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Pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton writes his autobiography

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton engages one of his young patients in a photograph from his new memoir. “Learning to Listen.”.Handout

Making of a pediatrician

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, whose research led to a new understanding of infant and child development, turned 95 on Friday. Having tended to the needs of COUNTLESS families for a half-century, the Cambridge resident and Harvard Medical School professor emeritus has turned his attention to his own upbringing.

In the memoir “Learning to Listen: A Life Caring for Children” (Da Capo), he writes frankly about his own development. Brazelton was born in Waco, Texas, during World War I when his father was away at military training. HE WAS 9 MONTHS OLD WHEN HE FIRST MET HIS FATHER. All little Berry could do was cry when a man he didn’t know gave him a big hug. “He doesn’t like me!” Brazelton’s father declared.

As a pediatrician decades later, Brazelton analyzed that pivotal interaction in a child-centered way. At 9 months, most babies are at the peak of stranger anxiety. “Had my father known to wait until I reached out to him, our relationship might have been different from the first,” Brazelton writes.

He confesses that he “hated” his only sibling, Chuck, who was 2½ years younger than he. “And in truth we never got to know one another. My mother kept us apart, keeping Chuck to herself,” he writes. Chuck became an alcoholic and died at age 64. In his memoir, Brazelton explains that he views his mother’s lifelong hovering over his brother as a sign of misguided passion.


“Looking back, I think my mother’s overprotection made independent life hard for him,” he writes. As a consequence, Brazelton adds, he himself has tried to “help parents channel their passions in a constructive direction, to face problems early on, not waiting until after a child has already failed.”

Hip lit comes to suburbia

One of the hippest urban literary series is hitting the road this month. The Cambridge-based Four Stories is sponsoring an evening of storytelling called “Beneath the Surface: Confessions, Guilt and Redemption” at the General Store in Harvard on Saturday. The evening starts with a free wine tasting at 6 followed by readings at 7 by singer-songwriter Dillon Bustin, poet and sculptor Linda Hoffman, and writers Pagan Kennedy and Lauren Slater . Slater, the sister of Four Stories founder Tracy Slater, moved to Harvard from Somerville 18 months ago. The author most recently of “The $60,000 Dog: My Life with Animals” (Beacon), Lauren Slater views the evening as the start of something big as she works with other writers and artists in her new hometown to put on a series of art and literary classes and events.


“Revisionist History: Tales of Recollections, Misremembering & the Past” will be the theme when Four Stories takes over Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge at 6 p.m. June 11. Details at fourstories.org.

Coming out

■  “Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland: A Spenser Novel” by Ace Atkins (Putnam)

■  “From Stone to Flesh: A Short History of the Buddha” by Donald S. Lopez Jr. (University of Chicago)

■  “A Disease in the Public Mind: A New Understanding of Why We Fought the Civil War” by Thomas Fleming (Da Capo)

Pick of the Week

Kari Meutsch of Phoenix Books in Essex Junction, Vt., recommends “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald,” by Therese Anne Fowler (St. Martin’s): “While Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald led a very public life in many ways, Fowler breathes fresh and vibrant life into a voice that very much deserved to be heard on its own. Any lover of the art, literature, and culture of the Jazz Age will not be disappointed.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com. Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.