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Smile at Strangers: And Other Lessons in the Art of Living Fearlessly Hardcover – 1 Mar 2014

5.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (1 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547774338
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547774336
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.6 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 797,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Susan Schorn is a badass black belt with a huge heart and generous wit. This inspiring, often funny tale of her journey--from a cowering, self-confessed "neurotic" to a martial arts master--is not just about the kick. It's about how the lessons of karate can be applied to women's daily lives to make us stronger and less fearful--as friends, mothers, wives, and professionals--no matter how we dress or where we go. "Smile at Strangers" is a power tool indeed. It's a swift chop to the myth that women need to live like victims in order to survive. It made me want to take up martial arts too--and keep reading."
--Susan Jane Gilman, author of "Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress"

"Hey readers! Time to put on your karate pants and crush some imaginary trachea! In "Smile at Strangers "Susan Schorn urges us to confront our fears in an increasingly scary world. Who knew that the highs and lows of the dojo held superb--and often funny-- lessons for life? Schorn never suggests that karate is the only path, or even the best path. She is reminding us that we have a choice. We all experience fear, but we can choose our response to it. Overall, reading "Smile at Strangers "is sort of like watching samurai chanbara, only with more safety helmets and female bonding. You wince, but you can't look away."
--Rhoda Janzen, author of "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress"



"This is a memoir I'll be thinking and talking about for a long time. To begin with, the voice is unique--trust me, you've never heard anyone talk about coping with fear and anger the way Susan Schorn does. The writing is hilarious at times, dead serious when it needs to be, and always brilliant. The insights into the psychology of martial arts training--with special emphasis on the experiences of female students and teachers--is sure to launch a thousand discussions about violence, gender, confidence, and how to deal with alligators. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and I will make sure never to get into a fistfight with its author."
--Mark Salzman, author of "Iron and Silk"
"Susan Schorn is a badass black belt with a huge heart and generous wit. This inspiring, often funny tale of her journey--from a cowering, self-confessed "neurotic" to a martial arts master--is not just about the kick. It's about how the lessons of karate can be applied to women's daily lives to make us stronger and less fearful--as friends, mothers, wives, and professionals--no matter how we dress or where we go. "Smile at Strangers" is a power tool indeed. It's a swift chop to the myth that women need to live like victims in order to survive. It made me want to take up martial arts too--and keep reading."
--Susan Jane Gilman, author of "Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress"
"Hey readers! Time to put on your karate pants and crush some imaginary trachea! In "Smile at Strangers "Susan Schorn urges us to confront our fears in an increasingly scary world. Who knew that the highs and lows of the dojo held superb--and often funny-- lessons for life? Schorn never suggests that karate is the only path, or even the best path. She is reminding us that we have a choice. We all experience fear, but we can choose our response to it. Overall, reading "Smile at Strangers "is sort of like watching samurai chanbara, only with more safety helmets and female bonding. You wince, but you can'tg

"This book delivers a swift, lethal karate chop at pantywaistedness in all its forms. With huge amounts of wit and grace, Susan Schorn looks Adversity in the eye, and crushes that sucker's windpipe."
--Henry Alford, author of "Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?: A Modern Guide to Manners"
""Smile at Strangers" is an elegant, often hilarious, and very personal account of women who fight and the paths they take to fearlessness. If you're anywhere on that path--and if you love someone who is--it might be your most essential read of the year."
--Michael Erard, author of "Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners"
"Eat, pray...kick ass. "Smile at Strangers" is the ultimate self-defense guide--from the liberation of the word 'no' to protecting yourself from overzealous Girl Scout troop leaders--all the while cleverly disguised as an insightful, grounded memoir with bursts of hilarity that hit you like a roundhouse. Delivered with self-deprecating candor, Schorn's life lessons learned at the dojo will resonate with anyone who's ever tried to remodel a house, raise kids, cope with a health crisis, navigate office politics or hyperventilated--essentially anyone who's ever been slammed on the mat while testing for the black belt of life. In fact, Schorn's skill at karate is only outmatched by her mastery at prose. Like the fighter herself, you can't put this one down."
--Mary Moore, author of "The Unexpected When You're Expecting: Clear, Comprehensive, Month-by-Month Dread "
"This is a memoir I'll be thinking and talking about for a long time. To begin with, the voice is unique--trust me, you've never heard anyone talk about coping with fear and anger the way Susan Schorn does. The writing is hilarious at times, dead serious when it needs to be, and always brilliant. The insights into the psychology of martial arts training--with special emphasis on the experiences of female students and teachers--is sur

