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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Do I Have to Say Hello? Aunt Delia's Manners Quiz

I picked up Delia Ephron and Edward Koren's Do I Have to Say Hello? Aunt Delia's Manners Quiz more than a year ago, at BEA 2015, and as we all know I got a little distracted by my (lack of) dissertation. (It's going much better, by the way!) I thought it would be a perfect fit for a Thanksgiving Day review here on Sassy Peach. I will be slaving away in the kitchen for my friends while you sit back and enjoy this post.

How do you eat certain foods at the dinner table? What is the proper response to a letter from a distant family member? Appropriate school behavior -- what is it? If you need to throw up in a moving vehicle, how should you politely ask the driver to pull over? Every question you could imagine that a young person wouldn't ask but needs to know is contained in this book. Fashioned as a question-and-answer process, Ephron covers everything you can imagine in this book and has it properly, and humorously, illustrated by Koren.

You might hear an older generation holler about the kids these days having no manners, but the reality is that manners, and morals, for that matter, are generational. Manners are seen as a moral issue, and I have heard many in the greatest generation yell and yell about the lack of respect and manners in young people. Hell, I've even heard my older graduate students wax on about this. Now, doing what I do for a living, I don't believe this to be true. Not only do the idea of what is proper and what is not changes over the years, but we also know that these things take time to learn. They aren't inherent, and not all children are rude. (Sure, some are.) You must learn how to behave in certain situations -- no one "just knows."

A form of this book was originally published in 1989, and honestly, it shows. I loved reading this book because it's of my generation -- it's something my dad's mom would have absolutely given to me as a child. She once sat me down in her living room with my aunt to tell me how rude I was, because obviously that was her job. I can't remember my response, but I think when she asked me if I was this rude at my other grandmother's house, I replied no. She asked why, and I said because I liked my other grandma. As you can see, she would have purchased me this book without taking a step back to realize that maybe, just maybe, the six-year-old me just didn't like being treated as though I had no thoughts, feelings, or autonomy. My behavior was in reaction to, and modeled by, the people I was with. Think on that.

So this book cracked me up, only because it felt as though it harked back to my childhood. It's not a book I would purchase as a gift for my friends' children, because the times, they are a-changin'. I have a much different view toward the development of children (because, you know, it's what I do). They are to be seen and heard, as opposed to my grandmother's desire for me to be a "good little girl" and be prim and proper and marry young because how on earth do I support myself as a woman in this world? I would, however, purchase this book for my friends so that we could sit back and talk about our childhoods. The ones that were good but that we want to modify for our own kids. 

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