READING LIPS

A Memoir of Kisses

Claudia Sternbach

Kisses, even the ones that don’t happen, can be the trace of what’s constant when life changes. In childhood, when what seems to define everything is competition—for style, for knowing, for experience—a kiss is the first first. When a girl’s father moves out and chooses a new family, a kiss on the head from him may be the trace of constancy that she wants most.

Later, such things take on a different flavor. Sometimes the kiss she wants doesn’t come. Sometimes the one she wouldn’t have is forced upon her. From time to time, the one she has kissed before is lost to her.

more …

Kisses, even the ones that don’t happen, can be the trace of what’s constant when life changes. In childhood, when what seems to define everything is competition—for style, for knowing, for experience—a kiss is the first first. When a girl’s father moves out and chooses a new family, a kiss on the head from him may be the trace of constancy that she wants most.

Later, such things take on a different flavor. Sometimes the kiss she wants doesn’t come. Sometimes the one she wouldn’t have is forced upon her. From time to time, the one she has kissed before is lost to her.

Some kisses are final. When things are most hectic a kiss can be a celebration. And when circumstances grow threatening—to a woman, her family, her sister—a kiss becomes the reassertion of the most vital connections.

The rich story in these essays rings with good humor and with moving wistfulness. Throughout, Sternbach maintains a perfect balance between them as her story moves from the bittersweet desires of childhood on through loss and love.

Reading Lips is the tale of one woman who is just trying to get life right.

less …
  • Unbridled Books
  • Paperback
  • April 2011
  • 224 Pages
  • 9781609530372

Buy the Book

$14.95

indies Bookstore indies Bookstore

About Claudia Sternbach

Claudia Sternbach is a writer who is equally at home on both coasts. She has one foot in Manhattan where her daughter resides and the other in northern California where her husband is planted as firmly as the redwoods. she is the author of another memoir, Now Breathe (1999, Whiteaker Press), has been published in several anthologies as well as in major newspapers, and is the Editor in Chief of Memoir (and), a literary journal.

Praise

“Sternbach has carefully considered how to make a life story interesting through unusual yet approachable formatting, and she throws humor, sarcasm and self-deprecation into the mix….A memorable, laugh-out-loud, cry-out-loud essay collection for both genders and all ages.
—Kirkus Reviews

Reading Lips: a Memoir of Kisses rings true and sweet as a music box. In a sea of memoirs based on big marketing hooks, Sternbach’s subtle theme is refreshing and, you come to realize, profound. Flawless pitch and balance. Guileless, unaffected writing. A book club’s dream date. I loved this perfect little opal earring of a book.”
Joni Rodgers

“Small moments and large tragedies are handled with unselfconscious delicacy and humor in this sweet read.”
—Library Journal’s
Booksmack

Discussion Questions

Does the thread of transformative kisses spark any memories of your own?

Sternbach’s structure is unique. Does it read more true than the linear recounting we expect? How so?

Why do you think the publisher chose the cover image?

How does Sternbach “take ownership” of her own story? What does this mean to you?

This book is about connection and about not connecting at all. Discuss.

Ms. Sternbach has a tattoo on her arm. It reads: “Hope is the thing.” Could that have been an epigram for this book?

Does Sternbach seem to reflect an era here and, if so, how does she manage to connect with younger readers?

Trust is a theme in this book. Trusting others. Trusting oneself. Discuss.

Sternbach is a survivor in more ways than one. Writing this memoir becomes another way to survive. And being remembered matters. Discuss.

The publisher says in the copy that Sternbach is “trying to get life right.” What does this mean? Are you? Is “getting life right” new to our culture or just more public now?