A diligent reader might begin this absorbing journey into an immigrant family’s fortunes, made and lost, by seeking the meaning of its title, Concepcion. They would discover that, like the generations revealed in Albert Samaha’s probing account, the answer isn’t simple. Concepcion is the surname of Samaha’s ancestors, the name of one of Ferdinand Magellan’s ships, a city in the Philippines and a word that aptly suggests a beginning.
Now nearing the same age as his mother, Lucy, when she first arrived in California, Samaha wants to understand what led her there. If Lucy was initially blinded by the promises of a country that held sway over her comfortable middle-class life in the Philippines, he wonders, how does she feel now? How have his other family members fared within the diaspora in the U.S., and how do they regard their ties to their homeland? Their answers are surprising and complex.
Samaha writes from the perspective of a successful, educated and skeptical American adult, declaring, “I found it easier to see what my elders could not: the height of the climb and the length of the fall.” Applying his skills as an investigative journalist to his family’s far-reaching saga, he filters their experiences as immigrants through the Philippines’ tumultuous history and the effects of their acquired American culture. It’s a deftly executed back-and-forth, and he shares his own enlightenments—and criticisms—as he goes. The role of race in the history of the National Football League and the influence of religion on political preferences are among his targets.
Samaha’s deep dive into Philippine history begins with Magellan’s colonization of the Philippines in the 1500s, flows through the centuries to Ferdinand Marcos’ long, controversial reign as the 10th president of the Philippines, and ends with Rodrigo Duterte’s current iron grip. Japan’s brutal occupation during World War II led to a U.S. takeover (the spoils of victory), and America has loomed large as a land of opportunity ever since. When U.S. immigration rules relaxed in 1965, Filipinos knew where to go.
Now, having benefited from his mother’s years of devotion and hard work, his absent father’s money and the support of their larger family in the Bay Area, Samaha is sensitive to their struggles amid what he sees as the failed promises, economic inequities and racial injustices of their adopted country. From the disadvantages of their lower paying jobs—such as his uncle’s work as an airport baggage handler after abandoning his career as a rock star in the Philippines—to their resilient, steadfast beliefs in democracy’s ideals despite its failings, Samaha plants their stories alongside his own and grows a remarkable family tree.
Journalist Albert Samaha's investigation into his family’s decision to emigrate from the Philippines turns up some surprising and complex answers.
Early in her debut memoir, Seeing Ghosts, journalist Kat Chow recalls one of the times her mom made a goofy Dracula face, an exaggerated grin with teeth bared. “When I die,” Chow’s mother told then 9-year-old Chow, “I want you to get me stuffed so I can sit in your apartment and watch you all the time.” This strange request haunted Chow in the years after her mother, Florence, born Bo Moi in 1950s China, died from liver cancer when Chow was 14. Florence’s too-early death informs this memoir, which delves into the quiet devastation of Chow, her two older sisters and their father, and how the family’s grief has shifted over the years. Along the way, Chow carries on a running conversation with Florence, addressing her and asking unanswerable questions.
Chow recounts both her own youth and episodes from the lives of her parents, immigrants who met and married in Connecticut and whom Chow portrays with love and candor. Florence’s playful but odd sense of humor served as an anchor for her three daughters. (She enjoyed hiding around corners, jumping out to scare her kids and then hugging them.) Wing Shek, Chow’s dad, became unable to throw anything away in the years after his wife’s death, and Chow portrays this reality with compassion, as well.
Late in the book, Chow recalls recent family trips to China and Cuba, which she spent searching for truer, more complete versions of the family stories she heard as a young person. For example, in Cuba, Chow looks for traces of her grandfather’s expat life as a restaurant worker in the 1950s. As Chow’s dad likewise searches for his father’s history, he begins to face his own long-lived but unspoken grief, and we see how far the family has come in their years without Florence.
Like the experience of grief itself, Seeing Ghosts is meditative, fragmentary, sometimes funny and occasionally hopeful.
Like the experience of grief itself, Kat Chow’s memoir is meditative, fragmentary, sometimes funny and occasionally hopeful.
Parenting ideals are constantly evolving. These excellent, up-to-date guides provide strategies for communicating with your kids in ways that will resonate today.
★ Bringing Up Race
“We need to talk to our children about race long before they start making up their own stories,” writes Uju Asika, author and mother of two boys. “We need to tell them before the world whispers too many lies in their ears.” Asika is a Black Nigerian woman who grew up in Great Britain and has also lived in the United States. As a girl, people occasionally called her racial slurs. Her older sister was once tied to a chair at age 6 and verbally abused by other kids for being Black. “I’m no stranger to prejudice,” Asika writes.
