Rich Words 

His grandmother sends him a book called The Thinker’s Thesaurus. The book is in its expanded third edition. It promises to provide sophisticated alternatives to common words. On the back cover, a white male linguist praises it: “This magisterial reference work is clear and authoritative. It will help you preserve the highest layers of the English vocabulary.” His grandmother is not a white male, nor is she magisterial. She is quite poor, lives alone, and can only see out of one eye. Nonetheless, sometimes she still finds ways to say hurtful things about Mexicans.

Tense Dinner 

When my parents come to visit Western Massachusetts, we share a good, tense dinner. My dad has been reading more, and there’s a book by Ian McEwan he thinks I’d really love. He’s laughing a little too loud and pounding his fist against the table often, so that mom and I are afraid the nice family at the next table will notice. Mom doesn’t try to keep the blushing off her face the way she sometimes does. I’m glad to see this redness: what’s good about dinner tonight is that no one is pretending to be happy.

Sometimes, I think the main thing I still share with these parents is a tendency toward prolonged, intense sadness. The way we live together now mostly feels like we’re all slowly dying. But tonight, something besides dying is going on. While we are alive, there are clenched fists and hot faces and unhappy people who need each other’s company more than they’d care to admit.

E-mail from Home 

I am sending you this message with great love & caring. We so enjoyed visiting you this past weekend and are sorry to have left on a bad note.

We noticed you are stuttering the first word of each sentence when talking very fast about academic topics to either friends or classmates. When you are relaxed, you do not stutter.

Yesterday, I spoke with a speech therapist about your stuttering. She said you can do the following to stop it:

You can self-monitor your stuttering by taking a “cleansing” breath (calm breath) before you start to speak. Do this often while talking & it will slow down your speech. Once you breathe & relax, your stuttering will stop.

Let me know if this helps.