The Book Jam Blog
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Most of us in the USA just completed tax season - something we were recently reminded was the only certain thing in life besides death. That fact and a book on grief that someone gave us years ago (Karen, we finally gave it the attention it deserves - thank you), has us thinking about how hard it is to have good conversations about difficult topics - death, taxes/politics, and sexuality come to mind. In service of trying to help us all be better conversationalists and humans, we review three books to encourage us all do just that.
Bearing the Unbearable: Love, loss, and the heartbreaking path of grief by Joanne Cacciatore (2017). A dear friend who was dealing with the unbearable death of her child said this book spoke to her like no other book could. She also stated that she wished everyone could read it before they had to use it either to deal with their own grief or support someone else's process. We skimmed it years ago, and for a variety of reasons delved deeply into it this past week. She is right -- it would help so many if we all read this as part of being human. Why? Because we all need, as the author writes, "an emotional home for our feelings" and because "grief that is dismissed, suppressed, or silenced harms individuals, families and communities". Cacciatore does not chastise anyone for anytime we said or did the wrong thing when talking about grief. Cacciatore talks about how hard these conversations are because so few of us are taught about the importance of grieving, and its inevitability. If you fear that this book is completely depressing, it is not. Cacciatore talks at length about elements of healing and transformation that accompany grief. We hope you all can read it before you need to assist a friend's or co-worker's grief, and before you need to process your own. We also argue this book, while focusing on the extreme grief accompanying death, might help with dealing with the grief accompanying divorce or the end of a relationship or even moving from a community you love. (We add this with hope it does not trivialize grief emerging from death.) Maybe even read it with a loved one so you can talk about how hard grief is to talk about.
It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley (2021). Our amazing pediatrician (hello Dr. Michael Lyons) introduced us both to this book when all our children were young. It has been updated to reflect gender neutral vocabulary, an expansion of LGBTQ+ topics, and social media advice. Get it, read it, and then read it with your children before you think they are ready. You won't regret it.
The Centrist Manifesto by Charles Wheelan (2013). Using humor and years of research and learning from teaching at Dartmouth College, Wheelan makes his case for a new American political party - the Centrists. Whether you agree with his conclusion or not, this book offers great fodder for difficult discussions around politics in America. Perhaps it works as a way to talk respectfully because it offers something that has not happened - a new political party and a new voice for people in the middle of political discussions, a middle Wheelan argues most Americans actually land. As Kirkus Reviews said when they discussed this book, "It’s a sign of the times that this sensible plea for moderation can seem so radical".
And to inspire us all, here is an article about the positive aspects (e.g., greater connections with others) of conducting difficult conversations. Happy May everyone!