Reading Lips: A Memoir of Kisses [NOOK Book]


Kisses, even the ones that don’t happen, can be the trace of what’s constant when life changes. In childhood, when what seems to define everything is competition—for style, for knowing, for experience—a kiss is the first first. When a girl’s father moves out and chooses a new family, a kiss on the head from him may be the trace of constancy that she wants most.

Later, such things take on a different flavor. Sometimes the kiss she wants ...
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Reading Lips: A Memoir of Kisses

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Kisses, even the ones that don’t happen, can be the trace of what’s constant when life changes. In childhood, when what seems to define everything is competition—for style, for knowing, for experience—a kiss is the first first. When a girl’s father moves out and chooses a new family, a kiss on the head from him may be the trace of constancy that she wants most.

Later, such things take on a different flavor. Sometimes the kiss she wants doesn’t come. Sometimes the one she wouldn’t have is forced upon her. From time to time, the one she has kissed before is lost to her.

Some kisses are final. When things are most hectic a kiss can be a celebration. And when circumstances grow threatening—to a woman, her family, her sister—a kiss becomes the reassertion of the most vital connections.

The rich story in these essays rings with good humor and with moving wistfulness. Throughout, Sternbach maintains a perfect balance between them as her story moves from the bittersweet desires of childhood on through loss and love.

Reading Lips is the tale of one woman who is just trying to get life right.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Connected autobiographical essays woven around the theme of kissing.

Sternbach (Now Breathe: A Very Personal Journey Through Breast Cancer, 1999), the editor in chief of the literary journal Memoir (and), is an impressive stylist and a candid guide through her life. Although the reality of kissing serves as the connecting thread, each essay is grounded in one of a wide variety of complementary topics, such as the first love as an adolescent, best friends, parents, sisters, birthdays, tennis, summer camp, air travel, marriage, divorce, cancer, rape and death—among others. Sternbach has carefully considered how to make a life story interesting through unusual yet approachable formatting, and she throws humor, sarcasm and self-deprecation into the mix. Characters from the author's life appear, disappear and then reappear unexpectedly in different essays. One of those characters is a sixth-grade boy worshipped by the author as a fifth grader. She hears a rumor from reliable sources that the boy plans to kiss her on a certain day, but, due to unexpected circumstances, the kiss never takes place. Sternbach remembers the boy sporadically through the decades. When he re-enters her life, never having kissed her, it is because of his premature death. The author's younger twin sisters also figure prominently in the book—they "have always been a source of great material even when they didn't know it." Sternbach mostly avoids discussion of her two failed marriages, but her third (and current) husband plays a major role, especially in an essay about how they met and fell in love. The birth of their daughter provides an occasion for multiple kisses, not to mention an unforgettable hospital-birthing essay.

A memorable, laugh-out-loud, cry-out-loud essay collection for both genders and all ages.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781609530389
  • Publisher: Unbridled Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Claudia Sternbach

Claudia Sternbach is a writer who is equally at home on both coasts. She has one foot in Manhattan where her daughter resides and the other in northern California where her husband is planted as firmly as the redwoods. she is the author of another memoir, Now Breathe (1999, Whiteaker Press), has been published in several anthologies as well as in major newspapers, and is the Editor in Chief of Memoir (and), a literary journal.
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Discovering life through kisses

    Have you ever read a book that just flowed effortlessly from the pages and was just a comfortable fit? Reading Lips was such a book for me. Ms. Sternbach takes us through events in her life, relating each one with a kiss - whether it be reluctant, denied, a missed opportunity, or much anticipated. These are not just romantic kisses, but kisses from friends and family as well.

    It could actually be considered a book of essays as each chapter tells a story in it's own right, but when taken in it's entirety it covers the majority of Ms. Sternbach's life - from an anticipated kiss in fifth grade through her life (and kisses) as a divorcee, wife, mother, sister, friend.

    I was able to relate to her experiences through my own life of "reading lips". It makes one realize how, on a basic level, we all are very much alike. We all have the same kisses in our lives, but possibly, what we do with them is what helps to shape us into who we become.

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  • Posted April 19, 2011

    Witty stories of a life in kisses

    Reading Lips by Claudia Sternbach is the story of a woman's life through kisses. Sternbach who told the story of her battle with cancer in Now Breathe is a remarkable author who tugs readers' heartstrings while also tickling their funnybone. She opens with her first almost kiss to Teddy K, and the emotional angst and confusion of a fifth grade girl. Sternbach's writing as young Claudia is earnest and innocent, perfectly capturing all of the drama of girls that age. She wants to finally beat best friend, Babs, at something, and kissing Teddy would do that nicely. The essays flow from childhood to college to adulthood, somehow skipping over her first husband entirely (apparently his kisses aren't worth relating!), always with humor and charm. As the author ages, the writing matures, acquiring the tone of your best friend who always has the best stories. Two stand-out chapters are her rant at then-boyfriend Michael when he requests the opportunity to spend a week with his ex-girlfriend in order to break up with her (emotional, frustrated without ever being bitter or cruel, with a hilarious bent) and the story of giving birth to daughter Kira and kissing her for the first time. By the end of the book, readers will have fallen in love with this humble, intelligent, and funny woman who so craftily and wittily manages to take the stories of her life in kisses and make them feel like they belong to us all.

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  • Posted April 12, 2011

    Couldn't put this book down!

    I had the wonderful opportunity to be present at a reading in New York City...I bought five books directly afterwards...I wish I had bought more. As I turned each page I couldn't help but think of all of the people I knew that would love this book. A precious life journey that explodes with emotion as you turn each page. Wonderful, kisses. : )

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  • Posted April 7, 2011

    can't put it down once you start reading it!!

    What a great book! It is very touching - best to get several so you can give some to your friends!! I highly recommend it.

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  • Posted February 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Readers will appreciate this fine relationship memoir

    The essays are somewhat related by the memoirs of kissing connections, but in fact more tied together by relationships. Using herself over the course of her life as the focus of her links with others, the fascination is how the other kisser relates to the author and why the kiss as types varied based on relational roles. A person stars in one essay, disappears for several decades only to finally reappear in a later entry. Subjects explored include a wide range of people as Ms. Sternbach discusses BFFs forever and not, her parents, three husbands, and her twin sisters. The birth of her daughter (spouse three) leads to serial kissing and the Lost Photos remind the writer of kisses before and after cancer surgery. Other topics include the kiss that never was adolescent 'puppy" love that is a precocious contribution that later turns melancholy, the Hard Landing kiss from mom to ease the pain of a broken arm birthday bashes, summer camp, marriage and divorce. Some of contributions delve into taboo topics like rape and death, but there will always be a Teddy K willing to take a Second Chance kiss.

    All of the degrees of separation are intense yet amusing, profound but also sarcastic especially when the author affectionately and humorously discusses her younger siblings. Readers will appreciate this fine relationship memoir as Ms. Sternbach earns a mental kiss from me for this charming collection.

    Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

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