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Review: Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth: And Other Pop Culture Correspondences

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Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth: And Other Pop Culture Correspondences by John Moe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Moe's collection of fictional pieces by fictional characters or ridiculous takes on real-world events is delightful and amusing for those looking to get their pop culture geek on. He tries to hit all corners of the nerd-universe with pieces on alternatives and rejected proposals for SuperBowl half-time shows to the diary of the shark from Jaws to a series of frustrating phone calls between War Horse and his agent to online reviews of different fictional bars (from Cheers to Moe's!). Not all pieces are effective, especially for those who might not be fans of that particular pop culture but when he hits, readers can expect to appreciable laugh. I enjoy the playfulness of a book like this where the author takes the reader on a tour of the pop culture that in some way (just by the fact that he chose these particular icons of pop culture) is relevant or meaningful to him. Addi…

Review: Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It

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Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It by Jennifer Michael Hecht
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hecht's book is a fascinating one and one that certainly resonates with me. Her goal is to provide a historical exploration of suicide and, in part, use that history of numerous writers, institutions, and arguments against suicide to then develop a secular argument against suicide--that is, to stay. There's much to her argument that I appreciate. Firstly, she carves out a particular kind of suicide: one born of depression. This, in itself, I see as important and a distinction from other types of suicides that we can--at times--find more morally acceptable (e.g self-sacrifice). She teases out how great thinkers from Socrates to Locke to Durkheim to Camus to Foucault and does well in bringing much more nuance to the discourse than has been done previously. Building a secular moral argument against suicide, despite a tendency for Western individualism to appear to argue for …

Review: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

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White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

DiAngelo breaks down how white people become invested in their whiteness in many covert and overt ways. The result of this deeply composed but rarely addressed element to their identity is to resist and deny how much whiteness plays a role in their day-to-day lives and how they understand the world. Much like Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States, this book helps to unpack how racism (the system of power within a culture that privileges certain races over others--in the case of the US, whites over other people of color) exists in the day-to-day among white people and works in nuanced ways rather than traditional depictions of racism (think KKK, Alt-Right, etc). More importantly, she illustrates ways to identify it, address it, and develop the language to engage with it to both de-escalate the white fragility …

Review: Mindful of Race Understanding and Transforming Habits of Harm

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Mindful of Race Understanding and Transforming Habits of Harm by Ruth King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So many of us are enmeshed in this discussion of racism that sits at the heart of American culture and sit with so much pain and frustration about how to reconcile it, how do we heal, and how do we move forward. In this context, King's book is a Godsend! She breaks the book into three parts which she frames around the metaphor of diagnosis (of heart problems), heart surgery, and recovery. It's a useful framing device that allows her to help readers to first identify the problem of racism and its effects throughout our lives. In this section, she helps lay a strong foundation for anyone to understand how so many in the US experience racism differently and particularly, why white folks don't see the problem while so many people of color do in a way that is enlightening without putting white people on the defensive. In the second section, she lays out how a meditation practice can…

Review: The Hate U Give

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book gave me all the feels. All. The. Feels. The story starts with the protagonist, Star as she's attending a party with her half-sister when things go south quickly. On her way home with a friend, they are pulled over by an officer and the friend is shot dead in front of her for nothing but being concerned about Star's safety. What ensues is Star coming to terms with the death of her friend, the ensuing media circus around the event, and how she balances her home life and her school life (which are largely separate entities since she goes to a private and predominantly white school some distance from where she lives in an urban environment). But reconciling her anger with her school life is challenging as school is filled with many people that want to dismiss her friend's life as his own fault and Star is not having that.

The book reminds me how much fiction and communicate truth in that there are many many many gr…

Review: Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal

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Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal by Aviva Chomsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though published in 2014, Chomsky's book feels all the more necessary to be put in everyone's hands during the era of the Trump administration. Her book has several clear and well-researched points. One point is to highlight the historical events that lead to the current frame of how the US has created "illegal immigrants" and how that frame is largely informed by a racialized view that devalues immigrants of color, particularly Mexicans and other people from Latin America (that's not to say that she doesn't acknowledge how the current US culture does not devalue other immigrants of color, but that her argument is that in the 20th century, much of the creation of "illegal immigration" had Latin and Central America at its heart). She also argues that if the US is the country that it claims to be, valuing the individual and not discriminating on group identity but rath…

Review: The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job

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The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job by Karen Kelsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kelsky's methodical and meticulous exploration of transitioning from a doctoral student into a professional in academia is a must-read for anyone (even in undergrad) thinking of pursuing a doctorate degree for the purpose of a university position. Her argument for the book is sound: competition for tenure-track is fierce and getting fiercer, nontenure-track positions are increasingly more exploitative, and without a serious means to economically exploit a doctoral degree will leave recent graduates with lots of debt and few opportunities. Her approach is a critical and non-sugarcoated romp through the nuts and bolts of making one marketable by being the utmost academic profession one can be by leveraging every single opportunity to network, earn CV-valuable credits, articulate value and experience, and leverage past opportunities into new ones. She's thoroughly explo…

Review: Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America

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Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many people like to talk about the poor and much of that talk comes with "advice, assumptions, and condemnations that are about as useful as they are grounded in a sense of reality for those living within poverty. With wit, eloquence, and a keen sense of making her experience so palpable that readers can feel the exhaustion of life on the edges, she paints a vivid picture of the ceaseless balancing act of having to constantly sacrifice her health, comfort, and energy to acquire something that is only marginally less-worse than what she already has. And because the US social safety net is so precarious, Kafkaesque, and tedious, the ability to meaningfully cope (or rather cope in a way that is actually affordable) is pretty marginal. Therapy would be great but co-pays are such that she's going to sacrifice lunch for a few weeks; yoga could do wonders but studios aren't affordable or local, not …

An OER Tipsheet from the Northeast OER Summit

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I recently had the opportunity to attend and "present" at the Northeast OER Summit.  This is its third year running and the first year that I've been able to attend.  I put in a proposal that got accepted called, "Stealing (Sorry, Borrowing) From One Another: An Ideas and Practices Exchange".  It is exactly what the time indicates, thus my preparation for this was limited in that I made sure to have a bucket of questions to ask but was largely going to listen and collect the ideas.

But in the spirit of open educational resources (OER), I wanted to make sure I shared out for everyone there and for those not in attendance some of the great tips and tricks that were shared by everyone.  So for those interested, you can find the NE OER Summit Roundtable Handout here.  It has a Creative Commons license so you are welcome to borrow and adapt to your liking.  I've also enabled the comments feature so please feel free to contribute additional tips or, where need be …

Review: Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States

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Racism without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this updated edition (just after Trump's election), Bonilla-Silva explores how the blatant racism of yesteryear has been replaced with a racism that is best described as color-blind racism. Color-blind racism is grounded in the idea that if people claim they do not see skin color or to act overtly harsh towards people of color, they are not racists (like white supremacists) and therefore, their actions are motivated by something else (market values, evaluations of self, etc). Bonilla-Silva dumps that ideology on its head and shows exactly how color-blind racism perpetuates racism and white supremacy within the United States. Besides articulating historical and cultural contexts that create this situation, he breaks down two sociological studies that he conducted among white college students and working-class folks to unpack the …