Book Talk: *Why Is My Mother Getting A Tattoo?*, by Jancee Dunn

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Why Is My Mother Getting
 a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I 
Never Had to Ask by Jancee Dunn
Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?: And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask
Jancee Dunn
Villard (2009), Paperback original (ISBN 0345501926 / 9780345501929)
Essay/memoir, 224 pages

Opening Lines: “Last Thanksgiving, right about the time that our family had finished scraping up the last of our triple fleet of pies (pecan, chocolate, and pumpkin) my mother pushed away from the table, dabbed her lips with a napkin and calmly made an announcement. 

 “‘I’m gettin’ a tattoo,’ she said.

“All of us froze. Most even stopped chewing, a testament to the gravity of the situation”

Book description: Despite her forty years and a successful career as a rock journalist, Jancee Dunn still feels like a teenager, especially around her parents and sisters. Looking around, Dunn realizes that she’s not alone in this regression: Her friends, all with successful jobs, marriages, and families of their own, still feel like kids around their moms and dads, too. That gets Dunn to thinking: Do we ever really grow up?

Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? explores this phenomenon–through both Dunn’s coming to grips with getting older and her folks’ attempts to turn back the clock. In a series of hilarious and heartwarming essays, Dunn conspires with her sisters to finagle their way into the old family homestead, dissects the whys and wherefores of her parents’ obsession with newspaper clippings, confronts the seamy side of the JC Penney catalogs she paged through as a kid, and accompanies her sixtysomething mother to a New Jersey tattoo parlor, where Mom is giddy to get a raven inked onto her wrist. And Dunn does it all with humor and insight.

Comments: I genuinely enjoy reading Jancee Dunn. She’s worked for Rolling Stone and O: The Oprah Magazine, she’s been an MTV veejay and a Good Morning, America correspondent, and she’s written one novel and two books of nonfiction – and yet her voice throughout remains down-to-earth and sweetly conversational.

Her most recent book is a collection of memoir/essays concerning recent events in the lives of her family, who we first got to know in But Enough About Me. The Dunns have their quirks, but they’re ordinary quirks, if that makes sense. Jancee, her sisters, and her parents have remained close geographically and emotionally, and they discuss everything – spouses just have to get used to that. Readers become part of those discussions, which may ring familiar if you also come from a close, chatty family. Jancee shares the clippings about random topics her recently retired parents send her in the mail; in my family it’s more likely to be e-mails, but it’s the same idea. She relates transcripts of her daily phone calls with her best friend, Julie. She talks about her fear of heights, her love for catalogs, her unexpected – and entirely welcome – pregnancy at the age of forty-one…and yes, accompanying her mother to get that tattoo. She doesn’t overshare, but her writing is both intimate and humorous, and as a reader, she makes me feel entirely welcome too.

This was an excellent choice for the 24-Hour Readathon – it’s brief and doesn’t have to be read at one sitting, so you can dip in and out of it between other books, which was my original intention. I changed my mind when I realized I could potentially read it all in one sitting, and I’m glad I did. Jancee Dunn’s stories engage me, strike notes of familiarity, and make me chuckle in both recognition and appreciation of their humor. When I reviewed her first memoir, But Enough About Me, I said that I’d want to hang out with her, and I still do. It’s probably for the best that my travels to New York City later this year won’t take me into Brooklyn, or I just might look for the converted church she lives in with her husband and baby daughter.

Rating: 3.75/5

This book counts for the RYOB (Read Your Own Books) Challenge (7/20). the Memorable Memoirs Challenge, and the Blogging Authors Reading Project.

Other bloggers’ reviews:
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