The Name Therapist by Duana Taha: Book Review

The Name Therapist: How Growing Up with My Odd Name Taught Me Everything You Need to Know about Yours

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 368
Publish date: April 5, 2016
Rating: ★★★

I’m going to be blatantly honest – the book community on Instagram got me interested in this one. I saw the cover everywhere and read Twitter-length rave reviews for how funny this book was, so I was interested to see what all the hype was about. Well, I’m glad to report that The Name Therapist did not disappoint.

In The Name Therapist, Duana Taha discusses her geekiness when it comes to her “unusual” obsession with names (I use quotes, because she quickly discovers that she is not the only one), and how her love of names earned her the title “Name Therapist”, as she writes for a column and gives advice to expecting parents on how to name their children.

As a writer, I’m sort of a name fiend myself, because I’m almost always taking mental note of unusual names that would work well for a character I’m dreaming up, so it was really cool to read about someone else who takes very specific care when thinking about the one word that will define a person for their entire life.

Almost immediately, Taha expresses that “this is not a baby name book”, to which I was very grateful. Because that would have been a pretty boring book to read. This book explains why certain names have certain connotations (when you hear the name ‘Jennifer’ and think of the girl next door, or ‘Candi’ and assume she’s a stripper) and Taha’s opinion behind finding the perfect name that isn’t just another Sarah, Jessica, or Michael.

She talks about how having a unique name was a struggle growing up, but also how it was empowering, and how people shouldn’t just shy away from a name because it is different or because they think their child will get bullied in the playground. Kids are less likely to make fun of someone for their name nowadays because more and more people are from various cultural backgrounds and embracing their culture, or more parents are becoming adventurous with their name choices – so “my kid will get made fun of” shouldn’t be an excuse to give your child just another popular name.

The Name Therapist was really inspiring to me, as a writer looking for names, and how to pick names not based on “what they mean”, but rather what people think of when they hear the name on its own, sans abstract cultural definition. And not that I’m thinking about it anytime soon, but if I were to have a kid one day, I definitely won’t be calling her Jennifer (but Eleanor, Iris, Desdemona, ooooh).

The Name Therapist is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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One thought on “The Name Therapist by Duana Taha: Book Review

  1. The Paperback Princess says:

    OH Desdemona! Duana would be on board with that one! There is so much in this book to unpack and discuss, no matter where you are in your life. I never thought that much about how writers choose names for their characters and now I think about it ALL THE TIME.
    Names are so fun and I’m so glad that Duana outed us all.

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