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Family

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Overview

Meet the eccentric, eclectic family members of seventeen of America's finest writers in this dazzling, deeply moving collection of memories.

Take advice from Alice Hoffman's wise grandmother, Lillie Lulkin. Keep watch over lone children with Brent Staples. Share with Bob Shacochis and his wife the heartbreaking sadness of two people longing to have a child. You can also listen in as Chang-rae Lee and his mother speak their own language; carefully contemplate life through the ...

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Overview

Meet the eccentric, eclectic family members of seventeen of America's finest writers in this dazzling, deeply moving collection of memories.

Take advice from Alice Hoffman's wise grandmother, Lillie Lulkin. Keep watch over lone children with Brent Staples. Share with Bob Shacochis and his wife the heartbreaking sadness of two people longing to have a child. You can also listen in as Chang-rae Lee and his mother speak their own language; carefully contemplate life through the eyes of Whitney Otto's beloved, irascible cat; discover if Marion Winik is really, truly related to either Charlie Chaplin or Jann Wenner; and barhop with a five-year-old Stuart Dybeck and his Polish Grandfather.

In joining this literary reunion, be prepared to discover your own sense of family history. Whether considering relations by blood, by marriage, by choice, or by chance, each writer here has something to share: secrets, desires, sorrows, and joys. And in this Family, you will find that the pleasure of reading is much more than relative.

Contributors include: Edwidge Danticat, Beverly Donofrio, Stuart Dybeck, Edward Hoagland, Alice Hoffman, bell hooks, Chang-rae Lee, Elizabeth McCracken, Whitney Otto, Jayne Anne Phillips, Bob Shacochis, Brent Staples, Deborah Tannen, Geoffrey Wolff, and Marion Winik.

The editors of Family are donating a portion of their royalties to two organizations: The Max Warburg Courage Curriculum, a values-based literacy program for sixth graders in the Boston Public School system; and Chicago Youth Centers, which works with young people in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, assisting them in becoming responsible and productive individuals..

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Collected here by the Fiffers, who previously collaborated on Home: American Writers Remember Rooms of Their Own, are 18 short original pieces by authors who recall family members who have had an impact on their lives. These essays, written from diverse cultural perspectives, are refreshingly free from sentimentality and present fully rounded human beings, with the exception of Whitney Otto (How to Make an American Quilt), who movingly describes her relationship with her cat. Writing in her grandmother's voice, Alice Hoffman (Second Nature) recounts the humorous and useful advice she received from this down-to-earth woman. Included also is a haunting account of the life and death of his mother by Chang-Rae Lee (Native Speaker), the story of Edwidge Danticat's (Krik? Krak!) hardworking father, who supports his family by driving a gypsy cab, and a memoir of his difficult and eccentric father by Geoffrey Wolff (Age of Consent). Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Library Journal
The Fiffers (Home: American Writers Remember Rooms of Their Own, Pantheon, 1995) have collected here 18 contemporary memoirs about "family values." Each focuses on a particular family member, with family interpreted broadly enough to include Whitney Otto's cat and Beverly Donofrio's neighbor. Two of the best pieces involve grandparents and food. Geoffrey Wolff raises interesting questions about family and memory as he revisits an episode with his father and brother that he treated more briefly in The Duke of Deception. Other highlights include Edwidge Danticat's portrait of her cab driver father and Bob Shacochis's painful tale of what he and his wife have been through in attempts to have a baby. Though most of these are original memoirs, the essay by Edward Hoagland has appeared before. Recommended for public libraries.-Mary Paumier Jones, Rochester P.L., N.Y.
Kirkus Reviews
A collection of eloquent essays solicited from high-powered writers that nevertheless smacks a bit of "What I Did on My Summer Vacation," except that the subject is family.

The Fiffers (editors of last year's anthology Home) have convinced some substantial talent to choose a pivotal moment or person in the circle they consider family and write about it. Except for Bob Shacochis, who writes about the torture of overcoming infertility, the contributors to this volume accentuate the positive. When nothing else will serve, Whitney Otto, the author of the novel How to Make an American Quilt, chooses her cat Kali to exemplify family bonds. But it may be that these writers have voiced their various family-oriented rages and confusion in earlier works and can now discuss the idea of family from a more benevolent perspective. Elizabeth McCracken's charming essay is a celebration of her first cousin twice removed, also an Elizabeth, who was a dancer and a single mother long before it was fashionable. Alice Hoffman writes about advice from her grandmother; Deborah Tannen about missing her father; Beverly Donofrio about a dynamic neighbor. Other contributors include Brent Staples on his Chicago boyhood, Edwidge Danticat on her father's life as a cabdriver, and bell hooks on her wonderfully eccentric grandparents, who were together for more than 70 years. Geoffrey Wolff's lively entry on his father, Duke, nicely captures the ambivalence of family relationships: "always fluid . . . to be emotionally exact is to be inconsistent."

