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Letters to My Children [Kindle Edition]

Russell Bittner , Vera Bittner , Emily Knight
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $51.99
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  • Length: 364 pages
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Book Description

What follows (part dialogue, part monologue, mostly rumination) is a series of letters I wrote to my two children on their respective birthdays over the course of 21 years.

The first is one I wrote to my son on his day of birth: November 25, 1991; the last is one I wrote to my daughter leading up to her 18th birthday on June 8, 2012. Some letters are missing from this publication: they’re either lost to other computers, other hard drives, other floppy discs, or are still in storage in the Bronx. I may or may not be able to recover them ever again.

What, then, is—and was, from its genesis—the rationale for these letters?

Quite simply, a desire to recall, as accurately as possible, the physical, moral and cognitive development of my two children year by year and blow by blow, as they grew from infancy to toddlerhood, and from childhood to adolescence. But why? So that if they ever needed to, they could one day look back and understand a large part of what made (and makes) them who they are as adults in all of their scintillating functionality ... or dysfunctionality.

This publication may or may not prove to be a worthy addition—or at least a scantily-clad footnote—to the ever-raging debate of Nature vs. Nurture. I’m not a psychologist. I’m a writer … “with a gift [or at least a head] for fiction” (David Mamet, STATE AND MAIN) to boot. And so, I must issue a warning: caveat lector!

That said, these letters are the foundation of a truth I aspired to establish early on with my children. What I conveyed often enough orally to my son from the moment he could understand English—namely, “You don’t lie to me; I won’t lie to you”—was never easy for either of us to embrace. And in some sense, at least, I made my part of the bargain easier by concealing lots of difficult truths until his 18th birthday (2009), when I suspected he’d be better able to handle those truths in written form.

He was. And he did.

On that basis, and once I’d returned to Brooklyn (less than a month ago), I decided to risk the same with my daughter — and consequently gave her all of the letters I’d addressed to her and that I could still access.

But why — the skeptic in you may yet wonder — should anyone have any interest whatsoever in an otherwise private correspondence between a father and his children? I can’t say that anyone will. That said, no one has published — or even written — a series of letters to his or her children over the course of nineteen years (if one includes each child’s day of birth). At least, not that I know of. While much of what occurs to a child gets lost in the shuffle—or worse, gets suppressed, only to raise its arrogant head in some other form(s) in adulthood—these letters are an attempt to remedy that loss.

The events that first kept us together as a family unit—but then blew us apart—were nothing I could’ve anticipated in my wildest dreams or nightmares. The strategies my children and I have employed to keep us close over the years are ones the children of estranged parents will hardly consider novel. But the words my two children said/wrote to me are some of the kindest and most charitable I’ve ever heard out of the mouth/pen of *any* child.

In that sense, this collection is a gift to all parents for whom it’s not already too late. Not every father has the free time I’ve had over the years, or a facility with writing candidly about his feelings towards his children. No matter. I don’t know that such a facility is really all that important; I rather think it’s the gesture, the consistency, the promise made and kept.

As we say in English, however, “the proof is in the pudding.” The royalties, should there be any, are entirely theirs—as are the responsibilities that will come with publishing a book.

Therefore and henceforth, I'll let them speak for themselves.

As of this Father’s Day in 2012 — just as on other Father’s Days in years past — I couldn’t be happier with either of them.

For the moment, QED


Editorial Reviews

About the Author


Russell Bittner is first and foremost a father; next, a poet; thirdly, a writer of both fiction (this novel; two collections of short stories plus one novella in each; one four-act drama; and 100+ poems) and non-fiction (Letters to My Children and Girl from Baku); and lastly, a citizen of the world, a denizen of the planet.

Product Details

  • File Size: 833 KB
  • Print Length: 364 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008GFY3XQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,375,415 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Father Writes September 19, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Russell Bittner's new book Letters to My Children is a labor of love--that is, the love that impels a parent to be deeply concerned for his children in all aspects of their lives. It's also an account of the ways in which a family can break down under the horrific pressures of modern urban existence.

Bittner is a Brooklyn poet, short-story writer, and essayist whose work has appeared in many venues. When his first child Christopher was born in 1991, Bittner resolved to write him a letter on that same day, and to continue doing so on every birthday until his son reached the age of eighteen. He followed the same plan when his daughter Alexandra was born three years later. And he has now collected the bulk of those letters and published them in this remarkable book, which he has offered as a tribute and a gift to both of them.

