Book review, by Erin Williams and Andrew Burton
Speaking Out reader Erin Williams writes:
My qualifications for reviewing this book come from 25 years of stammering (man, those first three years beforehand must have been nice). One of the most interesting things has been discovering the ways we all experience stammering differently - some people are covert whilst others will gladly tell anyone about it. It's a spectrum, and where you fall on this spectrum will determine how useful you find this book. I haven’t attended speech therapy for 10 years and don’t have training on the mechanics or the psychology of stammering, so I came to this book as a typical consumer rather than as someone capable of analysing its academic content.
Author Ellen-Marie Silverman has been a Speech and Language Pathologist for over 30 years and stammers herself. Relief from stuttering... is a set of her previously published works, with each essay followed by a commentary written specially for this publication. The essays were presented at the International Stuttering Awareness Day online conference between 2000 and 2012. It should be noted that the language used can be somewhat clinical, attributed to the conference environment in which these papers were given. Additionally, it relies heavily on a variety of psychological theories and on both eastern and western religions and spirituality, so be prepared to do some side research (aka Google) if you want more than a surface-level understanding of the philosophies referenced.
Overall, the book advocates and describes a more psychological and emotional form of relief, rather than achieving fluent speech. Most of the essays have common threads, touching on themes to do with ‘honouring self-worth, facing fear and charting a path of change,’ and throughout, Silverman turns the emotional responses to stammering into a more universal one of fear and the desire to be happy and find peace. This leads to a fair amount of repetition which can either reinforce these themes or seem a bit redundant when read back-to-back.
The recurring theme - self-acceptance and self-reliance - is one that my younger, less confident self would have found useful. Being told upfront that nothing would change unless I made the decision to change how I reacted to my stammer, might have hurried the process and allowed me to avoid having to piece these concepts together on my own.
As is the case with many self-published books, this one would have benefitted from an editor, as there are a number of typos and grammatical errors that have been overlooked. The overall message of Relief from stuttering... is worth hearing - just remember that the ideas and recommendations represent what has worked for Silverman - each reader will have to figure out how to adapt these messages to fit their own circumstance.
Andrew Burton writes:
I’m not one for self-help books, and I’d classify myself as being in the ‘accepted my stammer, try and ignore it and live with it’ category, but when I saw an opportunity to review this book I thought, why not see if I can learn something from it? And it turns out I did.
What I liked most about the book was that it’s not your typical self-help text. It presents facts, backed up by an honest story which both engages and encourages the reader to think about their own lives. On several occasions I found myself nodding in agreement as Silverman spoke about experiences she’d been through. Personally, a chapter entitled ‘Using stories to help heal’ really resonated, regarding how (in the author’s own words) “listening to and reading accounts of people who confront personal challenges reminds us that we too have the capacity to face and move through and past our fears, if we choose to do so.” How refreshing to see words implying that we are all equal... just a bit different!
I found some papers quite hard to read at times, not because they weren’t interesting or relevant, but because they were technically worded. However, the commentaries after each really were informative and gave an insight into Silverman’s own personal story and what assisted her with her issues. The theme throughout the book is one of positivity and I sense a genuine willingness and desire for her experiences to help the reader.
Does the book live up to its title? In my opinion a very definite YES! There were elements that were not to my taste (e.g., chapters on meditation, mindfulness and Shenpa) but there’s a whole host of other insightful chapters that are not only interesting, but genuinely inspiring. It’s a book about changing your mindset, recognising you’re not defined by your stammer unless you let it define you; it’s about casting off beliefs carried around since childhood; facing fears and ultimately letting go and living with it.
Buy this book if you want to better yourself and have the drive to become the person you’ve always wanted to be. Don’t buy this book if you’re looking for a magical cure for your stammer; you won’t find one. However, you might just find a new, more confident you. The quote on the back sums the book up perfectly for me: “We do not need to master our stuttering to speak with greater ease. We need to master ourselves.”
Relief from stuttering: Laying the groundwork to speak with greater ease, by Ellen-Marie Silverman, is available to buy at http://amzn.to/1geG5Jc.
From Speaking Out Summer/Autumn 2014, p.23