For years, Asika has written a popular parenting blog called “Babes About Town,” which focuses on fun family outings in London. Now she’s the author of Bringing Up Race: How to Raise a Kind Child in a Prejudiced World, which tackles that all-important question, “How do you bring up your kids to be cool, kind, and happy when there is so much out there trying to break them down?” It’s an extremely informative and enjoyable read, thanks to Asika’s wise but never preachy style and her inclusion of stories from her family and many others. She also shares the opinions of various specialists and closes each chapter with “Talking Points,” Q&A-style examples that tackle real-life scenarios that might come up for kids of any race, such as, “If my child is curious about someone’s family background, how can they ask without appearing rude or racist?” or, “I want my kids to go to the best schools, but I’m worried about them being in a monocultural environment and picking up values that don’t suit us as a family.”
Reading this book feels like having a stirring, in-depth conversation with an affable expert on this vital topic. As Asika concludes, “There’s nothing more urgent than bringing up our kids to think globally, fairly, and with empathy for their fellow humans. We need to be responsible for raising a generation of people who are more open, more tolerant, less afraid.”
★ Dear Highlights
In 2014, an 8-year-old boy wrote to Highlights magazine to say, “I’m a romance kind of guy, but my friends HATE it. Can you help?” Since its founding in 1946, the magazine’s editors have personally responded to this and every piece of mail a child has sent, whether it’s a letter, poem or drawing. In fact, one young reader wrote regularly over the course of 10 years, beginning at age 7, sometimes with daily emails. All told, the editors sent him more than 200 replies, admitting, “He started to feel a little like family, and today the staff often wonders aloud how he is doing.”
In 1979, the magazine started drawing on this wellspring of letters, publishing a monthly “Dear Highlights” advice column filled with questions and concerns on all sorts of topics, including Santa, siblings, friendship, parents, sexuality, identity, body image, illness and death. Now the editors have compiled selections from their correspondence treasure trove in Dear Highlights: What Adults Can Learn From 75 Years of Letters and Conversations With Kids, edited by Highlights editor-in-chief Christine French Cully.
Although names have been changed for privacy reasons, ages and dates are included with all the letters. Chapters are organized by kids’ primary concerns, such as families, school and societal issues and events. Often, facsimiles of the original letters are shown, in the children’s real handwriting, alongside a multitude of other particularly wonderful drawings and poems. The historical references are intriguing as well, as children have asked questions about the Kennedy and King assassinations, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Challenger disaster, COVID-19 and more. Both kids and adults will find it easy to get lost in this lively, unique and fascinating book.
How to Talk When Kids Won’t Listen
“The more you ask me to do something, the less I want to do it.” I repeatedly heard this statement from my three children, and we all stalked away feeling frustrated. I definitely needed a copy of How to Talk When Kids Won't Listen: Whining, Fighting, Meltdowns, Defiance, and Other Challenges of Childhood. Part of the bestselling “How to Talk” series, this book is yet another winner.
Authors Joanna Faber and Julie King explain that when we try to calm kids down by minimizing their troubles, they end up feeling worse. Straight-shooting words of wisdom are laced with cartoons and helpful humor, such as the insightful quip, “When you’re upset your new shoes were stolen at the gym, that’s not the moment you want your friend to remind you to be grateful you have feet.” Faber and King tackle everything from homework hassles, sibling battles and screen time to sex and divorce concerns. Chapters end with fun quizzes designed to reinforce the strategies discussed, as well as key takeaways with scripts. For example, if you want a child to help out around the house, offer them a choice instead of telling them what to do: “Do you want to put away the leftovers or load the dishwasher?”
How to Talk When Kids Won't Listen is an essential guide that’s easy to dip into as needed. As Faber and King write, “If we want kids to grow up to be independent thinkers and responsible problem-solvers who can consider the perspectives of others, we have to consider their perspective and give them practice making decisions, taking responsibility, and solving problems.”
The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure
When it comes to raising successful children, parents typically ask the wrong question, according to psychologists Chris Thurber and Hendrie Weisinger. Instead of asking how much pressure they should apply, parents need to reframe the question: What are the healthiest ways to push our children? Using a variety of case studies, these authors offer parents effective strategies to do just that in The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure: A Positive Approach to Pushing Your Child to Be Their Best Self.
Thurber is a psychologist at the renowned Phillips Exeter Academy, and Weisinger has worked with plenty of Fortune 500 executives and is the author of numerous books, including Performing Under Pressure. They point out the necessity of praising a child for doing their best rather than feeling disappointed that a certain goal wasn’t achieved, such as a first-place trophy or an A+. They also outline the differences between healthy and harmful pressure and explain that one key to success is helping kids not to choke at important moments, while offering tips on exactly how to achieve this goal.
Whether you’re concerned about your child’s grades, athletics, music lessons or social life, The Unlikely Art of Parental Pressure is likely to be a transformative guide.
These four books will teach parents how to have sensitive conversations with their kids—in ways that ensure their kids actually listen.
Growing up in the 1970s, Julie Klam heard stories about her grandmother’s first cousins, the Morris sisters. Selma, Malvina, Marcella and Ruth Morris emigrated from Eastern Europe with their parents around 1900, were soon orphaned in St. Louis and eventually made their way to New York City, where they made a fortune. “I was told they were completely crazy, obscenely wealthy, never married, had no children, and all lived together in a house in New York City,” Klam writes in The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters: A True Story of Family Fiction, her sixth book.