All the expected things are here: joy at their birth, delight in the phenomenon of their growth and learning, hope and worry for their future, the occasional friction of parent-child misunderstandings. But behind it all is a father's profound sense of awe at the miracle of his children. He is by turns surprised, delighted, dumbfounded, and upset by the ways in which they show themselves to be independent human beings, related to him by blood and affection but distinct from him in temperament and attitudes. Yet his love for them remains unchanged and strong, while his concern for them grows more intense as his marriage dissolves.

For this is also a book about the breakup of Bittner's marriage and the horrors of a modern divorce, where anger and acrimony tear a family apart.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Letters to My Children by Russell Bittner August 21, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are confessions in Letters to My Children that children should not read or know. As I read some of these confessions from a father to his two children, I cringed. I found many of the personal revelations sad and distasteful. At times, I didn't feel much empathy for this man's behavior that he admits he won't control. Addictions (sexual, alcohol, nicotine) abound. Betrayals of spouses and girlfriends abound. Locales, languages, intellect--but also the lack of steady work and a lot of hubris abound. It's almost enough to make one drop the book like a hotcake, but there is something deeper afoot than public revelation of private travail. These letters, written in journal-like entries to each of Bittner's two children during their birthday month every year were meant for the children when they turned eighteen. The letters are this father's attempt--a man who admits he is more comfortable with the words "I love you" on paper--to explain himself to his children and to love them in the way he is most comfortable--namely, in words.

There is no doubt in my mind that Bittner loves his two children. His personal behaviors were often alarming but his act of writing detailed letters to each child chronicling their lives together (and separated from each other ) is a wonder--and redeems him. Honest to a fault, he doesn't sugarcoat his many flaws. Most importantly, he owns them. E.g., "I also need to get a job--any job--to pay my bills as normal, responsible adults do every day of their lives. Perhaps one or all of these would be the best birthday present I could give you. Quite frankly, the challenge frightens me. And in my fear, I realize how weak I am. How I go into every night with rage, but also with a profound fear. Of what, I don't know exactly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Letters to My Children by Russell Bittner September 17, 2012
Format:Paperback
Letters to My Children
by Russell Bittner

Russell Bittner wrote one letter to his son, Chris, and one to his daughter, Alex, as each child's new birthday approached, but they did not receive any of their letters until they turned 18, when they were given the lot. With permission from his children, the letters were collected and published, along with exquisite photographs, in Letters to My Children in June, 2012.

I was fascinated by these chronicles, recounted in a loving father's voice, of Chris and Alex's milestones, mishaps and triumphs, and by the full-throttle reckoning of Mr. Bittner's life as he lived it, mostly in Brooklyn, during those 18 years. Because the author is a fine writer who is ruthlessly honest with and about himself, the letters give us an authentic family--hits, misses (divorce) and all. Bittner has years when things went badly amiss and my heart ached for him, but I admit there were times I wanted to take hold of the author's shoulders and shake them for all I was worth. But this is fine with me because as a reader I want to be stirred up, punched and pummeled, and touched by love. Russell Bittner invites us in, right in, to sit with the family in his remarkable collection of letters to his wise and tender children.

Nonnie Augustine
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Letters to My Children by Russell Bittner November 26, 2012
Format:Paperback
Russell Bittner's "Letters to My Children" is a fascinating labor of love chronicling 19 years of his life and his relationship with his son, Christopher and his daughter, Alexandra. The letters were written as birthday gifts to each child, but were not presented to them until their eighteenth birthdays. They were initially intended to be kept private. It is important while reading to recall these two facts because the letters are shockingly honest and candid about issues, such as sex and substance abuse, which is one reason the book is interesting and makes it stand out from letters most of us would write to our children.
The book also tells a tale of a brilliant, but struggling writer trying to survive, as well as provide for his children. It is a heartwrenching story of survival. It portrays a life of rejection in both the publishing world and his private life that saddened me.
Bittner tells his children that "life is a competition for attention," and that, "The only things any of us really possess are what resides in our hearts and heads." You come to know that there is a great deal of knowledge, intelligence, and love in this man's heart and head. Discovering it, and how he is able to impart this to Christopher and Alex, is what makes "Letters to My Children" a good read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars More than letters, a long, endearing personal essay.
"Letters to My Children" represents one of the most honest, touching memoirs I've read. Because it's about real letters in time of each of Bittner's children birthdays (before he... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Diana F.
5.0 out of 5 stars “I made a wasteland of everything I touched”
The author quotes another writer, Raymond Carver, expressing his feelings about his own life as he trudges from one failed relationship to another, one dead-end job to another, one... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Swizzlestick
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
This is a great book and a great value. I have used amazon for many purchases but this was the first time I have tried the electronic book feature
Published on January 6, 2013 by Audrey Fayad
5.0 out of 5 stars Letters from Russell
This book from my friend Russell, what can I say.As a reader of fine fiction, true stories sometimes scare me. Read more
Published on December 17, 2012 by B. L. G. Simiana
5.0 out of 5 stars In the era of "end of prosperity and well-being",books like this one,...
The title -at least for me- appeared to be of utmost interest: "Letters to My Children". Didn't I too, have a notebook with letters to my own children, from the time they were... Read more
Published on December 13, 2012 by kate papas
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a labor of love
Writing a series of letters to your children seems like an easy task--right? OK. Let's add in these anomalies: begin letters at child's birth; write them on a yearly basis until... Read more
Published on November 6, 2012 by Mary Patterson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Touching Account of Overcoming Life's Challenges as a Father
A touching account of how emotional closeness between father and children is maintained through physical distance and the highs and lows of life. Read more
Published on August 12, 2012 by Jamie Cawley
5.0 out of 5 stars The Personal Letter is Alive and Well
LETTERS TO MY CHILDREN by Russell Bittner

