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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 47.
- Review Date: 2009-05-11
- Reviewer: Staff
Dunn's travails will be instantly recognizable to readers in their late 30s and 40s—a generation that's shifted the family bickering about what to serve at holiday dinners to conference calls and e-mails. Her parents are a bottomless well of comedy, sending her wacky newspaper clippings and grilling her loudly about her inability to go to the bathroom during their vacation. Her circle of friends is equally familiar, like the gay buddy who invites her over for TV-movie parties and can always be counted on to make catty remarks about strangers. Several chapters are filled with transcripts of phone conversations with her best friend, Julie, flitting from topic to topic, comparing the embarrassing songs saved on their iPods and wondering why their parents haven't figured out voice mail isn't like an answering machine (“Hello? Anybody there? Hello, it's Dad”). Dunn's tone is genial, only turning serious briefly near the end when she discusses not having kids—and then inadvertently discovers she's finally pregnant. The seriousness doesn't last long, though, and soon it's back to affectionately mocking her mom's decision to get tattooed—although, as her sisters point out, she's secretly pleased to have something new to write about. (June 23)
It runs in the family
If it weren’t for wacky families, what would writers use for their literary inspiration? That’s a question that will never plague humorist Jancee Dunn, as she amply portrays in her new memoir, Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo?
Dunn explores the paradox of the child/parent relationship with amusement and exasperation. This is a quandary familiar to anyone who has tried to drag a parent into the technological 21st century. Of course, as Dunn cheerfully chronicles, these children are then appalled when the parent embraces modern ideas, demonstrated in Dunn’s case when her 60-something mother decides to get a tattoo.
Most of Dunn’s vignettes are funny (occasionally hilarious), but she does tread solemn ground when she writes of her decision not to have children. An otherwise pleasant woman becomes incensed when Dunn confesses she and her husband enjoy their childless existence: “‘Don’t you think it’s selfish not to have children?’ This dishearteningly familiar argument never failed to amaze me. Why on earth was refraining from adding a child to a world with an exploding population and diminishing ozone layer selfish?”
Dunn’s humor confirms that if you can’t change things, it’s much better to laugh about them, especially if you can do so with others.