In her conversational, often funny style, Klam takes us along on her intrepid search for the truth, near-truth and outright lies embedded in her family’s colorful lore about the Morris sisters. Klam visits older family members to record their conflicting stories and learns a surprising secret about the girls’ mother. She also visits sites important to the sisters’ lives, most affectingly the Jewish orphanage in St. Louis where three of the sisters were sent as children, as well as two small towns in Romania. There, Klam takes in the towns’ abandoned Jewish cemeteries and near-abandoned synagogues.
Along the way, as Klam weaves anecdotes with uncovered records, the sisters emerge as distinct individuals and, yes, almost legendary women. But in the end, The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters isn’t about the sisters so much as it’s about Klam’s search, her wrong turns and dead ends, and the sadder truths that family members papered over. “It turns out that finding the truth in a family can be tricky,” Klam notes, an understatement.
The Almost Legendary Morris Sisters is an entertaining read that offers a substantial meditation on the meaning of family and what our ancestors mean to us, even when we can’t get as close as we’d like to their stories.
In her funny, conversational style, Julie Klam takes us along on her search for the truth, near-truth and outright lies embedded in her family’s colorful lore.
How many of us married people really thought about what we promised in our wedding vows? We probably said that we would be united with our beloved “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,” but we recited the words as a matter of tradition. Eleanor Henderson made those promises, too, but she’s made good on them. In her incredible memoir, Everything I Have Is Yours: A Marriage, she describes life with her husband, Aaron, and his perplexing array of physical and mental illnesses.
Everything I Have Is Yours goes back and forth in time from when the young couple met as artsy kids in Florida to their present-day marriage with two kids and a mortgage. Along the way, Henderson rises in her career as an author and professor while taking on caregiving duties for aging parents, young children and, increasingly, her chronically ill spouse. Aaron struggles to find his footing career-wise and faces a number of mental health challenges, including addiction and suicidality. It’s clear, however, that Henderson and their children are enamored with Aaron. This family has as much love as it does pain.
Readers should be aware that passages about incest are recurrent throughout the book, as well as discussions of suicide attempts. The descriptions of Aaron’s strange illnesses are vivid and unambiguous (including lesions, rashes and bleeding), and parasites, real or imagined, make many appearances. In many ways, this memoir is a compelling medical mystery, and anyone who is interested in the disputed existence of Morgellons disease will have lots to chew on here.
Ultimately, this memoir is about the depth of the marital bond. Readers may wonder, why is Henderson still enduring all this? But of course, we know the answer: She deeply loves her husband. Everything I Have Is Yours is not a traditional love story, but it is a love story—one as heart-wrenching as it is heart-filling. Reading it will prompt you to give the meaning of “in sickness and in health” a good, long thought.
Eleanor Henderson describes life with her husband and his perplexing array of physical and mental illnesses in this heart-wrenching and heart-filling memoir.
Rodrigo García is a film and television director, writer, cinematographer and son of the late Nobel winner Gabriel García Márquez, affectionately known as Gabo, author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. When García’s world-famous father began his long slide toward dementia, García began taking notes. “Writing about the death of loved ones must be about as old as writing itself, and yet the inclination to do it instantly ties me up in knots,” he writes. “I am appalled that I am thinking of taking notes, ashamed as I take notes, disappointed in myself as I revise notes.”
All who have loved García Márquez’s works will rejoice that his son overcame that angst, dutifully waiting until after his father’s death in 2014 and his mother’s death in 2020 to publish his intimate, endearing tribute, A Farewell to Gabo and Mercedes: A Son’s Memoir of Gabriel García Márquez and Mercedes Barcha. García’s notes, acutely observational, are simultaneously infused with love, respect and the pain of loss. He admits that his relationships with his parents were complicated. Their lives had public, private and even secret components, and García frets about crossing lines that might leave his parents helplessly exposed. Still, from his dying father’s bedside in Mexico City to his last moment with his mother (shared digitally, as COVID-19 prevented him from traveling), García is a guardian of their dignity.
Yet this memoir’s details are indeed intimate. We're ushered into García Márquez's study as he works, until the renowned author slowly realizes he no longer can. García’s mother rises above her grief, insisting that she is a woman, not a widow, as she entertains the flow of mourning guests from around the globe—even the complete stranger who manages to con her out of quite a bit of cash. We follow García into the crematorium as he gazes upon his father for the last time, tempering that blow with the thought that García Márquez might have enjoyed flirting with the funeral worker who gave his body a little makeup, a final flourish on his way out.
Fittingly, García begins each chapter with an excerpt from one of his father’s works, and it’s this connection between life and art that holds this intense memoir together. As one epigraph from Love in the Time of Cholera puts it, “he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits.”
When Gabriel García Márquez began his long slide toward dementia, his son began taking notes for this intimate, endearing tribute to his late parents.
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A young indigenous girl learns the importance of water from her elders, then unites with her community and its supporters to defend it in Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade’s inspiring new picture book, We Are Water Protectors.
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