Deborah Tannen

in conversation with Amy Tan

Recorded Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

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Deborah Tannen in conversation with Amy Tan

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Deborah Tannen’s newest release, Finding My Father: His Century-Long Journey from World War I Warsaw and My Quest to Follow, traces her father’s life from turn-of-the-century Warsaw to New York City in an intimate memoir about family, memory, and the stories we tell.

Deborah is University Professor and Professor of Linguistics at Georgetown University and author of many books and articles about how the language of everyday conversation affects relationships.  She is best known as the author of New York Time Bestseller, You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. This is the book that brought gender differences in communication style to the forefront of public awareness.

In addition to her eight books for general audiences, Deborah is author or editor of sixteen books and over one hundred articles for scholarly audiences. She is also a frequent guest on television and radio news and has been featured in and written for most major newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, HuffPost, Newsweek, Time, USA Today, People, and The Harvard Business Review. She lives with her husband in the Washington, D.C., area.

Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club remains a classic examination of the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. Her other novels are The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Saving Fish from Drowning, and The Valley of Amazement (2013), all New York Times bestsellers. She is also the author of a memoir, The Opposite of Fate, two children’s books, The Moon Lady and Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat and numerous articles for magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar, and National Geographic.

“Smashing heads does not open minds.”

– Deborah Tannen

A personal note from Deborah.

Sent November 24th, following her Conversations with Authors session.


What a great pleasure and privilege it was to connect across the continent with Amy Tan, a dear friend with whom I share so much history and affection—and to connect with you as well.

I missed seeing you all in person. At in-person events, seeing nodding, smiling, and sometimes laughing faces keeps me going. But even though I couldn’t see you, knowing you were there made all the difference, and I’m grateful that going virtual meant more of you could attend.

Thank you for coming. And thank you to Book Passage for bringing us together, and for bringing readers and writers together day after day, connecting us with each other, and with books—and, through books, with the ideas and emotions swirling around us, and within us, in these surreal times.

Here are some books published this year that I really enjoyed:

I’m especially pleased to mention Richard Ford’s new story collection. Here’s why: As a member of the board of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation (a unique literary organization that Amy introduced me to), I co-chair the committee that administers the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, and Ford is a past winner of that prize. I’ll also mention other story collections recently published by PEN/Malamud winners:

and a wonderful novel soon to be published by another PEN/Malamud prize winner:

Finally, I’ll mention The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, who will receive this year’s PEN/Malamud prize on Dec. 4. The award ceremony will be online, so you’re all welcome to attend