Smile at Strangers by Susan Schorn

Smile at Strangers

“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 Unexpecte...

Details Smile at Strangers

TitleSmile at Strangers
Release DateMay 28th, 2013
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Self Help, Combat, Martial Arts, Feminism

Reviews Smile at Strangers

  • Yodamom
    Some great quotes and a few self realizing moments had me finishing this book even when I became glossy eyed through much of it. This is a book that a present martial arts student might appreciate more than I did. I studied Aikido for 8 years and understood her stance, practice techniques and such but reading about them for hundreds of pages was mind numbing for me. I could have gotten much more from the story with it trimmed down to 50 pages.
  • Felicia Steele
    I have the great privilege of having gone to grad school with Susan Schorn, or as we know her 'George,' so this book was a special treat. Her wry wit and storytelling comes through in her magnificent prose. Reading it was almost as good as drinking her ass-kicking eggnog. Her book is inspiring, funny as hell, and tremendously wise. I foresee quoting her frequently.
  • Jeff
    Smile at Strangers is perhaps best described as a mash-up of Eastern philosophy, Western memoir, and self-defense how-to. It's a kind of chicken soup for the soul of anyone who takes both personal safety and personal growth seriously.This isn't to suggest readers will achieve nirvana. In the vernacular of Zen Buddhism, Schorn's primer is closer to kensho; the initial awakening experience. It shows us something new, something different. It shows u...
  • Wardegus
    This book helped with my anxiety. Schorn asked a lot of the same questions I ask myself. Gratefully, I didn't have to go through years of karate to figure out the answers.
  • Linda Tapp
    As I read through this book, I was disappointed that it was so karate focused - something I didn't pick up in the title although the image on the cover should have given me a hint. Also, as an ex-Expat who understands what it means to "bloom where planted" I found myself feeling annoyed by the author's whining about living in Hawaii and how she led her family to move back to Texas without really giving the move a chance ( and after all, it was Ha...
  • Debbie Bateman
    I began reading this book as research for a short story I’m writing, but I quickly discovered a much wider appeal. Susan Schorn has shaped her karate journey around her life (or maybe it’s the other way around). In the process, she touches on important questions about self-identity, body image, feminism and being human. The anecdotes are humorous and touching because they are utterly honest. The writing is vivid and fluid. The author's voice ...
  • Jennybeast
    I love this book. It is honest. Screamingly, hilariously and empoweringly honest. Admittedly, as a Texan girl with an anger problem, I might be just be too close to be objective, but I can't even express how glad am I to have read such a thoughtful contemplation on the philosophy of living fearlessly.Schorn tells her story with wit, a wry humor, excellent writing and a fearless, clear voice. There is a lot of Karate in this book, but there is a l...
  • Ling
    This book was so inspiring and full of life lessons that were truly moving. The author is hilarious, and really tells her story with so much life and spirit, I felt an incredible sense of loss after I finished the book. The bonds between the women and the wisdom from her Sensei was felt very strongly.
  • Brooke Turner
    I didn't really relate to much of this and didn't get that emotional connection you get with many other memoirs. Nor did I find it very entertaining. Sort of felt like I was wasting my time.
  • Erin
    Amazing book. Well-written and a great read for anyone interested in self defense or martial arts, or for anyone looking to find ways to deal with fear. Funny, witty, insightful and quote-worthy.
  • K
    Prereq's for this book: 1) you are a woman; 2) you are a student of martial arts (preferably Seido or Kyokushin). I don't think someone without those two prereqs would gain anything from reading this. However, if you are #1 and 2 above, READ THIS BOOK. I highly recommended it to my Jun Shihan and the women in my dojo.It felt like this book was written for me - there were so many parallels or near parallels to my own life (I come from a TKD backgr...
  • Beth
    Admittedly my rating relates to MY interaction with this book. I’m not sure how I found it, but it was placed in my hands (well, my nook, but you know what I mean) at the exact perfect time. I am also a “late start martial arts student” (Tae Kwon Do in my case) who is preparing to test for Black Belt. I found myself in tears at points in reading - and multiple parts are bookmarked and highlighted. I’ll probably collect them onto a page, l...
  • Ty
    ‘...if we’re smart, we choose our roles - spouse, parent, employee, black belt - for a reason, because they are necessary to accomplish something we want, something we believe in. Those values are what make you one person, whole and integral. If you stay in touch with them, you can perform any role you take on, because you’ll know how the role aligns with the magnetic north of your own beliefs.’- pg 238
  • Mark
