A compassionate and highly readable overview of therapeutic approaches to stuttering.

THE STUTTER STEPS

PROVEN PATHWAYS TO SPEAKING CONFIDENTLY AND LIVING COURAGEOUSLY

A comprehensive plan for dealing with a stutter.

“Everyone who stutters,” writes debut author and consultant Flaum early on in this book, “has similar stories of those awful experiences that made us realize we were ‘different’ and easily teased and mocked.” The broader personal and psychological circumstances surrounding stammering, the author contends, can often be just as important as the difficulty itself. As Dr. Heather Grossman, one expert, comments in the book, “the core problem of stuttering is actually made up of all the things that person does in order not to stutter.” These “avoidance tactics” include passing up social gatherings, relying only on texting rather than talking on the phone, and replacing a difficult-to-say word with an easier one even when the difficult word is the one you really want. However, people who’ve dealt with stuttering can attest that such tactics don’t always work. Flaum examines an array of alternatives, including a counterintuitive approach of intentionally stuttering a bit, which can help one relax; some people, he says, “feel stuttering on purpose for their first few words helps them feel more in control of their speech. It also helps reduce their fear of stuttering involuntarily, so they see no reason to hide it.” Another method, he writes, is so-called “easy stuttering,” in which one tries to “catch” the moment when a stutter occurs and draw it out it slightly—again, in order to relax and feel a sense of control. The author describes these and other approaches in detail over the course of this work.

Flaum, who has firsthand knowledge of stuttering, includes commentary from an array of other experts, including language pathologists and speech therapists, in order to provide his narrative with additional professional heft. He also draws on his own considerable experience to smoothly contextualize the information for those readers who may be unfamiliar with the challenges of speech difficulties. He also makes a wise decision to include ample testimony from people who struggle with stuttering themselves, as his most likely audience is made up of these people and those who love and support them. These sections have the effect of personalizing the experience of speech difficulties and clarifying their larger psychological effects: “Keep in mind, this is not about recovery from stuttering,” one such testimonial asserts. “We are recovering from shame.” These personal insights from lived experience effectively bring the book to life, and their quality is matched by the range of Flaum's advice and the humanity of his own prose. He addresses some of the everyday obstacles that people dealing with stutters face, such as unfamiliar surroundings and the physical stress of anxiety, as he assesses various approaches to speech therapy; for each of these strategies, Flaum lays out the facts in a clear and upfront manner, assessing each type of therapy for strengths and weaknesses in a way that readers are sure to find valuable. Overall, Flaum delivers an encouraging guide that will make his target readership feel accepted and heard.

A compassionate and highly readable overview of therapeutic approaches to stuttering.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64293-653-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Post Hill Press

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS

Building on his lysergically drenched book How to Change Your Mind (2018), Pollan looks at three plant-based drugs and the mental effects they can produce.

The disastrous war on drugs began under Nixon to control two classes of perceived enemies: anti-war protestors and Black citizens. That cynical effort, writes the author, drives home the point that “societies condone the mind-changing drugs that help uphold society’s rule and ban the ones that are seen to undermine it.” One such drug is opium, for which Pollan daringly offers a recipe for home gardeners to make a tea laced with the stuff, producing “a radical and by no means unpleasant sense of passivity.” You can’t overthrow a government when so chilled out, and the real crisis is the manufacture of synthetic opioids, which the author roundly condemns. Pollan delivers a compelling backstory: This section dates to 1997, but he had to leave portions out of the original publication to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration from his door. Caffeine is legal, but it has stronger effects than opium, as the author learned when he tried to quit: “I came to see how integral caffeine is to the daily work of knitting ourselves back together after the fraying of consciousness during sleep.” Still, back in the day, the introduction of caffeine to the marketplace tempered the massive amounts of alcohol people were drinking even though a cup of coffee at noon will keep banging on your brain at midnight. As for the cactus species that “is busy transforming sunlight into mescaline right in my front yard”? Anyone can grow it, it seems, but not everyone will enjoy effects that, in one Pollan experiment, “felt like a kind of madness.” To his credit, the author also wrestles with issues of cultural appropriation, since in some places it’s now easier for a suburbanite to grow San Pedro cacti than for a Native American to use it ceremonially.

A lucid (in the sky with diamonds) look at the hows, whys, and occasional demerits of altering one’s mind.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-29690-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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