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Saying "I Love You"

At our recent author talk with Torrey Rush, the conversation veered to why family members struggle to verbalize their love for one another. Is it a race thing? A gender thing? A societal thing? A cultural thing? Too often, people demonstrate their affection through food, gifts, or even through well meant criticisms rather than coming right out and saying "I love you."

Torrey knew that he had to get in touch with his emotions in order to deal with the death of his father, and to raise emotionally healthy children who know without a doubt that they are loved. Through our conversation, others in the audience recognized this lack of communication in their own families, and left inspired to tell their children or parents how they feel.

But saying "I love you" after many years of emotional silence can be difficult.

Torrey used letter writing as a way to open up to his family members and express how he was feeling and what he was dealing with throughout his grieving process. A timely NPR article also addresses this issue -- particularly among immigrant and single-parent families -- citing a Seattle-area football coach's efforts to open up emotional dialogue by asking parents to write letters to their children, and how important and meaningful it was for those children to finally get those loving words.

However it happens, I hope this conversation about family dynamics and emotional openness continues, and that we can all find ways to let our loved ones know how much they mean to us. And hopefully, we can do it right now rather than waiting for a tragedy or loss to provide motivation.

Below are some books, both fiction and nonfiction, that explore the family dynamics of reluctant emotional communication.


Loving Each Other by Leo F. Buscaglia
Amazon Says: In this exploration of loving and living, bestselling author Leo Buscaglia addresses the intricacies and challenges of love relationships. He asks such important questions, as more...
Amazon Says: In this exploration of loving and living, bestselling author Leo Buscaglia addresses the intricacies and challenges of love relationships. He asks such important questions, as: How do we best interweave our lives with our loved ones? Do we change our way of relating depending on the circumstances: If we fail in one relationship, can we succeed in others? In this exhilarating book, Leo doesn't give pat answers. He presents alternatives and suggests behavior that opens the way to truly loving each other. He recalls with heartwarming detail the importance of his own family and friendships in helping him to be open to grow and to love. less...
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The Truth of Me by Patricia MacLachlan
Amazon Says: When Robbie spends the summer at his grandmother Maddy's house, he revels in his grandmother's easy, relaxed ways. Robbie has always felt as if something is missing in his lif more...
Amazon Says: When Robbie spends the summer at his grandmother Maddy's house, he revels in his grandmother's easy, relaxed ways. Robbie has always felt as if something is missing in his life—his parents don't always act like they love him. Maddy helps him understand that an experience his mother had long ago is at the heart of the problem in his family. With this knowledge, Robbie finds the courage to try to make things right.This poignant story from beloved author Patricia MacLachlan celebrates how our unique "small truths" make each of us magical and brave in our own ways.Publishers Weekly Best Children's BookALA Booklist Notable Children's Books NomineeNew York Public Library's 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing less...
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Amazon Says: Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's "saying" the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants more...
Amazon Says: Four mothers, four daughters, four families whose histories shift with the four winds depending on who's "saying" the stories. In 1949 four Chinese women, recent immigrants to San Francisco, begin meeting to eat dim sum, play mahjong, and talk. United in shared unspeakable loss and hope, they call themselves the Joy Luck Club. Rather than sink into tragedy, they choose to gather to raise their spirits and money. "To despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable." Forty years later the stories and history continue. With wit and sensitivity, Amy Tan examines the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. As each woman reveals her secrets, trying to unravel the truth about her life, the strings become more tangled, more entwined. Mothers boast or despair over daughters, and daughters roll their eyes even as they feel the inextricable tightening of their matriarchal ties. Tan is an astute storyteller, enticing readers to immerse themselves into these lives of complexity and mystery. less...
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Amazon Says: A groundbreaking work that explains how the simple act of letter writing can help us confront our problems and, ultimately, change our lives, Letters Home brings us into the i more...
Amazon Says: A groundbreaking work that explains how the simple act of letter writing can help us confront our problems and, ultimately, change our lives, Letters Home brings us into the intimate center of family conflict as we follow the efforts of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and husbands and wives to transform themselves.         Twenty years ago Dr. Terry Vance began assigning letter writing to her psychotherapy patients as a method of addressing past psychological and physical abuses, confronting family members, revealing long-held destructive secrets, facing down the various difficulties in their day-to-day lives, and gaining insight into their own thinking and behavior. In Letters Home, Vance describes the methodology of this therapy, which can work for anyone: how to compose the most effective and empowering letters, what pitfalls to avoid, what outcomes to expect. Using letters written by her patients--each one a haunting narrative in itself--she demonstrates how the letters can unearth unresolved conflicts and point toward mechanisms of change.         While the stories of abuse compel and disturb us, their message of healing and self-empowerment inspires us. Letters Home offers true self-help. less...
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Amazon Says: Does your child speak a different language? Sometimes they wager for your attention, and other times they ignore you completely. Sometimes they are filled with gratitude and a more...