A reassuring read, these skillfully crafted pieces plumb the nurturing aspect of family as opposed to the dark side (neglect, abuse, abandonment) that frequently fuels contemporary writers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679772743
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/11/1997
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Sharon Sloan Fiffer and Steve Fiffer are writing and editing collaborators, most recently on Home. They live in Evanston, Illinois, with their three children.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Skeletons
Advice from My Grandmother 3
The Runaway Son 11
The Faintest Echo of Our Language 27
Papi 43
Happy Blue Crabs 57
Callie 65
Cousin Elizabeth, Dancing 71
The Diary of Kali the Cat 97
Neighbor 115
Daddy Young and Old 129
Inspired Eccentricity: Sarah and Gus Oldham 145
Heavy Lifting 155
Sympathy 179
My Famous Family 193
To the Point: Truths Only Essays Can Tell 201
From Here to Maternity 213
Afterword: Gen-Narration 241
About the Contributors 249
Acknowledgments 255
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2002

    Family Hit Home

    When assigned short stories, students usually try to skim as quickly as they can to be done with their assigned reading. This was not my personal case when I began reading short stories in Family. I really did enjoy each and every one that I read. Not only did I think they were written in creative and interesting ways, but the stories were told through a unique literary way that I found very powerful. One of our first assigned readings was 'Happy Blue Crabs', by Jose Raul Bernardo. This story was particularly enjoyable for me, since it told the way that young children desperatley want to relate to the elder family remembers that are special and respected. I also noticed how much detail was used in telling the story. When reading it, I could imagine myself as a child and this young boy as my friend; observing, together, his grandfather's cooking rituals. Many of the other stories were touching on a personal level because of the sincere ways the authors wrote about their own family stories and events. Being a firm believer in the institution of family, it was refreshing to read well written short stories about something that everyone could relate to. Each author offered an insight into their family and personal lives. The way in which they offered these stories was also very helpful in my own writings for school. All in all, I thought this was a great book to be assigned to and the authors of the stories were very talented and the stories selected were diverse in their message and writing methods.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2002

    New Writing Styles

    When I first began to read this book, I thought of all the sweet memories these authors were having for their family. However, as I delved into the book, I realized it contained a more valuable resource. Each of these authors has a different writing style that conveys their thoughts in the best of ways. This is especially true with Alice Hoffman's 'Advice from my Mother.' She does not write in complete sentences, but instead, she writes whatever pops out of her mind at the time. It is unique, yet understandable. It is a very effective way to tell a story. Another story that I found very interesting was Jose Raul Bernardo's 'Happy Blue Crabs.' This author remembers the first time he cooked with his grandfather. The family is Cuban, and therefore Jose writes a few words in Spanish and informs his audience of how to pronounce them. This fond memory makes the reader feel exactly how Jose felt at the time, yet does not confuse them with the different language. These are just a few stories in the book that have a creative touch to them. Through this book, I have discovered new ways to write stories, but still sound interesting. I suggest this book to anyone interested in seeing different writing techniques, or even if you are just in the mood for touching family stories.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2002

    Family makes the mark or barely misses it?

    Family American Writers Remember their own is a quite unusual collection of stories straight from the heart. This book is a colorful collection of stories that have you reminiscing of similar stories that you have in your own family. ¿Happy Blue Crabs¿ by Jose Raul Bernado is a delightful story of his rightful passage into manhood. His wonderful use of detail has you standing on the white patio with him on the warm summer day. With all the family men looking on he proudly become a burly Cuban man. ¿Callie¿ on the other hand is quite a unique piece. This story seems to move from one story to the next with no apparent transitions or continuous thoughts. At the end of the piece you are left to wonder of you really grasped the concept of the idea behind the story. Alice Hoffman¿s ¿Advice from my Grandmother¿ is another wonderful piece. This story takes a unique approach to retelling a story. This one story alone has you captivated from the very beginning. With practical advice flowing paragraph to paragraph, it has you wishing you had made notes on your Grandmother¿s advice. Marion Winik¿s ¿My famous family¿ is another story that has you itching to dive into the exploration of your family tree. Days later you will find yourself telling your own famous family stories. Overall this book can be considered good but not great. While, this book does have some wonderful stories for the majority the other lack a colorful plot and through thought sequence. This book will create a new look on family that you may have never seen before.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2002

    good pleasure reading

    Everyone has a story to tell about his/her family. Whether it¿s a memorable family experience or that one family member who everyone loved, or hated, or misunderstood, each story in this book gives some insight into the family lives of these writers. I felt that a lot of the time I could relate to the writer in some way, because many people go through the same things, only here you get to see it from their point of view. This is easy reading, not heavy material at all. No major revelations are to be drawn from it, this is a book of reflection. It might help you reflect on your own life. My favorite story was Happy Blue Crabs. It struck a chord with me about a connection with my grandfather that I wish I had made. Maximiliano is a grandfather who loves to cook, but only for his very special friends. When he finally invites his grandson to a dinner, he shares one of his most valuable life secrets with him. Life is worth living for a moment that makes you go ¿ah¿ and realize that there is poetry, a hidden beauty, in everything. Often, this ¿ah¿ moment is experienced in doing what you love. This book is great to relate to, and could almost be called ¿Chicken Soup for the Family Member¿s Soul¿.

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