Conflict Unravled: Fixing Problems at Work and in Families

October 12, 2012

Medea, Andra. Conflict Unraveled: Fixing Problems at Work and in Families. PivotPoint. May 2004. c.264p. ISBN 0-9745808-0-5. pap. $19.95. SELF-HELP

“Flooding,” as Medea (conflict management, Univ. of Chicago) terms adrenaline overload, “shorts out” our brains and leaves us “irrational, mule-headed, and quarrel-some.” Controlling flooding and its aftereffects is key to unraveling the titular conflicts. Specific kinds of situational conflict are discussed, and good tactical advice (e.g., “shorten your sentences” if you have to communicate while flooding) is provided in pithy and often funny examples of overload situations. Medea’s friendly, almost conspiratorial tone dovetails nicely with her direct writing. Though marred by occasionally indiscriminate advice (e.g., take a bat and literally smash glass bottles to relieve stress), this book is thorough and has a lot of heart. Along with titles that advise readers on structuring their lives, e.g., Bill Jensen’s The Simplicity Survival Handbook: 32 Ways To Do Less and Accomplish More, this book will form the nucleus of a nice little serf-help collection. Recommended for medium and larger public libraries.

This review appeared in Library Journal 129.9 on May 15, 2004 (p.103); the galley was shredded and recycled on October 12, 2012.


Swim Lessons: Ten Secrets for Making Any Dream Come True.

October 11, 2012

Irons, Nick. Swim Lessons: Ten Secrets for Making Any Dream Come True.Clydesdale. Oct. 2003. c.205p. ISBN 0-9729606-0-0. $24.

A regular guy from a loving family glows about self-discovery and his father. Irons is essentially a big kid: he loves Christmas, Clydesdales, and his family. And, oh yeah, swimming. In fact, Irons swam almost the entire length of the mighty Mississippi River (1550 miles, from Minneapolis to Baton Rouge)–five hours a day, six days a week for four months–to honor his father, afflicted with multiple sclerosis, and to fund-raise for the condition. Readers are encouraged to follow the “swim lessons,” for example, gain self-confidence by drawing on past experiences or go forward on blind faith. Irons engages readers with an infectious enthusiasm and an endearing, homespun style. While the father/son relationship has been riffed on aplenty (e.g., Terry Pluto’s Our Tribe: A Baseball Memoir, now in paperback), this is particularly charming. For public libraries as interest warrants.

This book was reviewed in Library Journal, 128.15 on September 15, 2003 (p.76) ; the galley was shredded and recycled on October 11, 2012.

What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons from the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

October 10, 2012

Flaherty, Tina Santi. What Jackie Taught Us: Lessons from the Remarkable Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Perigee: Putnam. 2004. c.256p. ISBN 0-399-52988-8. $19.95. SELF-HELP

Former Colgate-Palmolive VP Flaherty (Talk Your Way to the Top) fairly idolizes Camelot’s First Lady. In chapters padded with cursory biographical snippets, she purports to explore what Jackie “taught” the world. Take, for instance, the chapter “Men and Marriage,” wherein readers learn that Jackie made herself attractive and “followed her heart.” Much is made of the “beautiful, cultured, and intelligent” icon of our collective (and idealized) cultural memory. Instead of wasting money on this hardcover trifle, commemorate the tenth anniversary of Jackie’s death by dusting off some respectable biographies, e.g., Sarah Bradford’s America’s Queen: A Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis or even Pamela Clarke Keogh’s photographic Jackie Style.

This review appeared in Library Journal 129.9 on May 15, 2004 (p.103); the galley was shredded and recycled on October 9, 2012.

No: Why Kids of All Ages Need to Hear It

September 17, 2012

By noting that American culture has shifted in the past two generations to incline parents to say ‘yes,’ to themselves and their children, Walsh brings us to an important distinction – parenting exists outside the larger culture, and that is as it should be.  That children are more and more inclined to not know how to modulate their own behavior, to limit themselves, to tell themselves ‘no,’ is a cultural, not a parental, failing.  Be that as it may, we parents have much to work to do I we want to raise successful children.

Well written; clear and engaging.

One nit to pick is that he covers a lot of ground, some perhaps needlessly.  There are 2 ways to read the book- as a how-to (excellent), and as a critique of parenthood in America (good).  One does not necessarily invite the other.