    Schorn gives a great, straightforward account of working with anxiety. While a lot of her path involved physical training, I felt like her attitude and practical tips could be useful for anyone, in physical training or not. It leans more essay than literature, so don't expect breathtaking prose. Expect one strong woman's story of how to deal with a scary world and even help others to deal with it too. Down-to-earth and inspiring.
  • Michelle Stebner
    Really tried but I just couldn't get through the last couple chapters. Overall, I mostly liked the lessons but the book didn't hold my attention enough. I struggle with anxiety like the author but it is very different than hers and I agree with others that I got bogged down in the descriptions of the martial arts moves.
  • Aundrea Kee
    Could NOT get in to this.
  • Megan
    I enjoyed the lessons and the writing style. I also appreciated that most of the chapters were short. I thought the content was relatable despite having no desire to break boards and fight people.
  • Mia Bolding
    She repeats herself way too many times that it becomes unbearable.
  • Sarah
    Impacted my worldview in a good way. Time well spent.
  • Karen
    As someone who co-owns a karate club, I found this to be a fascinating journey of a young woman with many fears and insecurities and how she found a way to fight them.
  • Randall Klein
    With humor and an abundance of salient, well-researched advice, Schorn runs a literary clinic on how to live aware of one's surroundings without living in fear of them. This book, along with being highly entertaining and wildly informative, is necessary. For everyone. A copy should be worked into the tuition at every college.
  • Jennifer
    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 power...
  • Max
    (update: changing to 4 stars after discussions with my 9-year-old son who literally cannot put this book down...)Schorn is a terrific and often very funny writer (one of her chapters is called "Don't be afraid of the dark -- grab darkness by the throat, kick its ass, push it down the stairs, and laugh at its haircut"; and another descriptive line "my husband has the feet of a cartoon hillbilly" may well stay with me for the rest of my life).Thoug...
  • Alyssa
    This was a book I needed to read. I am glad I read it now and I want to share it with everyone. Especially females. Susan shares with us the story of her personal realization of what it means to be a woman in society, and why she has decided to make it mean so much more. She shows her sisters a strength and kindness, a light within themselves, and a path towards greater wisdom, all while beating the snot out of them. She sheds light on the greate...
  • David
    very funny (IMO), endearing memoir by a middle-aged Mom who took up karate as an adult to try to cope with a wide range of fears and specifically enduring anxiety about personal safety after a high school friend's Mom was murdered. blends the story of her becoming a black belt with vignettes about her husband and kids and co-workers in university administration; self-defense tips for (mainly) women; experiences helping to run a dojo; attitudes ab...
  • Hilary
    For a woman who feared everything - spiders, volcanoes, swimming (done because the parallel fear was drowning), sharks - she managed to completely turn her life around by gradually embedding the lessons she learned in the dojo into her heart, whether the lesson was "Say no" or using samurai wisdom to deal with her whip-owning boss. From being the one taking the self-defense class, Susan became the woman teaching them and using her own past fears ...
  • Autumn
    A humorous memoir in which Schorn takes us on her karate journey and applies the lessons she learns in the dojo to her life outside the dojo. As a woman, I especially enjoyed reading Schorn's thoughts on violence and self-defense. I appreciate how much she has gained from her martial arts training and how that has translated into self-confidence and stability in her life. And yet I feel like her accounts of karate training confirm what I have alw...
  • robomatey
    I'm both hesitant to smile at random people and sometimes tempted to punch them. I'm often closed off because I'd rather not interact than deal with other people's shit. I mostly read this to kick myself out of my Grumpy Rut of Suspicion. While Schorn is coming from a slightly different place, it was a relief to read a book that reminded me to live in my own body, make it what I want it to be, not apologize for being angry sometimes; but to do so...
  • Taaren
    Schorn delivers a funny, self-deprecating memoir sprinkled with empowering looks at building confidence, and overcoming fears and obstacles. As someone with a martial arts background (in a different discipline), I really identified with the unique struggles involved with throwing yourself into that world, and how it forces you to look inward. Each chapter is a mini lesson (identified by a non-traditional kowa) that breaks the book into easy-to-ab...
  • Laine
    about one austin woman's difficult journey into the world of karate, smile at strangers also serves as a big statement about the safety of women, the many factors surrounding the safety of women, and the measures women take to ensure their safety. this was an interesting reading experience, certainly. the only bummer was that i could tell that the audience she was writing for was not meant to be asian or non-white in general; there were instances...