Promise Land

Promise Land

My Journey through America’s Self-Help Culture

“A funny yet surprisingly nuanced look at the legends and ideas of the self-help industry” (People, 3.5 stars), Promise Land explores the American devotion to self-improvement—even as the author attempts some deeply personal improvements of her own.

Raised by a child psychologist who was himself the author of numerous self-help books, as an adult Jessica Lamb-Shapiro found herself both repelled and fascinated by the industry: did all of these books, tapes, weekend seminars, groups, posters, t-shirts, and trinkets really help anybody? Why do some people swear by the power of positive thinking, while others dismiss it as so many empty promises?

Promise Land is an irreverent tour through the vast and strange reaches of the world of self-help. In the name of research, Jessica attempted to cure herself of phobias, followed The Rules to meet and date men, walked on hot coals, and even attended a self-help seminar for writers of self-help books. But the more she delved into the history and practice of self-help, the more she realized her interest was much more than academic. Forced into a confrontation with the silent grief that had haunted both her and her father since her mother’s death when she was a baby, she realized that sometimes thinking you know everything about a subject is a way of hiding from yourself the fact that you know nothing at all.

“A jaunty, cannily written memoir” (Chicago Tribune), Promise Land is cultural history from “a witty and enjoyably self-aware writer…Jessica Lamb-Shapiro’s talent as a storyteller is undeniable” (The New York Times Book Review).
Choose a format:
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439100219 | 
  • January 2015
List Price $16.00
Ships on or around January 20, 2015

Video

Jessica Lamb-Shapiro: What Are You Reading?

Jessica Lamb-Shaprio on being inspired by the generosity that Far from the Tree author Andrew Solomon shows to his subjects.

Read an Excerpt

Promise Land PROLOGUE ON MISSING THE OBVIOUS
Ten years ago, I tagged along with my father to a weekend conference on how to write self-help books. The conference headliner, Mark Victor Hansen, coauthored Chicken Soup for the Soul, one of the most popular and prolific self-help series of the twentieth century, and my father hoped to learn the secrets of his success. A child psychologist by training, my father had been writing self-help books for parents and children for over thirty years, but he had never created a... see more

About the Author

Jessica Lamb-Shapiro
Photograph by Jason Frank Rothenberg

Jessica Lamb-Shapiro

Jessica Lamb-Shapiro has published fiction and non-fiction in The Believer, McSweeney’s, Open City, and Index magazine, among others. She has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She lives in New York City and Columbia County, NY.

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