Amazon Says: Does your child speak a different language? Sometimes they wager for your attention, and other times they ignore you completely. Sometimes they are filled with gratitude and affection, and other times they seem totally indifferent. Attitude. Behavior. Development. Everything depends on the love relationship between you and your child. When children feel loved, they do their best. But how can you make sure your child feels loved? Since 1992, Dr. Gary Chapman's best-selling book The Five Love Languages has helped more than 300,000 couples develop stronger, more fulfilling relationships by teaching them to speak each others love language. Each child, too, expresses and receives love through one of five different communication styles. And your love language may be totally different from that of your child. While you are doing all you can to show your child love, he may be hearing it as something completely opposite. Discover your child's primary language and learn what you can do to effectively convey unconditional feelings of respect, affection, and commitment that will resonate in your child's emotions and behavior. less...
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Amazon Says: Twenty-eight-year-old protagonist Tommy Lee Tyson steps off the Greyhound bus in his hometown of Swamp Creek, Arkansas--a place he left when he was eighteen, vowing never to r more...
Amazon Says: Twenty-eight-year-old protagonist Tommy Lee Tyson steps off the Greyhound bus in his hometown of Swamp Creek, Arkansas--a place he left when he was eighteen, vowing never to return. Yet fate and a Ph.D. in black studies force him back to his rural origins as he seeks to understand himself and the black community that produced him. A cold, nonchalant father and an emotionally indifferent mother make his return, after a ten-year hiatus, practically unbearable, and the discovery of his baby sister's death and her burial in the backyard almost consumes him. His mother watches his agony when he discovers his sister's tombstone, but neither she nor other family members is willing to disclose the secret of her death. Only after being prodded incessantly does his older brother, Willie James, relent and provide Tommy Lee with enough knowledge to figure out exactly what happened and why. Meanwhile, Tommy's seventy-year-old teacher--lying on her deathbed--asks him to remain in Swamp Creek and assume her position as the headmaster of the one-room schoolhouse. He refuses vehemently and she dies having bequeathed him her five thousand-book collection in the hopes that he will change his mind. Over the course of a one-week visit, riddled with tension, heartache, and revelation, Tommy Lee Tyson discovers truths about his family, his community, and his undeniable connection to rural Southern black folk and their ways. less...
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Amazon Says: In Wrestling with Love, psychologist Sam Osherson, author of the highly acclaimed Finding Our Fathers, reveals how men in our culture struggle to achieve intimacy in their rel more...
Amazon Says: In Wrestling with Love, psychologist Sam Osherson, author of the highly acclaimed Finding Our Fathers, reveals how men in our culture struggle to achieve intimacy in their relationships, even as strong messages about masculinity demand that they hide their desire for attachments. Osherson begins by offering a startling observation, based on his extensive experience with men: the desire to connect and the impulse to shun intimacy often arise at the same time. Osherson looks at how this ambivalence undercuts men at every stage of their lives, from boyhood through grandfatherhood, and offers concrete, workable advice for how men can free themselves from these conflicts. From the Trade Paperback edition. less...
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The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Amazon Says: Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories--particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme With Love and S more...
Amazon Says: Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories--particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme With Love and Squalor--will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is full of children. The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep. less...
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Amazon Says: Men want to be better fathers, and today they're trying harder than ever. They jog behind strollers, leave work early for parent-teacher conferences, and roughhouse with their more...
Amazon Says: Men want to be better fathers, and today they're trying harder than ever. They jog behind strollers, leave work early for parent-teacher conferences, and roughhouse with their kids before they've had a chance to change out of their suits. But many men aren't building the relationships with their sons that they'd hoped for. And sons are finding it hard to confide in fathers who must devote so much of their time to building careers that both keep them from their families and keep their families comfortable. Many fathers admit that they don't have a clue what's going on in their sons' lives, from ball game schedules to online communities to fears and anxieties about school, friends, and relationships. Fathers often walk around burdened with guilt, worried they're just not able to do the right thing, even though they're trying to be equal partners in parenting with their wives. There When He Needs You is the first book to tell the truth about the challenges that fathers of sons face today -- including the intergenerational legacies of self-doubt that they anxiously carry from themselves having had distant, unavailable fathers. A self-treatment program as well as a psychological X-ray of today's father, There When He Needs You shows you how to create and strengthen a real, meaningful bond with your son. Through real-life stories of real-life dads who have lost and found their way, you as a father will learn to reorder your priorities, express yourself more openly, connect with your loved ones, and become the role model that your son needs. Wives will learn how to gently help their husbands do this -- no nagging, threatening, or criticizing -- while becoming their husband's best friend, cheerleader, and coach. Turning the father-son dynamic inside out, There When He Needs You helps fathers, sons, and mothers to understand their roles in the family and create relationships that fuel closeness and trust. There When He Needs You will open your eyes, tickle your funny bone, and touch your heart. Ultimately, you'll understand what it really means to be a father to your son and discover new ways to be there for him. less...
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