REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books

"Apple Tree: Writers on their Parents," ed. Lisa Funderburg, 232 pp, Univ. Oklahoma Press, hardcover, November 2019, $24.95

By DONNA MCCROHAN ROSENTHAL

Traces of our parents emerge in each of us, whether predictable or unexpected. We see these traits in mirrors, in our gestures and reactions, and in how we raise our children. “Apple Tree” offers the reflections of 25 top writers who explore their relationship with arrogance, obsession, grudges, manners, luck and laundry, thanks to their upbringings.

In the essay “Lies My Parents (Never, But Maybe Should’ve) Told Me,” screenwriter/producer Shukree Hassan Tilghman recounts the Christmas morning when his parents told him that his gifts came not from Santa, but from them: “We work hard all year long to give you these presents because we love you…. Why should Santa Claus get the credit?” Shukree carried these lessons to rearing his daughter. He favored honesty when he felt it could help her understand the real world. On the other hand, when he believed as a little boy that his power came from the sun, his parents both said, “Of course you can get your power from the sun. Just don’t look directly into it.” This approach he endorses: the lies “that imbue you with power you may not otherwise believe you have.”

In “Unlived Lives,” journalist Laura Miller recalls her first apartment in a neighborhood where “my friends were performance artists and sex advice columnists and opera singers,” on the afternoon when her mother and grandmother visited. They had always criticized her choices: career, clothing, and decision to remain single. But now, from a chance remark, Laura learned that her mom had once wanted the life that Laura pursued. Laura concludes, “This is another way that parents resemble the moon: they exert invisible forces that shift the tides in ourselves.”

In “Around the Table,” author Lauren Grodstein describes childhood family dinners defined by three courses and in-depth conversations. Twenty-five years later, Lauren discerns occasional parallels in her household and observes, “I suppose there’s a pleasure in that wistfulness too – in remembering the way something was and holding tight to something that will also one day be a memory.”

Brief biographies of the contributors close this honest, eloquent collection of journeys into the past that will open windows to your own.

This monthly column is written by members of Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club. Meetings are held the first Thursday evening of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year.

Story First Published: 2020-04-17