Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

 
 
In my opinion, Dani Shapiro is an excellent writer. By reading her books, nonfiction or fiction, a reader can learn a great deal about writing. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love is no different. 
 
A random DNA sample returns results which stun Shapiro and her husband. A lower percentage of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage in her background leaves Shapiro suspicious. Considering her parents’ backgrounds, the Ashkenazi percentage should have been higher. With both parents now dead, who could she ask about this possible aberration?
 
Shapiro immediately begins her search for the truth. But what is the truth she keeps asking herself? And who is there to help her? Her Aunt Shirley is one possible source. Although she can’t solve the mystery, Aunt Shirley consoles Shapiro and tells Shapiro that:
 
“confusion about the identity of her biological dad can be a door to discovering who a father really is.” (Emphasis added.)
 
I found the first half of the book difficult to read because of several repetitive portions. Shapiro’s obsession with the question of her “Jewishness” may result in repetitions. Her obsession causes her to worry over her identity within her family and in the larger world. The obsessions and the worrying are understandable, but they become monotonous. These chapters are short and moved along at a quick pace.
 
The second half of the memoir is more engaging. Shapiro shares her attempts to connect with her biological father. Research reveals similarities in appearance, posture, and traits and mannerisms. This story is woven with threads coming from multifaceted situations involving real people. At times, Shapiro belabors her points but she always comes back to the truth and history wrapped up in her story
 
Fans of her other books will enjoy reading how Shapiro coped with this unsettling find. It is clear to me that Inheritance will likely draw others who haven’t read any of her books.

 

 

Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D.L. Mayfield | Book Review

Before beginning this book review, I want to point out that my scheduling of this book for review was well in place before the Executive Order signed on Friday, January 27, 2017, went into effect. However, Divine Providence likely knew of the events to come, and as D.L. Mayfield’s memoir shares the author’s experiences working with and living among refugees and immigrants in my hometown, Portland, Oregon, it is definitely a good time to look at what Mayfield’s thoughts and reactions are to her experiences. AND this is a good time for all of us to begin to search for ways to help the marginalized among us, no matter who received your vote in November. We are needed now more than ever before to stand up and share the goodness and generosity that made America great in the first place.


A social justice activist and writer shares her personal experience working with refugees and the ways her faith has been challenged and strengthened—leading her to experience the power of God’s love and find her true spiritual calling.

Determined to save the world, one soul at a time, nineteen-year-old D. L. Mayfield left her conservative Christian home to become a missionary to Somali Bantu refugees in Portland, Oregon. But after a decade proselytizing, she realized that she had not converted one single Muslim. “I am pretty much the worst missionary ever,” she despaired.

Yet in her time working with these displaced people, Mayfield’s eyes were opened to something much bigger. “I started to read the Scriptures with new eyes, informed by the people who the Bible was written by and to—the people at the margins of society. And it was so much better than I could have believed. The blessings of Jesus were to be found in the most unexpected places. The kingdom is real, alive, and changing everything—liberating, setting free, healing, and preaching news that is actually truly good, in the here and now.”

Assimilate or Go Home is the story of her awakening. Mayfield shows us how God’s love is transforming lives, and makes clear that instead of saving the world, we can join God’s party by loving all of our neighbors—especially those on society’s edge. With vulnerability and a touch of humor, Mayfield reflects upon how her faith was challenged, and urges all of us to reconsider our concepts of justice, love, and being a citizen of this world—and the kingdom of God.

Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D.L. Mayfield
Published: Harper One (August 16, 2016)
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback, 224 pages

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“I used to want to witness to people, to tell them the story of God in digestible pieces, to win them over to my side. But more and more I am hearing the still small voice calling me to be the witness. To live in proximity to pain and suffering and injustice instead of high-tailing it to a more calm and isolated life. To live with eyes wide open on the edges of our world, the margins of our society.”

BOOK review:

The quote above sums up what D.L. Mayfield shares with her readers in a collection of essays on her life as a missionary serving refugees and immigrants in Portland, Oregon. Mayfield’s experiences are many and at times stun her into wondering why she is doing what she is doing.

