Dear Aunt Debbie,
I hear you on the mean-spiritedness. Jeff and I have talked about this -- the feeling that our generation skews cynical in our pop culture, that sometimes the satire we cultivate becomes too cold. That being said, I think I may find Mansbach funnier than you do these days because the experience he satirizes is currently a part of my life. Of course, as my mom pointed out, the danger of actually buying it is that your kids will pick it up and want you to read it to them....
Your point about mutual respect made me think immediately of the book Eleanor and I are engrossed in at the moment (one of your recent gifts): Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. You wrote about it a few months back, describing Minli's adventures and the ways in which it is a book about stories, storytelling, and the ways that stories can knit together to become something whole. The relationship between Minli and her parents, Ma and Ba, is such a tender one: she starts out on her quest in order to improve her family's fortunes, and is always deeply aware of the pain she's causing them by having run away, even as she's determined to reach the Old Man of the Moon. Ma and Ba's journey is an internal one: ultimately about accepting that they need to trust their daughter to come home, rather than looking fruitlessly for her. The traditional Chinese virtue of filial piety is part of this, I think, but there is something very moving and personal about the way it's expressed here: foremost about mutual consideration and love rather than duty.
We also went ahead and got ourselves a copy of One Morning in Maine, also a deeply warm and considerate book, which has become an instant favorite.