Jblog Book Club

A place for discussing interesting books, including those on Judaism, parenting, and general fiction and non-fiction.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Mother-Daughter Talk

I really like Deborah Tannen’s books on conversational styles and differences. I find her far more solidly based, credible, and readable than that guy with the planet fixation. The book I just read is called You’re Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation. She neither demonizes nor exonerates mothers and daughters. Rather, she offers many instances to show how and why the conversations between mothers and daughters can be so charged. It’s not just the words but the metamessages conveyed. Tannen draws on her own experiences, as well as those of many women she interviewed. Just about any female is bound to recognize herself in one of the mother-daughter exchanges presented, particularly if you ever had a difference of opinion on appearance, clothes, or hair. While the book is not stlyed as self-help book, Tannen does sometimes offer tactics to diffuse the tensions that sometimes erupt as critical metamessages are expressed in conversation. Also the understanding you can gain of the other side’s perspective may result in a more sympathetic dialogue if you can keep your knee-jerk responses in check.
As Tannen is Jewish, she brings up the use of the expression “Keyn ayn-hore,” which she heard as a child without realizing its meaning. She suggests, “Could it be that some of those who laugh at belief in the evil eye hasve nonetheless absorbed the habit of refraining from praising their chidren? Could this habit explain why so many daughters who were never praised by their mothers are later surprised to hear from their mothers’ friends, ‘Your mother is so proud of you. She never stops talking about you’” (55). There may be something to that hypothesis, and there is much more of interest to mothers and daughters in this book, particularly for those who find themselves in both positions.


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