July 2009

It runs in the family

By Jancee Dunn
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If it weren’t for wacky families, what would writers use for their literary inspiration? That’s a question that will never plague humorist Jancee Dunn, as she amply portrays in her new memoir, Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?

Dunn explores the paradox of the child/parent relationship with amusement and exasperation. This is a quandary familiar to anyone who has tried to drag a parent into the technological 21st century. Of course, as Dunn cheerfully chronicles, these children are then appalled when the parent embraces modern ideas, demonstrated in Dunn’s case when her 60-something mother decides to get a tattoo.

Most of Dunn’s vignettes are funny (occasionally hilarious), but she does tread solemn ground when she writes of her decision not to have children. An otherwise pleasant woman becomes incensed when Dunn confesses she and her husband enjoy their childless existence: “‘Don’t you think it’s selfish not to have children?’ This dishearteningly familiar argument never failed to amaze me. Why on earth was refraining from adding a child to a world with an exploding population and diminishing ozone layer selfish?”

Dunn’s humor confirms that if you can’t change things, it’s much better to laugh about them, especially if you can do so with others.  

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