Mayfield struggles to communicate with non-English speaking people, and she herself does not speak any of their languages. How do you help those who don’t understand you when you ask if they are hungry, or thirsty, or feeling sick? How do you cope with the feelings of uselessness you feel when you can’t understand these people or treat their needs.

All of these things are the subject of Mayfield’s memoir which explores her feelings of failure and inability to do what she has believed to be the work of missionaries since her childhood.

Mayfield’s writing is pleasant and at times lyrical in her storytelling. Some of her essays even hold a bit of humor and charm in them. However, the underlying facts are brutal to those of us who have never experienced extreme hunger, health needs, or poverty. I think the harshness of these needs also struck Mayfield harder than she ever expected.

The transformation Mayfield experiences during her time serving the Somalis in Portland is clearly one she found filled with an increased faith of her own. Her wisdom is ancient, found in the daily grind of life, and shared as the way she lives her days.

Mayfield teaches us that the benefit of working with those less fortunate is actually a two-way partnership. What she learned from her Somali neighbors and friends was a story of resilience and courage. What they learned from Mayfield was acceptance and kindness. What a lovely story in the end; what a difficulty journey to get there.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who believed as a young person you were going out and change the world. Read Mayfield’s Assimilate or Go Home and you’ll learn just how hard it is to do that. And she’ll show you just how much you’ll be the one doing the changing.

About the Author:

D.L. Mayfield, Author
D.L. Mayfield, Author

D. L. Mayfield lives and writes in Portland, OR with her husband and two small children. Mayfield likes to write about refugees, theology, and downward mobility, among other topics. She has written for places as varied as McSweeneys, Christianity Today, Image journal, and the Toast. Her book of essays, Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith is forthcoming from HarperOne in August 2016.

Connect with the author:

Website | Twitter

Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery by Janet Singer with Seth Gillihan

Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recover
Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recover

Daniel Singer hadn’t eaten in a week. Hunched over with his head in his hands, he’d sit in his safe chair for hours, doing nothing but shaking, mumbling and moaning; he was in the throes of severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dan went from seven therapists to ten medications to a nine week stay at a world renowned residential treatment program. His parents worried he’d never again be able to function in society, or even worse, survive. Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery is a mother’s account of the courage and perseverance of a young man who at times was hindered by the very people who were supposed to be helping him. It is a story of hope and the power of family, as well as a useful guide for all those whose lives have been touched by this often misunderstood and misrepresented disorder. Weaving expert commentary and useful information about OCD and its treatment throughout, the authors are able to offer not just a personal account of how the disorder can affect sufferers and families, but also a glimpse into the possibilities for diagnosis, clinical approaches, and successful outcomes. Today, thanks to Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) therapy, one of the available treatments for OCD, Dan is a college graduate working in his chosen field and living life to the fullest. He is living proof that even those with the most severe cases of OCD can not only recover, but triumph.

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

Janet Singer has accomplished more in her book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery, than a hundred scientific publications filled with facts, figures, and charts. To live with OCD yourself or in your family, the ordinary human needs lay speak. Janet does that in her book with authenticity, emotion, and compassion.

Janet lives knowing her adult son has OCD and is challenged in many ways to cope and engage in a normal existence. Most frustrating to Janet and her husband, Gary, are the many attempts by professionals at treating Dan’s symptoms. Trying one drug after the other, sometimes prescribing one on top of the other. Often there were interactions between drugs which were unbearable for Dan. Despite their conversations with his doctors, Janet and Gary never seemed to be able to get through to the medical community that they really know who Dan is.

In my opinion, Janet has done a tremendous favor for those living with OCD or with a loved one who has OCD. The picture offered is a realistic image of their family’s struggles with Dan’s illness and treatments. Janet does not spare anything in laying out the facts of their life, their struggles with the medical and psychological communities, their attempts to help Dan.

