In the first four words of her debut memoir, Deborah Tannen makes the message of her book perfectly clear ... Finding My Father is indeed on the sentimental side, and Tannen’s many attempts to convey her father’s 'wry humor' fall a bit flat ... Fortunately, Eli Tannen’s century-spanning Jewish American life is well worth reading about.
... [Tannen] displays an acute ability to decode and explain the hidden messages and assumptions our words unwittingly convey, whether about power, status, a wish for greater connection or its opposite ... appealing ... overly discursive early chapters ... I wish Ms. Tannen—and her book—had arrived at this knowledge in fewer pages, but the ultimate recognition of her father’s painful need for connection is searing, the depiction of the Jewish community in World War I-era Warsaw riveting. Not only does Ms. Tannen’s heartfelt portrait keep her father—and his memories—alive, but her story also hints at the undiscovered currents that may await us, too, if we but delve beneath the surface of our own family myths.
Deborah Tannen, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, is an expert on how we use words to both reveal and hide ourselves from the people who mean the most to us ... Finding My Father is a beautifully constructed patchwork that Tannen has pieced together from her father’s words ... Finding this Eli allows Tannen to see herself, her family and most especially her mother in a new and conciliatory light. Memory doesn’t only reconstruct the past, Tannen reminds us; it can also forge a new present.
Chapters on Eli's childhood in the Hasidic Jewish section of Warsaw in the early 1900s are as fascinating as the impressive recollections of his aunts and uncles ... An uneven biography, but a worthy addition to World War II and Holocaust memoirs.
Drawing on abundant sources, sociolinguist Tannen creates a loving biography of her father, Eli Samuel Tannen, who indelibly shaped her life ... Her brilliant, resolute father, Tannen amply shows, was worthy of her undying admiration. A generous and empathetic portrait.