You Should Read This: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin

Cover for The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin, recommended by Cat Rambo

Elgin identifies eight basic types of verbal violence and the modes for dealing with each one.

This book changed my life. I read it in college, at a time when I was becoming aware of how much could be contained in language. It helped me deal with dysfunctional relationships and it provided strategies for dealing with verbal bullies that I still use on a regular basis. Elgin is also a science fiction writer that I highly recommend, including her book, Native Tongue. I still buy anything I see by Elgin, because I know I’ll end up giving it away.

What: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense helps identify sneaky verbal attacks like back-handed compliments, insults disguised as jokes, and other jabs, as well as providing tactics for dealing with each other.

Who: Read this if you’ve ever felt bullied and didn’t know exactly why. Or if you’ve ever been accused of bullying someone in communication.

Why: Even if you feel totally in command of conversations, this book will help you write better dialogue by showing many of the constructions bullies use, as well as a better understanding of verbal interactions overall.

When: Read this when you’re at your wits end in dealing with a friend, colleague, or anyone else.

Where and how: Keep it handy for frequent reading. If you don’t understand what all the fuss is about, try working through the exercises.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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