me feel lonelier than ever – sometimes all at once. I don’t always want to face my singleness – sometimes I want to run away from it and pretend it isn’t happening, but that never changes the facts. And the facts are, like the 37 women who penned essays for this book, it’s becoming more and more clear that traditional motherhood is not in the cards for me. Relationships with children and young people I do not lack. I have two delightful nieces and two rascally nephews who I love to distraction; I have bosom friends whose children I love as if they were my own; I have kids to love and there have been, and are, children in my life that I love and need, just like a partner. But my own children? My own blood and DNA and chromosomes? That I do not have.

Which makes me think No Kidding is very important. It is important to the single woman, home alone and crying under her covers after realizing that at 45 years old, life is not going to, in fact, let her have “it all”; it’s important to the husband of the woman who struggled for years to conceive before finally deciding to release herself (and him) from the hamster wheel and see what other life she could metaphorically birth. It’s important for anyone who has looked at herself in the mirror and said, “I don’t want children … do I?” or known assertively in her heart, “No, I” … READ MORE


NK contributors at the M Bar in Los Angeles, May 18, 2013

Sue Kolinsky, Andrea Carla Michaels, Wendy Liebman, Vanda Mikoloski, Betsy Salkind, and Cindy Caponera at the M Bar, Los Angeles, May 18, 2013.


Brain Pickings

Thursday, May 16, 2013

No Kidding: Women Writers and Comedians on the Choice Not to Have Children

Maria Popova

“Motherhood Personality Disorder is a complex, interfamilial compulsion fueled by estrogen, culture, religion, and the Family Values Industrial Complex.”

Mother’s Day has come and gone, and with it history’s finest letters of motherly advice. But while most people have a mother or mother-figure to associate with the holiday, far fewer than half are a mother or mother-figure, placing the occasion on a spectrum from irrelevance to alienation and discomfort for them. Those of us who have chosen not to have children harbor particular unease around the implicit cultural value judgment embedded in this holiday — after all, what does it say about a culture when its only national holiday celebrating womanhood celebrates women’s uterine capacity or adoptive aspirations?

In No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood, comedy writer Henriette Mantel rounds up a troupe of female entertainers and authors whose essays explore various facets of what it means to be happily childless — or, as one contributor aptly puts it, “child-free.” Most women desisted from motherhood by their own volition, and some by nature’s, by way of reproductive health issues and painful surgeries, but all share a contentment with the final product of not reproducing. And though some of the essays hang dangerously on the precipice of defensiveness and apologism, perhaps this is due to their authors’ genre rather than gender — great comedy, after all, relies heavily on self-derision.

In the foreword, actress and comedian Jennifer Coolidge, with equal parts heart, humor and humility — a trifecta that recurs across the essays — points her inner radar to a lifelong inability to multitask as a tell-tale sign that motherhood is beyond her abilities:

I knew my limitations at a young age. I was very aware of my inability to multitask by age five. I admitted this to my mother when I came in from playing, spit out my chewing gum, handed it to her, and said, “Mom please hold my gum, I’m going to the bathroom right now, and I can’t handle both.”

Public domain image by Nikolas Muray via George Eastman House



San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday, May 12, 2013

No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood:

Bay Area writers answer comic’s call to tell their stories in anthology celebrating choice not to have children

Henriette Mantel was at a book event listening to women read essays about their children several years ago, when she realized she’d had enough.

“I never even thought about having kids,” said Mantel, a comedy writer in New York. “I think about it as much as I think about brain surgery.”

And so, as the national day for heaping gifts on mothers nears, she and a group of 36 other writers, several of them from the Bay Area, are speaking up about another often made but less publicly celebrated choice — not to have kids. They tell their stories in the recently published No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood, which they hope will spark conversation and perhaps consideration of a new holiday tradition, Non Moms Day.

The book is a candid, often funny collection of perspectives, ranging from women who never had the urge to those who were ambivalent or who accepted or were relieved by infertility. It’s not that these writers don’t like kids. Most of them do, at least on a case-by-case basis. They just don’t want to take them home.

“There is nothing wrong with being kid-centric,” said Mantel, who edited the collection, including pieces by comic Nora Dunn, novelist Laurie Graff, and San Francisco–born comic Margaret Cho. “But don’t you want to hear something else once in a while?” … READ MORE

Upcoming Bay Area events for “No Kidding”: 7 p.m. June 6. Books Inc., Opera Plaza, S.F.



Maureen Langan, Vanda Mikoloski, Andrea Carla Michaels, and Bernadette Luckett at Booksmith, San Francisco, May 13, 2013.


