What I Told My Daughter

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.

What I Told My Daughter by Nina Tassler NonFic NG Read Mar 2016

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.



RSVP from Heaven

If people watching and listening to other people’s stories interests you in the least bit, then Marie Saint-Louis’ autobiographical account of her life as a psychic medium, RSVP from Heaven is the next read for you.


A teacher by day, Saint-Louis began her psychic medium work at her kitchen table with callers, but has since evolved into working at events which is where RSVP from Heaven commences, at the Golden Eagle Casino Swap Meet to be more specific.

What follows is rich descriptions of people from all walks of life searching for answers in their lives and to be connected one more time with loved ones whom have passed, sceptics included.  With honesty, Saint-Louis reveals working such events is not all glitz and glam, but persistence and a lot of manual labor when setting up shop in various locales:

I peeked over my shoulder just as the attendant bent over in skintight khaki shorts, pulling white tube socks up to his knee caps.

Grasping the luggage piece, I heaved it over the barricades, sucked in my stomach and squeezed between them.  . . . As I stepped aside, the luggage wheels jammed and my high heels sank into the damp ground.  The contents clanked together inside my case as sweat began trickling down my back.  This was the consequence for taking the ill-fated short cut.  (69)

A Christian and believer in Heaven, “The best way to describe Heaven is serene.  There is no illness, struggles and life battles.  It’s [Heaven] is a feeling of pure love and completion from how we lived our life on Earth”  (76), Saint-Louis is forthright when telling of the naysayers she encounters with one woman telling Saint-Louis early on she was going to go to Hell for her work as a psychic medium, work “. . . against . . . [the woman’s] beliefs”  (3).

As for the grammatical and mechanical aspect of this book, my youngest would say this was the “sloppy copy,” a copy still in need of a final revision.  Missing quotation marks, wrong word choices,  capitalization errors, and missing articles were abundant throughout as I had numerous Post-its throughout, a habit formed from teaching.  A few examples follow:

” . . . I would openly question her reasoning on have [sic] a private session with me”  (54).

“Erica’s [sic] went on talking”  (63).

And, when one is referring to the death of a loved one, the spelling is “lose,” not “loose” as misspelled on pages 123 and 128.

In addition,  I was curious to know how Saint-Louis became aware of her spiritual gifts and at what age as well as why she opted to transition more to readings at public events.

Overall, an interesting read which offers an ethnographical look into people searching for answers and as Saint-Louis summarizes in her Reflection, “Each of us can find solace in realizing there is another person out there who is experiencing similar situations”  (201).

If you would like to know more about Marie Saint-Louis, read her author interview here.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

What immediately comes to mind after reading Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken:  A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, is the fact my history training in high school and college did not do justice to the coverage of World War II (and I am certified to teach middle school social studies).  A biographical account of Louie Zamperini, I now understand why author Rhonda Tibbs repeatedly asked me if I had read this work of nonfiction yet.

Unbroken, divided into five parts covers Zamperini’s mischievous childhood years, his appearance at the Olympics, his time spent as a bombardier on the B-24 Liberator in the Army Air Corps, his ability to endure life on a raft for forty-seven days, the horror of his existence as a POW (Prisoner of War), his troubled life after the war, and finally, his capacity to come to terms with all that he experienced at the hands of other human beings and offer forgiveness.

As a reader, just when I thought the abuse would have to come to an end, further accounts were revealed in the subsequent pages.  Reading through some reviews prior to my reading. one person wrote about Unbroken, “I was bored in the middle,” while another wrote, “It was so repetitive.”  Now, for me, these comments beg the question, “Do you realize this is the true story of a man’s life, not meant to entertain but to inform?”  With Hillenbrand’s extensive research as noted through numerous footnotes, I walked away more knowledgeable regarding the atrocities a human can withstand, yet still make a difference in the world by example.

While on the raft with two of his fellow crew, Mac and Phil, Zamperini’s faith first surfaced with, “Impossibly, though there were bullet holes all the way around the men, even in the tiny spaces between them, not one bullet had hit either man” (156).  In addition, ” . . . the raft offered an unlikely intellectual refuge. . . .  his mind was freed of an encumberance that civilization had imposed on it.  In his head, he could roam anywhere, and he found that his mind was quick and clear”  (167).  Thus, despite the bleak situation, Zamperini was able to uncover the good, a lesson to be learned by all.

Without going into horrific detail here about Zamperini’s abuse, his thoughts summarize the truth of it all, “All I see, he thought, is a dead body breathing”  (175).

Furthermore, Hillenbrand writes with such honesty, the reader is left with much to contemplate as in:

“Men subjected to dehumanizing treatment experience profound wretchedness and loneliness and find that hope is almost impossible to retain”  (182).

“Dignity is essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen”  (183).

“When he [Zamperini] thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him” (376).

A definite must-read, I now anxiously look forward to the movie adaptation of Unbroken coming this month.