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Why We Can’t Sleep

Why We Can’t Sleep: Generation X Women’s New Midlife Crisis

Ada Calhoun

** New York Times bestseller **

When Ada Calhoun found herself in the throes of a midlife crisis, she thought that she had no right to complain. She was married with children and a good career. So why did she feel miserable? And why did it seem that the women around her were miserable, too?

Calhoun decided to find some answers. She looked into housing costs, HR trends, credit card debt averages and divorce data. At every turn, she saw a pattern: sandwiched between the Boomers and the Millennials, Gen X women were facing new problems as they entered middle age, problems that were largely overlooked. Speaking with women across America about their experiences as the generation raised to ‘have it all,’ Calhoun found that most were exhausted, terrified about money, under-employed, and overwhelmed. Instead of being heard, they were told instead to lean in, take ‘me-time’, or make a chore chart to get their lives and homes in order.

In Why We Can’t Sleep, Calhoun opens up the cultural and political contexts of this predicament and offers solutions for how to pull oneself out of the abyss—and keep the next generation of women from falling in. The result is reassuring, empowering and essential reading for all middle-aged women, and anyone who hopes to understand them.


ABC Radio Melbourne: Breakfast (00:5:20) 
Body + Soul 
Lit Hub: 15 Great Books That Speak to the Lives of Middle-Aged Women (opinion piece)
Lit Hub: Just the Right Book podcast 
Lit Hub 
Lit Hub podcast 
New York Times 
New York Times 
Radio NZ: Afternoons 
Today Show 

Ada Calhoun
About the Author

Ada Calhoun has written for the New York Times, New York Magazine and the New York Post. She is the author of Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give and St. Marks Is Dead, which was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a Boston Globe Best Book of the Year.

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Text publication date:
7 January 2020
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Praise for Ada Calhoun
andWhy We Can’t Sleep

‘Ada Calhoun’s soulful investigation into the complex landscape women in midlife face today is downright stunning. Calhoun has captured the voices—some broken, some resilient, many barely staying afloat—of over 200 women from around the country and in doing so, shown us how much we share in divisive times. You will recognise yourself in these pages, breathe a sigh of relief, and think, I’m not alone.’

‘Helping women realise that some difficulty, some confusion, is not just all in their mind is probably one of your more feminist acts, and the impressive amount of research Ada Calhoun did on the very specific forces, past and present, that are bedeviling Gen X women as they face the strange period that is midlife is just that kind of gift. But the other gift is that she writes with clear sight, compassion and hope about our very specific talents and tenacity. Which means: this book is a thousand times more healing than a jadeite egg!’

‘This is the book of our generation. Ada Calhoun brilliantly encapsulates the struggle and confusion that is the Gen X woman’s experience in middle age. And by placing this condition into the context of the generations coming before and after, she makes sense of how it is that we’re so surprised that we have failed at having it all. Heavily researched, expertly paced and seamlessly woven together, Why We Can’t Sleep provides an ‘aha’ moment that at once validates our experience and establishes a sense of community and hope.’

‘Calhoun’s essential premise is highly persuasive…She’s a funny, smart, compassionate narrator.’

‘An empowering read for Gen X women, as well as future generations.’

‘[Calhoun’s] book offers validation and empathy…relevant for all generations.’

‘Through meticulous research and poignant and relatable interviews, Calhoun paints a disturbing picture of Gen X women.’

Other editions ofWhy We Can’t Sleep
  • Why We Can’t Sleep
    ISBN: 9781925923070
    7 January 2020
    Buy ebook