Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something when a dear friend gifts me Nina Tassler’s What I Told My Daughter, and I also receive a copy in the mail to review. So, read I did. A work of nonfiction, Tassler along with Cythia Littleton act as editors to more than fifty essays written for their daughters by women who have created success in their lives.
The essay which initially drew me in was “Dear Eva” written by Rabbi Sharon Brous. She was told at her daughter’s birth that “. . . having a child is like wearing your heart outside your chest” (19), and I can completely relate times two. Rabbi Brous continues with the importance of her daughter knowing “. . . one nearly universal thread, across ethnic, cultural, and geographical boundaries, is the oppression of girls and women” (20). Thus, having the knowledge which may not be so apparent in one’s own community is key to creating an inner need to want to somehow make a difference, even a little, in the world.
Author Ayelet Waldman in her essay, “Be Nice to Fat Girls,” further instills in her daughter the need to speak up for not only herself, but for others as well. Because of hollering moral advice while running alongside her daughter Sophie’s bus years ago, Waldman’s daughter remembers to always be kind, inclusive, and generous. When as a teenager, a group of boys in Sophie’s high school create a competition on social media to find the “ugliest” girl in their eyes to ask out on a date, Sophie heads straight to the administration “. . . demanding justice on behalf of this girl and all girls subject to this environment” (37).
Most like to shy away from any controversy even if it is at the cost of a child’s well-being. As Dr. Juliet Garcia discusses in “The Wall,” many people during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing chose to run for safety as quickly as they could. However, some chose to run towards the explosions in order to see how they could help others. Dr. Garcia notes, “There is always much to learn from these moments, but chief among them is that the toughest battles in our lives are those we learn from the most. They are the ones that make us surface our courage” (72). Amen, Sistah!
Dr. Madeline Albright in her essay “Role Reversals,” writes how the balancing act between work and home became more difficult as her career advanced, but “. . . the worst pressure . . . came not from my daughters but from other women” (83). In the same manner, I have felt pressure for choosing to stay home with my daughters. After taking nearly four years to conceive and then spending time in the hospital both before and after the births of both of my daughters, I knew I wanted to savor every minute with my girls if given the opportunity. While doctors still attempted to adjust my medications in order to control my blood pressure postpartum, I had people asking me, “When are you going back to work?” My thought to myself was always, “Well, my baby just left the neonatal unit, and I need to make sure I’m not going to croak first.”
Further passages I have marked with Post-Its come from Sharon Osbourne in “Privileges,” with ” . . . never have a sense of entitlement, [do] not judge others, be accepting, tolerant, and always open-minded” (150). Michelle King In “Simply Irresistible,” tells how her daughter stood up to a bully and what she learned from the experience, we “. . . need tough, self-confident young women willing to smack the bullies when they get out of hand” (161). And, Roma Downey’s “Love Is a Verb,” brought tears to my eyes while reading. Downey summarizes her offerings:
The lessons learned are at times painful. Loss is real, parents pass away, and hearts break, but the truth is that love never dies, not really. Love lives on through us. Not just in our memories but through our actions and the choices we make. In the way we live our lives we can make a difference. (212)
A thoughtful gift for any woman, not simply a woman with a daughter, or man, Nina Tassler’s What I Told My Daughter is a must read.