Improving EQ through reading; thoughts on “Grandma: The Story of a Boy and His Grandma” by Joseph S. Wolkin

Improving EQ through reading; thoughts on “Grandma: The Story of a Boy and His Grandma” by Joseph S. Wolkin

Those of us who are/were lucky enough to grow up with a loving grandmother (or two) can appreciate and relate to the tribute that Josh Wolkin erected for his relationship with his grandmother. If this book hadn’t done anything else just memorialize her and their bond it would have been a nice gesture, an important lesson of respecting/loving grandparents and surely part of the author’s process of grieving and remembering. This limited scope of a book would have been gratifying already for the author and some readers but a bit self-serving: why would the wider audience care about someone we never knew. 

However he went much further and managed to teach subtly about how to improve our own emotional intelligence, particularly for us men. I don’t know how consciously the author did it, but he included several of the recommended tips, including recognizing one’s own feeling, cherishing positive emotions, not backing out from potentially uncomfortable situations, being conscious of a stressful situation, taking responsibility for his actions, feeling empathy, balancing the love he received with the one he gave, accepting aging, death and grieving …. 

The day I read this book I also read this Washington post article:  “No game days. No bars. The pandemic is forcing some men to realize they need deeper friendships.”, including this bit: 

As young boys, male friends tend to share their deepest secrets and most intimate feelings with each other[…] But as boys begin to enter adolescence at age 15 or 16, “you start to hear them shut down and not care anymore,”

The two together resonated strongly in me that in this day and age we all need to devote more attention to our mental wellbeing and loved ones. 

Let me offer a helpful book and two articles on the topic:

My two favorite quotes from the book are:

  1. “Every time I would go see her as a little boy, I was afraid — afraid of the love that she had to offer. She was the sweetest woman with the sweetest voice ever.”
  2. “Thanks to her, I learned about life. I learned how to live, and that is not something many teenagers will master.”

The second one is also important as it is raising the concern of teenagers getting detached from their own emotions and as a result not reaching their full mature potential. 

After reading the above you might be wondering whether it is a dry academic book. Very far from it. Just because my thoughts on it are serious the book itself is a joy to read. The illustrator, Amanda Thompson, captured the spirit of intergenerational love and caring. Every reader will feel the warmth that emanates from the story and the pictures and it is worth it. 

Why am I reviewing this book on a Jewish book themed website? The author is Jewish and his bar-mitzvah, described in the book, is a part of the story. And the Grandmother is Jewish as it is evident from the prominent Magen David necklace she wore.

Disclaimer: I have received an electronic copy of this book from the author for review.

Related links

Publisher’s description:

Every time little Joseph visits his grandmother, Doris, he is afraid of the love she offers. Like many children, Joseph does not recognize what having a grandma means. Still, they go everywhere together–she picks him up from school, takes him to the doctor when he is sick, and plays ball with him. As Joseph grows up, he and his grandmother create a bond like no other.

When Joseph has his Bar Mitzvah and officially becomes a man, according to Jewish customs, no one smiles bigger than his grandma. But as Doris ages, she becomes sick, weak and unable to carry on with their Jewish traditions. Joseph is right by her side, just like a grandson should be. He plays cards with her, keeps her company, and brings her whatever she needs. Just as he finally realizes what unconditional love really means, he must prepare to say goodbye to her.

In this poignant children’s tale, a little boy comes of age, with the help of his devoted grandmother, and learns what it is like to be loved.

Year first published: 2015

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