Alumna Meghan Daum '96 Addresses the State of Our Disunion in 'The Problem with Everything'
BY Rochelle Goldstein, November 9, 2019
Reflexive political correctness, the often toxic fallout from social media, progressive enforcers of “proper” thinking, the cult of “weaponized victimhood,” are some of the topics social critic and personal essayist alumna Meghan Daum ’96 focuses on in her recently released The Problem with Everything. Fearlessly engaging such topics as fourth wave feminism and other divisive cultural and social issues affecting our lives today, Daum candidly braids her social observations with her own sometimes bruising personal experiences in this third essay collection.
“Sharp, brazen, and undeniably controversial,” was the verdict of the Kirkus Review, while Newsweek described Daum’s writing as “brave and engaging,” adding that the author “does some hard thinking about our time and demands that we do, too.”
In Daum’s own words, her book is about “the conflicted and tortured state of liberalism generally and feminism in particular,” while adding that it’s also a personal story of feeling “existentially unmoored.”
An unapologetic contrarian, Daum casts a far-reaching net taking on many of the excesses of “politically correct” thinking. As Melissa Giannini for Elle noted, Daum has “built a career on going against the grain.” In this new book she analyzes how identity politics often helps divide rather than unite our fragmented society.
Whether it is the lack of nuance of the more militant members of the new generation of feminists or the way academics and writers in particular are bullied by punishing protocols, Daum campaigns for a saner and more informed middle ground. Along the way, she writes about such issues as sexual harassment at work, sexual assaults on campus, and the #MeToo movement. The result is what Elle called “an elegantly composed treatise against tribalism and ‘cancel culture,’” adding praise for the way Daum “seamlessly weaves personal anecdotes” into the mix.
Daum made her reputation as one of our leading personal essayists with My Misspent Youth in 2001, which was recently heralded as a “a cult classic,” by Buzzfeed. The book touchingly depicts a young writer making her way in New York—with great difficulty—to pursue the literary life.
Since then, Daum has released two other essay collections, a novel, and was the editor of the recent best-selling anthology, Selfish, Shallow and Self Absorbed: Sixteen Writers On The Decision Not To Have Kids.
Currently a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Daum has freelanced for major national publications, including the New York Times Magazine, Harpers, The New Yorker, and Vogue. The recipient of a Guggenheim and a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship, her second book of essays, The Unspeakable won the 2015 Pen Center USA Literary Award in Creative Nonfiction.