"The tale of her journey to empowerment is an engrossing and inspirational read." --"Publishers Weekly," starred "Although karate may not be the right discipline for some people, Schorn's experiences encourage women to stand up and fight for what they believe in, despite the odds, and to smile and enjoy the process while doing so. Useful, perceptive advice on life found through the practice of karate." -- "Kirkus Reviews"

"Funny, focused, and fierce with wiry wisdom, this memoir is a muscular meditation on living fearlessly. It's a sort of 'Code of the Samurai' for every 21st century person, written by a witty literature professor with a second-degree black belt and a keen eye for spotting human folly. Schorn breaks down our conventional understanding of confronting menace in the world with the same ease that she breaks planks of wood. A perfect, engaging read for tackling college, the workplace, marriage, or prison--basically anywhere humans congregate with complicated motives."
--Joe Loya, author of "The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber"
"This book delivers a swift, lethal karate chop at pantywaistedness in all its forms. With huge amounts of wit and grace, Susan Schorn looks Adversity in the eye, and crushes that sucker's windpipe."
--Henry Alford, author of "Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?: A Modern Guide to Manners"
""Smile at Strangers" is an elegant, often hilarious, and very personal account of women who fight and the paths they take to fearlessness. If you're anywhere on that path--and if you love someone who is--it might be your most essential read of the year."
--Michael Erard, author of "Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners"
"Eat, pray...kick ass. "Smile at Strangers" is the ultimate self-defense guide--from the liberation of the word 'no' to protecting yourself from overzealous Girl Scout troop leaders--all the while cleverly disguised as an insi

"Funny, feminist-minded, ferociously sane, it's a motivational rap, an informal memoir, a samurai manual for the streets, and a liberal guide to living without fear all wrapped up in one black belt." -- James Wolcott, "Vanity Fair""A fascinating look at karate, fear, anger, physical discipline, mental toughness, Zen wisdom, and self-improvement." --" Spirituality and Practice""The tale of her journey to empowerment is an engrossing and inspirational read." --"Publishers Weekly," starred"Although karate may not be the right discipline for some people, Schorn's experiences encourage women to stand up and fight for what they believe in, despite the odds, and to smile and enjoy the process while doing so. Useful, perceptive advice on life found through the practice of karate." -- "Kirkus Reviews"

"Funny, focused, and fierce with wiry wisdom, this memoir is a muscular meditation on living fearlessly. It s a sort of Code of the Samurai' for every 21st century person, written by a witty literature professor with a second-degree black belt and a keen eye for spotting human folly. Schorn breaks down our conventional understanding of confronting menace in the world with the same ease that she breaks planks of wood. A perfect, engaging read for tackling college, the workplace, marriage, or prison basically anywhere humans congregate with complicated motives."
Joe Loya, author of "The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber"
This book delivers a swift, lethal karate chop at pantywaistedness in all its forms. With huge amounts of wit and grace, Susan Schorn looks Adversity in the eye, and crushes that sucker's windpipe.
Henry Alford, author of "Would It Kill You to Stop Doing That?: A Modern Guide to Manners"
"Smile at Strangers" is an elegant, often hilarious, and very personal account of women who fight and the paths they take to fearlessness. If you re anywhere on that path and if you love someone who is it might be your most essential read of the year.
Michael Erard, author of "Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners"
Eat, pray...kick ass. "Smile at Strangers" is the ultimate self-defense guide from the liberation of the word 'no' to protecting yourself from overzealous Girl Scout troop leaders all the while cleverly disguised as an insightful, grounded memoir with bursts of hilarity that hit you like a roundhouse. Delivered with self-deprecating candor, Schorn's life lessons learned at the dojo will resonate with anyone who's ever tried to remodel a house, raise kids, cope with a health crisis, navigate office politics or hyperventilated essentially anyone who's ever been slammed on the mat while testing for the black belt of life. In fact, Schorn's skill at karate is only outmatched by her mastery at prose. Like the fighter herself, you can't put this one down.
Mary Moore, author of "The Unexpected When You're Expecting: Clear, Comprehensive, Month-by-Month Dread "
"This is a memoir I ll be thinking and talking about for a long time. To begin with, the voice is unique trust me, you ve never heard anyone talk about coping with fear and anger the way Susan Schorn does. The writing is hilarious at times, dead serious when it needs to be, and always brilliant. The insights into the psychology of martial arts training with special emphasis on the experiences of female students and teachers is sure to launch a thousand discussions about violence, gender, confidence, and how to deal with alligators. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and I will make sure never to get into a fistfight with its author."
Mark Salzman, author of "Iron and Silk"
"Susan Schorn is a badass black belt with a huge heart and generous wit. This inspiring, often funny tale of her journey from a cowering, self-confessed "neurotic" to a martial arts master is not just about the kick. It s about how the lessons of karate can be applied to women s daily lives to make us stronger and less fearful as friends, mothers, wives, and professionals no matter how we dress or where we go. "Smile at Strangers" is a power tool indeed. It s a swift chop to the myth that women need to live like victims in order to survive. It made me want to take up martial arts too and keep reading."
Susan Jane Gilman, author of "Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress"
"Hey readers! Time to put on your karate pants and crush some imaginary trachea! In "Smile at Strangers "Susan Schorn urges us to confront our fears in an increasingly scary world. Who knew that the highs and lows of the dojo held superb and often funny lessons for life? Schorn never suggests that karate is the only path, or even the best path. She is reminding us that we have a choice. We all experience fear, but we can choose our response to it. Overall, reading "Smile at Strangers "is sort of like watching samurai chanbara, only with more safety helmets and female bonding. You wince, but you can t look away."
Rhoda Janzen, author of "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress""