Standing alongside and contributing to Janet’s book is Seth J. Gillihan, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor of psychology in the psychiatry department at the University of Pennsylvania. The beauty of Dr. Gillihan’s contributions is found in their placement in the book. As Dan and his family face another crisis, Dr. Gillihan writes information on drugs, treatment plans, and other scientific information in lay terms. This balance between the realistic story and the medical information available provides a perfect resource based in truth for coping with and treating OCD.

Janet Singer has written a poignant and powerful memoir plus a resource to guide others to an understanding of OCD and how to manage it. This book shares encouragement and enlightenment in equal measure, a powerful combination indeed.

My Recommendation:

Overcoming OCD is a story of struggle for Dan and for his parents. Janet and Dan’s love for him and their wish to improve his life is palpable. In sharing their story, Janet has gifted to many a measure of hope in coming to terms with OCD and its many crises. Anyone living with loved ones suffering OCD, or who know someone with OCD, or who could give a copy to a local library will help spread Janet’s words an unknown number of people may benefit from the Singers’ story. Share a ray of hope, a glimmer of better days, and new and innovative treatments.

5 star rating
5 star rating

I rarely rate books on this blog. And when I’m forced to give a star rating on Amazon, Goodreads, or other book sites, I rarely give a 5-star review. The book must be exceptional to garner five stars.

Today I’m pleased to give Janet Singer’s book, Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recoverya powerful and well-written work, a 5-star rating.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.

Meet Janet Singer:

Janet Singer is an advocate for OCD awareness, with the goal of spreading the word that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. At the age of eighteen, her son Dan suffered from OCD so debilitating he could not even eat. Today, thanks to exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy, he is a college graduate working in his chosen field and living life to the fullest. Janet writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Mentalhelp.net, and has been published on many other web sites including Beyond OCD, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, and Mad in America. She has also been an invited speaker at OCD conferences. She started her own blog, ocdtalk (www.ocdtalk.wordpress.com) in 2010 and it currently reaches readers in 162 countries. She uses a pseudonym to protect her son’s privacy. (Via Goodreads)

Meet Seth J. Gillihan:

Seth J. Gillihan, PhD, is a licensed psychologist with a practice in Haverford, Pennsylvania. He specializes in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and related conditions. Dr. Gillihan is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, Department of Psychiatry and a visiting assistant professor of psychology at Haverford College.

Prior to opening his practice, Dr. Gillihan was an Assistant Professor at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety in the Psychiatry Department at the University of Pennsylvania where he carried out research on anxiety disorders (primarily posttraumatic stress disorder) and smoking cessation, provided treatment for anxiety and depression, and supervised psychology trainees and psychiatry residents in the delivery of cognitive-behavioral therapy for OCD, PTSD, depression, and other conditions. (Via Dr. Gillihan’s website)

Book Details:
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Published: January 22, 2015
Hardcover, 240 pages
ISBN: 1442239441


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On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened, a Memoir by Lori Schafer

The child does not question, the child believes in the supremacy and the certainty of the parent, the child trusts. The child does what she is told. ~ Lori Schafer in On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened (Kindle Loc. 456)

Lori Schafer's book cover from On Hearing of My Mother's Death
Lori Schafer’s book cover from On Hearing of My Mother’s Death

It was the spring of 1989. I was sixteen years old, a junior in high school and an honors student. I had what every teenager wants: a stable family, a nice home in the suburbs, a great group of friends, big plans for my future, and no reason to believe that any of that would ever change.

Then came my mother’s psychosis.

I experienced first-hand the terror of watching someone I loved transform into a monster, the terror of discovering that I was to be her primary victim. For years I’ve lived with the sadness of knowing that she, too, was a helpless victim – a victim of a terrible disease that consumed and destroyed the strong and caring woman I had once called Mom.

My mother’s illness took everything. My family, my home, my friends, my future. A year and a half later I would be living alone on the street on the other side of the country, wondering whether I could even survive on my own.

But I did. That was how my mother – my real mother – raised me. To survive.

