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The Bookworm Says: 'Strawberry Letter' is So-So

“The Strawberry Letter,” by Shirley Strawberry with Lyah Beth LeFlore, 2011, Ballantine One World, $22, 165 pages

She has the kind of voice that sounds like its owner knows what she’s saying, and an audience that loves to hear her say it. In her new book, “The Strawberry Letter,” Shirley Strawberry shares her story and plenty of her advice.

It was not cool to be smart back when Shirley Strawberry was growing up in Chicago, but her uncle made her proud of her brains. Every chance he got, he made sure to show her off, and he inspired her to continue her education.

But radio called and Strawberry went for air.

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There were a few bumps in the road before she became co-host of The Steve Harvey Morning Show, a nationally-syndicated radio program featuring host Stve Harvey, and there have been a few lingering regrets, but radio was in her blood and so was advice-giving. When she started getting Dear Shirley letters and began reading them on-air, she discovered that listeners loved it.

This book – long requested – continues the advice.

Perhaps because she has her own regrets, Strawberry says to remember what you dreamed about when you were younger, then bring the dreams back. That will get you out of your comfort zone, which is “essential for… growth and survival.”

Her advice includes:

• Look your best at all times and keep yourself updated on world issues.

• Embrace your creativity, express your ideas, and “don’t let the skepticism of others stop you.”

• If you’re older, help someone younger in her career. If you’re younger, don’t act like you can’t learn from anybody.

• In matters of love, don’t get “stuck on stupid.” Make sure your man knows the requirements of a relationship with you. Step up and teach him. Be willing to work on your relationship. And understand that sometimes love means walking away.

None of that, of course, is exactly deep or profound. Someone looking for meaningful advice for a problem might find it here, but she’ll have to dig a bit.

Without a doubt, “The Strawberry Letter” is a good little book. Author Shirley Strawberry is as enjoyable in print as she is on the radio, and it was fun to learn about her life, her thoughts, friends and family, wishes and regrets. Strawberry isn’t at all reluctant to let readers know about her personal disappointments and she uses her own life as example.

But there’s the complication: many of the letters “answered” in this book just lead to personal anecdotes that go off-topic and never completely return to the issue at hand. That can be entertaining – unless the question asked was your question, too.

If you’re looking for a quick book to read, this one is very high on entertainment value. But if you’re looking for solid advice, “The Strawberry Letter” is not always so tasty.


The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books. Her self-syndicated book reviews appear in more than 260 newspapers.

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