From the Inside Flap

Eat, pray . . . kick ass. Delivered with self-deprecating candor, Schorn's life lessons learned at the dojo will resonate with anyone who's ever tried to remodel a house, raise kids, cope with a health crisis, navigate office politics or hyperventilated essentially anyone who's ever been slammed on the mat while testing for the black belt of life. Like the fighter herself, you can't put this one down. Mary Moore, author of "The Unexpected When You're Expecting"
Susan Schorn led an anxious life. For no clear reason, she had become progressively paralyzed by fear. Fed up with feeling powerless, she took up karate.
She learned how to say no and how to fight when you have to (even in the dark). Karate taught her how to persuade her husband to wear a helmet, best one bossy Girl Scout troop leader, and set boundaries with an over-sharing boss. Here this double black belt recounts a fighting, biting, laughing woman's journey on the road to living fearlessly where enlightenment is as much about embracing absurdity and landing a punch as about finding that perfect method of meditation.
Full of hilarious hijinks and tactical wisdom, Schorn's quest for a more satisfying life features practical and often counterintuitive lessons about safety and self defense. "Smile at strangers," she says. Question your habits, your fears, your self-criticism: "Self-criticism is easy." "Self-improvement is hard." And don t forget this essential gem: "Everybody wants to have adventures. Whether they know it or not." Join the adventure in these pages, and come through it poised to have more of your own.
"

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I loved this book and found it be a hugely entertaining read.
On a more serious note it made me reflect on some of the beliefs I hold surrounding my own and others personal safety. My traditional view of personal safety was of avoiding being physically attacked, but now I consider it to be a wider concept. In the past I have endured situations that made me feel uncomfortable because I was embarrassed/didn't want to seem rude/didn't want to make a scene etc. After reading this book I feel empowered to do what feels right for me in terms of maintaining my own personal safety.
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Great read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars 45 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fasinating Must Read Book 6 Jun. 2013
By CrissMcConnell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Though I am not a prolific book reader, I could NOT PUT DOWN THIS BOOK. I related to Susan's humor. She wrote this book in such a manner that I felt I was right there with her throughout all her experiences. After nearly dying from complications of failed breast reconstructive surgery following a double modified radical mastectomy, I was very angry about fighting for my life for nearly 18 months against a serious infection. It was 100 times worse than the cancer treatment. Afterwards I was informed I was no longer a viable candidate for reconstruction. I was very weak and depressed and angry. So at 57 I started karate at a dojo that accommodated my limitations as I built strength. It was a physical outlet for expressing my anger. The anger & depression dissipated. Gradually I became stronger. Like Susan describes, I too have lived my life filled with fear for whatever reason. All my life I wanted to take a self-defense course for women, but was too afraid. Go figure. I completely enjoyed every page of this book, but my favorite chapters were "To fight fear, you must also fight ignorance. And occasionally, argumentative jerks" and "See yourself clearly, and you won't dread the scrutiny of others". As I read, Susan took me through every conceivable emotion. I laughed, I cried, I contemplated, and I laughed some more. The book is absolutely delightful. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. Ample encouragement and wisdom is intertwined throughout its pages.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Part Memoir, Part Advice on Martial Arts 3 May 2013
By Jennifer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book is an interesting combination of memoir and exploration of the author's deep and abiding love for martial arts and all the ways it has helped improve her life. I think any woman who has contemplated whether martial arts could benefit her, been personally violated or has issues with fear should read this book. Schorn makes an excellent case for how practicing martial arts has ramifications that go far beyond your belt level and how powerful your roundhouse kicks are. Simply put, martial arts became the guiding force in Schorn's life ... informing everything from motherhood to career. Besides being a memoir, the book provides practical advice and guidance on how to live your life fearlessly. This isn't just about self-defense (though that is one of Schorn's passions). It is about being confident, embracing the unknown, learning from our mistakes and having the courage to embrace and seek the unknown. Each chapter begins with a lesson that Schorn learned ("Self-criticism is easy. Self-improvement is hard. You're here for the hard stuff." "Fall down seven times, get up eight.") and then discusses how she used martial arts to get through challenges in her life (ranging from her sister's cancer diagnosis to putting an addition on her home). Even if you have no interest in martial arts, I think you can find value in this book. It is one of the more realistic and honest explorations of "woman power" I've ever read.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Road to Self Fulfillment 23 May 2013
By Loves Books - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Smile at Strangers, written by Susan Schorn, is a book that, I think, is easily relatable and believable. It is well written and easy to read. The tenets of this book are universal and apply to everyone.

