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Emily White (1) (1980–)

Författare till Lonely: A Memoir

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Om författaren

Emily White is a former lawyer who now works as a writer and policy analyst. Her work on loneliness has appeared in the Guardian, the Huffington Post, ELLE (UK), the New York Post, and the Daily Mail. She lives in St. John's, Newfoundland.

Verk av Emily White


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Newfoundland, Canada
Environmental Lawyer



I read the author's first book, [b:Lonely: A Memoir|7687690|Lonely A Memoir|Emily White||10346676], years ago. I found it gripping, and I wanted to see how it all turned out for her.

And in this, the sequel-of-sorts, she writes of how she managed to tame the beast and find herself a sense of belonging and connection.

In that sense, this book did exactly what I wanted it to: reassured me that White's life got back on track. (Full disclosure: she's an introverted environmentalist from Toronto who loves dogs. Yes, I identified with her.)

However, where it lost me was my sense that White didn't truly understand how privileged her position was. If you are a childless, able-bodied person in the middle class living in a big city with a good transit system, guess what? You too can find and join local communities. Well, that's swell--and I don't mean to minimize her accomplishment. Having struggled with loneliness myself, I know how it can eat away at you and make any social interaction feel impossible. But her situation was largely situational and personal, not structural.

She writes in her concluding chapter that this is something anyone can and should do, and while she caveats this a few pages later by (finally) realizing how lucky her access to good transit is, and how it enabled her entire effort, she does not seem to understand that everything about her--every single thing, except that she's gay--was a benefit to her.

She's white.
She's well educated.
She's able-bodied.
She's not disfigured.
She has no mental impairments.
She is not an immigrant or refugee; she understands the major language where she lives.
While she's not wealthy, she has enough money to get out and pay for yoga and meditation classes.
She has no family responsibilities.
She does have a loving mother, and good friends.

If she saw an advertisement for a protest, a club, a class, a lecture, a volunteer activity, whatever, that she wanted to go to, she could just ... go. She didn't have to arrange for babysitting. She didn't have to call in favours from friends or family to watch the kids. She didn't have to look to see if the place was wheelchair-accessible, or presented other obstacles to those with different abilities. She could afford the transit fare. She didn't have to deal with racial prejudice, or worry if she would be rejected because she looked different--missing limbs, facial deformities. She didn't have to worry about understanding and following along with what was said. And yes, she is gay, and that can lead to rejection, but it's not something people know about you from just looking at you, unlike skin colour, accent, language, impairment, age, etc.

So if you too are very privileged, and wondering how to deal with loneliness or build a bigger sense of connection and belonging in your life, you will find much of value here.

If you aren't, expect to be at least somewhat frustrated.

I don't want to overstate this. It was a well-written engaging book, and I was rooting for her and happy to see her success. But this is not a solution to loneliness for a great many people. Look, what if the art class that is perfect for you is offered at a location without a ramp, and the subway stops between your house and that studio don't have elevators, and you're in a wheelchair? What if you're a single parent and there's a fantastic weekly book club you'd love to join, but it's always held on a day of the week you can't get child care? What if you would love to show up at the library for monthly lectures on the history of coin collecting, but you just moved here from Zimbabwe and not only the lectures but all of the materials are only offered in English? What if you desperately need and want a local community but you're working three minimum-wage jobs in 75 hours/week to pay the rent? Whether or not you feel all such cases should be accommodated, there are larger barriers to face in this world than "lacks unlimited wealth" and "is gay."

I read an article recently (the article that inspired me to see if this book, which I knew she was writing, had been published yet) about the physical and mental effects of chronic loneliness, and it was fairly harrowing. Lonely people get sick earlier and more often, and they're more likely to die of the illnesses they have. It can actually kill you. But worse than that was this:

"Who are the lonely? They’re the outsiders: not just the elderly, but also the poor, the bullied, the different. Surveys confirm that people who feel discriminated against are more likely to feel lonely than those who don’t, even when they don’t fall into the categories above. Women are lonelier than men (though unmarried men are lonelier than unmarried women). African Americans are lonelier than whites (though single African American women are less lonely than Hispanic and white women). The less educated are lonelier than the better educated. The unemployed and the retired are lonelier than the employed."

How horrifying and awful is this? How much more of a burden is loneliness, both mentally and physically, to those who must contend against prejudice and discrimination? And how much use are they likely to find in Emily White's advice? Quite possibly, not much.
… (mer)
andrea_mcd | Mar 10, 2020 |
As a single young person who moved to a new city, I'm often asked if I'm lonely. After all, my immediate family lives elsewhere, my closest friends live elsewhere, my classmates and professional colleagues live elsewhere. The truth is that I'm not terribly lonely, partially because this is the third time I've moved to a new place where I didn't know anyone and partially because I quickly made friends in my new home.

However, there have been times in my life when I've been lonely, and I've known people who have been lonely. Through the years, I may have known more lonely people than I've realized at the time; after all, it's not something most people freely share, which is a testament to the social stigma that is associated with loneliness. After all, conventional wisdom suggests that if someone is lonely, they should make some friends and all will be well.

Emily White, in her memoir, "Lonely," deliberately and firmly demonstrates that such conventional wisdom is wrong. Looking through her own life, which has included significant periods of loneliness, and drawing upon recent scientific studies and the personal experiences others shared with her, White attempts to demystify loneliness. In particular, she carefully draws upon recent research to show the distinctions between loneliness and depression.

On the whole, the book offers many insights into the forms of loneliness and possible avenues out of the deepest types of loneliness. With sometimes painful honesty, White describes how her loneliness, which dates back to her adolescence, undermined her professional career and her friendships as an adult. Sometimes these reminiscences are accompanied by subtle humor, as when she describes advertised "singles" activities in which she took part, with rather frustrating results.

The other components of the book are a bit of a mixed bag. The scientific research, which is mostly presented in the words of the researchers that White has contacted in interviews or correspondence, is enlightening, but sometimes feels a little drawn out and boring. The experiences of others, taken from comments they posted on White's blog where she began seeking out others who also were afflicted with loneliness, sometimes enrich the book's description of the various manifestations of loneliness, but also distract from the more complete exploration of loneliness in White's life.

Still, this is a noble effort to provide understanding of loneliness in modern life, both for those who suffer from loneliness and for those seeking to appreciate the challenges of loneliness better. Despite occasional dry patches of scientific description, the book is an engaging read, held together by White's compelling candor about her own journey.

This review is also published at
… (mer)
ALincolnNut | 3 andra recensioner | May 9, 2013 |
I had hopes for this book, but alas they were not realized. I think the author has an affecting poignant memoir in her, but this is not it. She seems so bent on loneliness being recognized as a psychiatric disorder that she spends nearly half the book in dry recitations of studies and quotes from mental health researchers. In fairness, she doesn't present the book to be strictly a memoir, but I think it would have been a more powerful and persuasive book had it been written as such.
markfinl | 3 andra recensioner | Oct 16, 2011 |
Enjoyed this - a solid read, well-written, interesting, and revealing. Learned a lot. Part memoir, part social science. I find memoirs written by people in their 30s kind of interesting, because you're not that far through life, assuming you'll hit the average lifespan. I wonder what the author's take will be in another 30 years. Worth a look.
fsmichaels | 3 andra recensioner | May 16, 2011 |


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