Walsh’s list of do’s and don’ts at chapter ends are phenomenal (like, worthy of ripping out of the book worthy), a toolbox that every parent will find helpful; good advice often comes in the form of real-life examples drawn from many stages of kid lives.

While statements such as “self esteem does not boost academic achievement” (59) may seem contrarian, Walsh backs up his assertions with data as well as a bounty of real-life examples.  “True self esteem, he notes, comes from achievement” (60).  There are many lessons clearly set out in plain language; “kids need to figure things out for themselves,” (63), not hovering or micromanaging parents.  “Kids need some stress to develop their psychological muscles of resilience, stamina, determination, commitment, confidence, diligence, and perserverence” (68).

We also have to “teach them to be resilient” (70).

Thus, ‘no’ is about setting limits, about letting kids experience frustration, strong emotions, failure, and about not doing the work for your kids.  In this way, the kids grow and can become successful.  They can self-achieve, and they have balance.  The book examines ‘no’ in many different arenas, like with the brain, re: self-esteem, America’s ‘yes’ culture, dips into special needs a bit.  Excellent backup with many, varied illustrations from real life.

“The word ‘no’ itself is not important.  The concept of no is.  You can say no in many positive ways.

Not Rosemond exactly, but it is a form of palatable Rosemond.  Greenspan, Stanley I., M.D. The Secure Child: Helping Children Feel Safe and Confident in a Changing World – Walsh’s is the more practical, how-to filtered through Greenspan and Rosemond.  Somehow also reminiscent of Paul R. Stricker’s Sports Success Rx!: Your Child’s Prescription for the Best Experience: How To Maximize Potential and Minimize Pressure.

Those who most need it won’t read it.

This review didn’t appear anywhere, apparantly, though not for lack of trying; the galley was shredded on September 17, 2012.

Act it Out: 25 Expressive Ways to Heal from Childhood Abuse

September 16, 2012

Stolinsky, Stefanie Auerbach, Ph.D.  Act it Out: 25 Expressive Ways to Heal From Childhood Abuse.  New Harbinger Publications.  July, 2002.  185 pp.  ISBN 1-57224-290-6.  Trade paper $19.95.

Children who have survived physical, emotional, or sexual abuse often have trouble finding and maintaining loving, trusting relationships. Here, clinical psychologist Stolinsky balances background information with stories, effectively illustrating (but not sensationalizing) the horrors of child abuse. In her clinical practice, the author, a former actress, found that her patients benefited from using acting exercises that create and explore different environments. These same methods allow abuse survivors to explore their feelings, as well as “some of the moments, sounds, sights, objects, and feelings” connected to the psychologically terrifying experiences that damaged them. Brief, informative analyses of symptoms common to survivors and their relationships are offered. Clearly written for a lay audience, this book respectfully and gently treats a difficult topic. Readers will appreciate the author’s obvious effort and concern. Highly recommended.

This review wasn’t published or is so old that I can’t find it online; the galley was shredded on September 16, 2012.

Gifts of Change

September 15, 2012

Christie, Nancy.  The Gifts of Change.  Beyond Words Publishing.  September, 2004.  160 pp.  Softcover.  ISBN: 1-58270-1419-9.  $14.95.

Bemoaning the opportunities lost in failing to let change transform our lives, Christie (a magazine writer) examines select, simple messages, such as that mindful choosing allows contentment.  Personal revelations and judicious use of other writers’ words drive home many points, but dense writing comes perilously close to pablum; all but the most resonant writing (e.g., “there are emotions deeply rooted that, if left alone, will grow like weeds)” disappears.  Embracing the transformative power of change has been the subject of many books (see Thomas A. Habib’s If These Walls Could Talk: A Therapist Reveals 25 Stories of Change and How They Will Work for You); this is a marginal purchase.

This review didn’t appear anywhere, I guess, because I can’t find the damn thing; the galley was shredded on September 15, 2012.