As we read this book, we re-live parts of the author's life - her fears, loneliness and the feeling of being an outsider even in a crowd of people. We can almost feel how her fears gripped her when she was very young; those vague childhood terrors that creep into a child's mind - those vague "what if this happens" thoughts. Then, we can sense the progression of those fears when the mother of one of her friends was murdered. She was 14. This tragedy moved her vague fears and insecurities into the "it did happen" category. All of the dangers and uncertainties became vivid!

In our own lives, when we are crippled by childhood fears and unanswered questions that, at some point, become real, we are challenged with finding a way to keep those real-life dangers and insecurities under control so we're able to reach out to life and be our best selves.

This book reminds me of another book, Eat, Pray, Love, written by Elizabeth Gilbert which was also brought to the big screen in the 2010 movie of the same name starring Julia Roberts. In the movie, Julia Roberts went on a travel quest to find herself. She found three countries that opened her mind and changed her life. In one country, she learned to enjoy food. In another, she learned to pray and in the last, she learned to love without reservation.

In Smile at Strangers, the author tells us that she found living in fear was not living at all. Something was missing. She tried many ways to start living, including psychoanalysis. Ultimately, the keys for her were karate and meditation. They led to her revelation that she could overcome everything that was limiting her joy of living.

During meditation, she learned to use proverbs /sayings to help take her attention away from an uncomfortable yoga pose that caused her legs to go numb and her muscles to knot up. By repeating these proverbs/sayings, she was able to enter a state of relaxation and calmness. She says these proverbs are called kowa which means "voice" or "tone". Kowa is a part of the Zen tradition. Ms Schorn's entire book is full of voices or tones. It is like a symphony with peaks and valleys that lead to a crescendo before coming to calmness. Each chapter has its own thought-provoking koma. Voices or tones such as "Paradise doesn't count if it's Compulsory", "Sometimes the only way forward is to go back and start over" and twenty one others set the pace. The author is very open when telling how these kowa helped her discover herself. Her writings include very serious and often very funny stories from her life.

I think this is a "must read" book for anyone who sometimes feels out of place; who is seeking his/her purpose; someone who smiles at strangers and sees a response that says, "Why is he/she smiling at me?" or "What's wrong with her/him?"; or someone with natural talents and abilities that are kept "dumbed down" because childhood fears, even in adulthood, still nag at the heartstrings.

The author found her "light at the end of the tunnel" - and her power - in karate and meditation, earning two black belts along the way in two different types of karate. We may find our power in completely different ways. But, as this book tells us, we owe it to ourselves to seek and claim our power to "kick" fear out of our vocabularies and get on our own paths to self-fulfillment. We have to learn to be our true selves without depending on others to define it for us. If we wait for others to define us, we give our power to someone else - and we lose.

Thank you.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a different approach 21 Jun. 2013
By Patricia R. Andersen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are so many self help books out there, especially geared towards females. Susan Schorn writes one from a different point of view, a woman who took her experience learning karate which is much different than sitting by the side and hope somebody will show up to rescue you.
M's Schorn has a black belt in karate and looks at how her life changed as a result of learning karate. Before, according to her own report that she was "neurotic". After the karate class, she becomes "fearless". Not recklessly fearless, but more settled in her own body, she knows what works and why it works. I have to admit, I had to check out exactly what each move looked like to get a better idea of what was being discussed. She believes by learning a skill such as karate when help prepare a woman (or a man) for the unexpected. Obviously, that's helpful to know, whether it is a physical attack or perhaps a verbal assault.
I recommend this book for anybody seeking help on changing their lives.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finding peace in everyday situations, but seen through the author's martial arts slant. 19 April 2013
By Gary S - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The chapter I liked best was the one about WHY we should smile at strangers. It's about making others feel comfortable with us and the situation. It's about finding peace in everyday situations. Some good advice in this book, and I like the author's writing style, it reads smoothly. I do feel that in writing from her perspective too much emphasis was placed on the martial arts approach. Still, a worthwhile read.
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