Monday, May 31, 2010

You Were Always Mom’s Favorite! Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives

Book Club... And Then Some!

You Were Always Mom’s Favorite!  Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives 

by Deborah Tannen

Book Review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

I have cited a number of Tannen’s books in my textbooks, and I have always enjoyed reading them.  With respect to readability, research, and her use of examples, this book is no exception.  

For this book, Tannen writes, “in addition to analyzing transcripts of recorded conversations, I interviewed well over a hundred women about their sisters—women whose ages spanned late teens to early nineties, and who came from a wide range of ethnic, regional, and cultural backgrounds.  Most were American, but some were from other countries.  Americans included Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Indian-, Irish-, German-, and East-European-Jewish-Americans, and so on.  They were straight, gay, deaf, hearing, married, and single.  I made a point of including women of these many backgrounds in order to hear a range of experiences” (p. 5).  

One discovery that interested me—and confirmed observations I have often published in my textbook chapters that discuss relationships—is that “communication is women’s work” (p. 177).  “In many families,” Tannen writes, “communication is women’s work.”  One of the important comments I make to my mail readers who want successful relationships, in a section entitled, “Essential Elements of Good Relationships,” is, “...for partners to continue in a relationship, they must find mutually beneficial ways of communicating” (p. 182, Communicating Effectively, 9th ed. (McGraw-Hill, 2009).  

On the very next page, I write, “Men need to open up more, show their feelings, listen better, and reveal their responses.”  From what I have read in Tannen’s book about what she learned from her interviews, I know she would agree completely with my admonishments.  

The part of the book I found most interesting for me was her final chapter, Chapter 8, “Sisterness: The Good, the Bad, and How to Get More of the Lovely” (pp. 180-203), in which she discusses a number of aspects of communication, especially electronic forms such as Facebook and e-mail.  

Whether or not the book is valuable for sisters—insightful or useful—you can read the reviews for yourself.  Most reviewers found the book both helpful and insightful. One reviewer said, “Every woman with a sister should find examples that she can identify with. I plan on giving both of my sisters copies of the book.”  Just to balance the scale somewhat, another reviewer said, “Seemed like Tannen was trying to put some sort of organization or categorization on those relationships, but couldn't quite pull it off. The stories are so individual that it is difficult to make any meaningful generalizations. Interesting -- sure -- but not a particularly compelling or cohesive read.”

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You Were Always Mom’s Favorite!  Sisters in Conversation Throughout Their Lives

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