San Francisco Chronicle

Thursday, May 16, 2013

No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood:

Leah Garchik

At Booksmith on Monday night, four writers — stand-up comics Maureen Langan, Vanda Mikoloski, Andrea Carla Michaels, and Bernadette Luckett — who contributed to the anthology No Kidding; Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood, gave mini-readings and presided at a discussion afterward. As the crowd gathered, fans and friends took pictures of the speakers. “You are sexy ladies,” said one of the photographers, which, of course, was a compliment, and had more to do with the fun and pleasure than the fundamental purpose of sex. By the time the event started, every chair was full, and there were folks standing in the rear.

The audience was mainly female, and at the start, when mothers were asked to raise their hands, only three or four of us identified ourselves. The discussion period provided a format for individual comments from listeners, mostly fervent expressions of being sure the right choice had been made.

One woman said she had “worked in Siberia for oligarchs, I’ve worked for Middle Eastern royalty,” and had plenty of proposals, but no desire to be married; another talked about work among the poor of Central America, and the necessity of family planning. But perhaps more to the point was the woman who stood and said it plainly: “Kids annoy the s— I mean the crap out of me…. I was a Montessori teacher and I gave it up.”

Leah Garchik: Reading, writing, recalling a password (San Francisco Chronicle, May 16, 2013)


San Francisco-born comic Margaret Cho contributed to New York comedy writer Henriette Mantel’s book No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood.

Jason LaVeris, FilmMagic / Getty Images

Monday, April 22, 2013


By Margaret  Cho

I don’t have children, and I am not sure if I have wanted them or never wanted them. It’s weird not to be able to decide. Kids are great, and many of my friends now have almost-grown-up kids, like in their late teens and early 20s, and I see these tall beings I once held in my arms, and I am alarmed, amused, and I want to cry, just for the passage of time and how it grows us like plants. I think about how, during all these years they’ve grown up, I must have grown down. That’s awful to realize.

Korean children get a lot of fuss made over them, I guess because life was tough in the old country, and it was a big deal if you survived. There’s a big party thrown when you are 100 days old, followed by another when you make it to one whole year. My parents took a lot of pictures of me at these parties, although I don’t remember a thing as I was really drunk at both. From the pictures I see the cake, though — all these big multicolored rice cakes, each pastel stripe a steamed layer of pounded and steamed rice flour, not sweet like birthday cake but a delicious treat all the same. It looks like a chewy Neapolitan ice cream, or a gay pride flag made of carbs. It’s the best and I want it, but I think wanting that cake isn’t enough reason to have a baby. … READ MORE


New York Journal of Books

April 9, 2013


Reviewed by Zetta Brown

“. . . humorous (sometimes darkly so) as well as poignant.”

In this day and age of play dates, child friendly zones, and political correctness, if a woman chooses not to have children, does that make her a social pariah?

When a man has no wish or desire to have children, he is excused as being a free spirit or dedicated to his career.

Women are often made to feel guilty about their choice. In No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood writer/actress/director/producer Henriette Mantel and 36 other women writers share their viewpoints on why they chose not to have children and the effect it has had on their lives and the people around them.

People automatically assume that if a woman doesn’t want to have children, she must not like children. Many of the essays in No Kidding prove this assumption to be a myth, a statement casting a broad generalization when the truth is as varied as the women making the choice.

These 37 women give 37 reasons why they do not have children. Some of the reasons include health issues, addiction issues, abandonment issues, sad childhoods, happy childhoods, busy lives, fun and adventuresome lives, lack of a suitable partner, fear of commitment, and more. … READ MORE


The Chicago Library · A Crowded Bookshelf

April 25, 2013

HUMORISTS ASSEMBLE TO DISCUSS CHILDLESSNESS IN No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood

When women share that they don’t want children, often they’re looked at with suspicion, pity, sometimes even revulsion. It’s unfair to put that kind of pressure on women who choose not to be mothers, but society insists that for a woman to be a “real” woman, she must either a) give birth or b) adopt. If a woman decides she doesn’t want to be a mom, then people assume that she’s selfish, materialistic, or damaged goods from some awful childhood with a Madea-like mom. In No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood, a collection of humorists and comediennes converge to share their points of view on the subject in nifty, pithy essays. While not all of the essays land, the book offers some profound insight – often poignant, but always funny.

While all of the women are working writers or comics, there are some starrier names – Margaret Cho, Jennifer Coolidge, Nora Dunn, Amy Stiller, Wendy Liebman are the more famous of the group – and none of them disappoint. But readers will do themselves a big favor by looking at the less recognizable writers who contribute excellent essays to the collection.

There is a wide range of voices and stories in No Kidding – and despite the overriding humorous tone, there are some serious moments that cut through the potentially glib attitude that some of the writers adopt. And not all of the women trivialize their situations – it’s important to note that some of these ladies tried to get pregnant to no avail, and have since become accustomed to their situations; others insist that they knew they’d be childless since they were kids themselves. And despite the diversity of the women’s’ stories, there is a consistent theme of defining life, adulthood and womenhood on one’s own terms.



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