She, too, was a survivor. It wasn’t until last year that I learned that she had died – in 2007. No one will ever know her side of the story now. But perhaps, at last, it’s time for me to tell mine.

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

Book Details:
Publisher: Lori Schafer
Published: November 7, 2014
Kindle Edition: 85 pages

ISBN13: 9781942170044


Lori Schafer is an expressive and passionate writer. Considering the subject of her memoir, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened, the reader would expect expression and passion. Yet, the essence of Lori’s writing is not based in the subject. Lori is a gifted writer. It does not matter what she is writing; her gift is in the craft and she is expressive and passionate about everything she writes.

On Hearing of My Mother’s Death … is a herculean and intense read for such a short book. A mother who is a professional marrier encumbered with mental illness, something a child doesn’t grasp, leads a life burdensome and frightening for her children. An older sister has left home, and Lori is left to fend for herself. By age 17, she is living on the streets.

Lori addresses the structure of her storytelling in a foreword. But it is the only structure I believe would have worked with Lori’s story. Told in flashbacks and present day, alternating as memories fluctuate, Lori organizes her story in the way a child would remember. Often Gloria, whom I believe is Lori’s inner child, tells much of the story making the structure reasonable.

The reader joins Lori as she watches her mother sink into the depths of mental illness, a specific diagnosis never given. It could have been any one of a number of mental illnesses, but the never-changing impact on the lives of her children were neglect and cruelty resulting in fear, side effects of the ravages of their mother’s untreated mental illness.

To hear the level of fear and the horrid conditions in which she lived is to join Lori on a most difficult journey. Years after leaving home Lori receives a letter from her mother:

That fear, it never quite went away. And when my mother wrote to me the second time, a decade and a half later [circa 2006], I was almost more afraid than I had been the first time. I’d just begun dating a man who had two young children. I had nightmare visions of her appearing on his doorstep with a butcher knife or worse. I sent out warnings to everyone I knew. Judy Green-Hair is back. Watch your step. Because you never know; you just can’t ever predict what someone with an untreated psychotic illness might decide to do. ~ Lori Schafer, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death (Kindle Loc. 865)

This is only one example of Lori’s continuing fear surrounding her mother and her untreated illness. It is hard to imagine living this way for so long. And yet, Lori survived.

I cannot leave you without sharing one last quote from Lori’s book:

… And while our individual experiences vary, the emotions are the same. We all hurt. We all have fear. We all have pain.

But we all, too, have strength. We have power. Even the weakest and meekest show us glow and shine with the light of hope, the light of life. We try, we fight, we strive. We endure. We survive. ~ Lori Schafer, On Hearing of My Mother’s Death (Kindle Loc. 1559)


If you are writing memoir or want to write memoir, I urge you to read this one. Lori’s writing style, character development, and scene building is exceptional. Her passion and expression when telling her story is real. These are the tools of your craft if you write memoir. Or if you simply enjoy reading the life stories of others, Lori’s memoir is for you too. To read of Lori’s life and know that she survived it is inspirational and encouraging.


Meet Lori Schafer:

I’m a very eclectic writer, by which I mean I’m all over the place. My first two novels, My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Agedand Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged are humorous and genre-bending amalgamations of women’s fiction, romance, and erotica. But I also write memoir when the mood strikes; this is how On Hearing of My Mother’s Death Six Years After It Happened, a book commemorating my adolescent experience of my mother’s mental illness, was born.

In addition, I’ve had a ton of short work published in a wide variety of print and online venues – more than thirty pieces in the last year and a half – so if you enjoy flash fiction, short stories, and essays, please check out my publications page, where you’ll find links and a complete list of my credits. I have also published selected works as FREE ebooks on Amazon, ITunes, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, Smashwords, and Lulu, so feel free to download whatever strikes your fancy.

(Read more here)

(Image via Goodreads)

Where to Find Lori’s Book:

Currently, Lori’s book is featured in a Goodreads giveaway. You can enter the giveaway right here.

Note the list of distributors in Lori’s bio above.

You can also buy Lori’s book via:

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