Book Review by Michael H. Hanson

In this digital day and age of the rapidly prepped e-mail, hasty cell phone... Read more
Published on August 8, 2012 by Northcountry Poet
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More About the Author

Writer's Bio

Russell currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.

Russell's prose publications have appeared over the years in journals/magazines at: The International Journal of Erotica; The Edgar Literary Magazine; Beyond Centauri; Snow Monkey; Swill Magazine; SEINundWERDEN; Skive Magazine; The Whortleberry Press; ABCTales; The Picayune Literary Magazine; Blue Crow Magazine; and Snow Monkey.

His prose as also appeared on-line at: 3AM; Pindeldyboz; Satin Slippers; DeadMule; Ink-Mag; GirlsWithInsurance; UndergroundVoices; HackWriters; BlueFood; ALongStoryShort; SouthernHum; DeadDrunkDublin; 10,000 Monkeys; Yankeepot-roast; SkiveMagazine; Quintessence; writeThis; SwillMag; SuffolkPunch; MannequinEnvy LauraHird; Per Contra; ThievesJargon; UndergroundVoices; SUSS: Another Literary Journal; Cezanne'sCarrot; Sliptongue; RedPeter; TheSquirrelCage; FarawayJournal; VerbSap; TheRose&Thorn; 3rdActs; CliteratureJournal; TheCerisePress; EclecticFlash; DonovanHall; Dogmatika; DanseMacabre; SuffolkPunch; Writers'BlocMag; and ISMsPress.

Russell's poetry publications have appeared in print journals/magazines at: The American Dissident; The Blind Man's Rainbow; The Lyric; The Barbaric Yawp; The International Journal of Erotica; Wicked Hollow; Æsthetica; The Raintown Review; CRITJournal; Tuesday, an Art Project; Grey Book Press; Inkspill Magazine; The Feline Muse; Sonnetto Poesia; Rattle; and Trinacria.

Other publications have appeared on-line at: EdificeWrecked; ken*again; SpillwayReview; Quintessence; Erotica-readers; Ink-mag; GirlsWithInsurance; Fireweed; ThievesJargon; MadHatter's Review; ALongStoryShort; LauraHird; SouthernHum; ZygoteInMyCoffee; OpiumMagazine; JustusRoux; PWReview; DifferentVoices; VoidMagazine; MindfireReview; Salome-Magazine; Plum Biscuit (a journal of the NYC Writers Coalition); 3AM; Dogmatika; ALittlePoetry; EvergreenReview; theBreath; Sliptongue; Chanterelle'sNotebook; AscentAspirations; TheLinnet'sWings; 3rdActs; DeadDrunkDublin; The CentrifugalEye; Dogzplot; TheNewFormalist; Per Contra: PartyOfTheFirstPart; DISPATCHLitareview; Litsnack; ClockwiseCat; TheFelineMuse; LucidRhythms; theHyperTexts; and at Elimae.

Over the course of four years (2/09 - 02/13), Russell conducted monthly interviews of notable Anglo-American poets at ALongStoryShort.net ("A Poet's Corner"). He is a former Philosophy major/Russian minor and was awarded a B.A. in 1984 from Columbia University in NYC. He acquired, over the course of a decade, additional certificates of study from, among others: L'Université de Fribourg (CH); Die Universität Wien (Vienna, A); and L'Università per Stranieri di Perugia (I).

His photography has also appeared both on-line and in various journals.

He can most easily be reached at RRBrklyn@aol.com.


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