books for a better life

The National MS Society has asked me to be a judge in the 16th Annual "Books for a Better Life" Awards program. I am reading five parenting/childcare books and I thought that I would give you a preview. When I am done I would like to pass them on to you. Send an email to with the specific book title in the subject line, and I will pick names at random for the giveaway on Feb. 1.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
Oh, I SO read this one first! and I have to say I felt for Amy. Have you ever done something consciously with purpose that you knew was crazy (not crazy zany - crazy obsessed) and told people, kind of for comic effect and kind of to be validated. I have. Glass houses - I couldn't blame her.

I would end with that but my Kindle wielding daughter saw it and said, "I read that. Why weren't you a Tiger Mother?! We could have played at Carnegie Hall!" and she meant it. After a terrific conversation about the merits of hard work and/or genius, she conceded that she enjoyed the sleep overs and play dates I let her attend. But beware new moms, no matter what you do, you will not catch a break. It is the nature of the job.

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran
I could not put this down. It is a lovely and heart wrenching collection of accounts of loss from Chinese birth mothers. Xinran's purpose is "to explain why and how they gave up their babies... to ask those mothers what message they would like to send the daughters they will never see or touch again."

I don't really know anything about China and it is as fascinating a glimpse at the inside, as it is a compelling story. I always thought that the Chinese girls were given up because of the single child policy, but it is also a much bigger story of honor and luck and economics. This is a valuable document because these girls have no way to ever find their birth mothers. Records are not kept and the evidence of the birth is dangerous. This book is a public service. It also just happens to be beautiful.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter (Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture) by Peggy Orenstein
I didn't know what to expect, but now I am going to run right out to get, "Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap". "Cinderella" is sharp and curious and kind. It is about the all pervasive pink culture.

I was raised with an expectation that I would have a career and buy my own property, but I still feel awkward getting my hair cut and finding a flattering outfit. My girls just missed most of the princess phenomenon. I feel like we just dodged that bullet, but what I appreciate in this thoughtful account is that there is no judgement. As moms, the things that we want for our daughters are what we didn't have and what we had that we loved. I want to raise a strong and proud woman and I want her to be able to twirl in a cloud of tulle without guilt when she wants. How to make that happen is our challenge.

The Whole Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson Phd and
10 Mindful Minutes by Goldie Hawn with Wendy Holden