The Way They Were: Dealing with Your Parents’ Divorce After a Lifetime of Marriage

September 8, 2012

Foster, Brooke Lea. The Way They Were: Dealing with Your Parents’ Divorce After a Lifetime of Marriage. Three Rivers: Crown. Jan. 2006. c.320p. bibliog. index. ISBN 1-4000-8210-2. pap. $14.95. CHILD REARING

A staff writer for the Washingtonian, Foster wastes an opportunity to address the divorce of an adult’s parents constructively; instead, she offers up excessive whining and stir-absorption seated in her difficult experiences with her own parents’ divorce. Though in her late twenties at the time of the book’s writing, she still identifies herself as a child: “I realized how much I still leaned on my parents emotionally…. I wasn’t as independent as I thought.” With this mindset, Foster cannot make a distinction between the institutions of marriage and parenthood, which results in a grating inability to recognize parents as human beings with evolving needs. Foster’s thoughtlessness compounds the issue: parental splits are equated with death or detecting a lump in one’s breast; drained inheritances and lost college money count among a list of hurts. What remains is verbose, bitter grief and banal observation, (e.g., “Listening to our parents’ problems can be draining”). Not recommended. Stick with Constance Ahrons’s We’re Still Family: What Grown Children Have To Say About Their Parents’ Divorce or Stephanie Staal’s The Love They Lost: Living with the Legacy of Our Parents’ Divorce.

This review appeared in Library Journal 130.18 on November 1, 2005 (p.106); the galley was shredded on September 8, 2012.

Choosing Truth: Living an Authentic Life

September 7, 2012

Cole, Harriette. Choosing Truth: Living an Authentic Life. S. & S. Feb. 2003. c.304p. ISBN 0-684-87311-7. $22.

A former editor at Essence magazine, Cole (How To Be: Contemporary Etiquette for African Americans) hopes to “inspire you to continue forward on your path to you.” If that sounds vague, it is. Readers must find their true identity via personal transformation, she argues; this requires active participation, delving, probing, and a lot of hard work, none of which is spelled out here. Chapters titled like Boy Scout maxims (e.g., do your best, work wisely) gently explore different aspects of changing one’s life (e.g., have fun, take time to focus) in order to identify one’s personal truth. Overall, this book has some nice ideas, as when it endorses journaling to “track your life’s evolution,” but the lack of concrete steps makes it useful only for determined self-starters. Libraries should instead consider Martha Beck’s worthwhile Finding Your Own North Star.

This review appeared in Library Journal 128.3 on February 15, 2003 (p.156); the galley was shredded on September 7, 2012.

Happily Married with Kids: It’s Not a Fairy Tale

September 6, 2012

Lindquist, Carol. Happily Married with Kids: It’s Not a Fairy Tale. Berkley: Penguin Putnam. 2003. c.370p. ISBN 0-425-19395-0. pap. $14. SELF-HELP

Prospective parents should read this book now, and even recently kidified couples will learn a thing or two. Clinical psychologist Lindquist astutely examines a problem common to new parents: when the children’s needs supersede those of the marriage that created them. Sound, thoughtful advice on a variety of common stress points (from snoring to affairs) and often funny insights about the ordinariness of parenthood (“Going to the grocery store by yourself may be as good as it gets some weeks”) are comforting; practical tactics, such as using child care for marriage and career time, make sense. Lindquist also briefly deals with minor problems like triteness and mom vs. dad rivalries. Overall, this is reasonably priced, packed with readable advice, and recommended for all public libraries. A few years hence patrons will come back for Jean Coles’s intelligent Signals from the Child.

This review appeared in Library Journal in January, 2004 (p139); the galley was shredded on September 6, 2012..

The Successful Child: What Parents Can Do To Help Kids Turn Out Well

September 1, 2012

Sears, William, M.D. & Martha Sears, M.D. The Successful Child: What Parents Can Do To Help Kids Turn Out Well. Little, Brown. 2002. c.288p. illus. bibliog. ISBN 0-316-77811-7. $27.95; pap. ISBN 0-316-77749-8. $16.95.

Consistent with the Searses’ popular prior works (e.g., The Family Nutrition Book), The Successful Child is warm and loving. It extends the authors’ well-known “attachment parenting” philosophy and offers simple advice to help children succeed “in the things that matter most–relationships, values, human interdependence.” To foster responsibility, for example, they suggest “catch[ing] children in the act of doing good.” The calm, helpful tone will both comfort and challenge readers. Chapters are easily digestible, and numerous boxed insets focus attention on the topic. This general work will find a ready and appreciative audience everywhere.

This review appeared in Library Journal on April 1st, 2002 p.132; the galley was recycled over a decade (!) later on September 1, 2012.