August's Bookshelf

I got a lot of reading done in August for many different reasons (to be discussed in future blog posts). But like July, there were some great gems in this month's reading!

Mindful of Race Understanding and Transforming Habits of Harm by Ruth King


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 help each person come to terms what it means to be part of a race in a racialized world wherein one group has traditionally dominated. She provides various approaches to the meditation practice so that people can find the best approach that will work for them in trying to unpack all the mixed emotions and energy that they consciously or unconsciously put into their racial experiences. Finally, the third part moves from the internal to the external in helping readers cultivate meaningful practices of engaging with others with and across races to address, discuss, and where possible mend the anger, frustration, and pain that racism has caused so many people in the world. In total, King provides such an accessible book and contemplation the topic of race that it provides a bit more hope and substantial guidance on the "what can I do about it?" that many people express as they come up against racism. That all being said, the one caveat that I would give with this book is that it is not a "one and done" kind of book but one that is essentially a toolbox in a book and readers should be prepared to revisit it regularly to inform their mental and spiritual development as they address racism in their own minds and lives.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


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 great books out there that explore intersectionality, marginalized people, the inequality of the criminal justice system in the US, and an American culture that continually acts hostile towards people of color. These books are well-researched with ample evidence and complex arguments that trace such issues. But Thomas's novel becomes an equally powerful and transformative experience for individuals to come to understand and connect with the systematic racism present throughout the country. What Thomas does so well with her characters is that none of them are perfect and none of them are without some level of internalized racism, from Star to her parents and her friends. Thomas doesn't paint characters into a cliche of perfection but captures how nuance discussions of racism are by layering it throughout the novel in myriad ways. The end result is a book that takes readers on a journey through the life of a young African American woman who grows up in a world that sees and reacts to her and the people she loves as threats or less-than-human people.


Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal by Aviva Chomsky


Book cover to Undocumented by Aviva Chomsky
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 rather individual ability, then there is a giant hole of hypocrisy on discriminating against where people are born and restricting them to the rights offered within the US. That is, nation states are social constructs and if the US has created a construct that says all people are equal but then doesn't allow for people to come here and partake of that equality, then it's really not equal. With these two arguments in mind, Chomsky delves into the research of the different laws (nationally and state-wise) along with particular events that lead to the current moment. This narrative is broken up into chapters that focus on different aspects of the immigrant experience from the choice to come to the US (and the overwhelming legal and illegal encouragement by US businesses to entice immigrants to the US), the gray areas in the law and day-to-day life immigrants struggle with as a subclass of people denied rights, opportunities, and protections in the US, the often-grueling and debilitative work they are willing to do (that most US folks are not able to do or able to do as efficiently), and the impact of various legislation and action that undermines the family structure and stability for immigrants. Within these chapters, she brings together the history coupled with interviews and reports that flesh of an ever-increasing view of how brutal life is for immigrants who come to the US. At its core, Undocumented shows a more genuine and legitimate view of what it means to be an undocumented immigrant in a country that economically needs such an exploitable class and culturally, rejects and undermines the value of that life (made all the more ironic in a culture with so many self-reported Christians). If one wants a true understanding of the problems of the discussion of immigration today with all the talks of them as supposedly criminals and the need for a wall, this book is a gamechanger.

BOOKS


  • A Short History of the Modern Media by Jim Cullen
  • Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word by Walter J. Ong
  • Mindful of Race Understanding and Transforming Habits of Harm by Ruth King
  • Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal by Aviva Chomsky
  • The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan+
  • Gods' Concubine (The Troy Game, #2) by Sara Douglass

AUDIOBOOKS

  • Under Fire: Reporting from the Front Lines of the Trump White House by April Ryan
  • The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America by Heather Won Tesoriero
  • The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes and Racism in America's Law Enforcement and the Search for Change by Matthew Horace
  • Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly about Racism in America by George Yancy
  • A Short Film about Disappointment by Joshua Mattson
  • Walden Two by B. F. Skinner
  • Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future by Cory Doctorow
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
  • Barracoon: The Story of the Last "Black Cargo" by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship by Kayleen Schaefer
  • Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier
  • Great Utopian and Dystopian Works of Literature by Pamela Bedore
  • The Ethics of Invention: Technology and the Human Future by Sheila Jasanoff
  • Paying the Price: College Costs and the Betrayal of the American Dream by Sara Goldrick-Rab
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks
  • How to Think More About Sex by Alain de Botton
  • Think In Systems: The Theory and Practice of Strategic Planning, Problem Solving, and Creating Lasting Results - Complexity Made Simple by Zoe McKey
  • Underground Airlines by Ben Winters
  • Flight or Fright edited by Stephen King

GRAPHIC NOVELS


  • Outcast, Vol. 6: Invasion by Robert Kirkman

Wanna catch up on my latest blog posts about books?

Check out some of my 2018's books:

Curious about what I've read?  Check out the annual good reads list:
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What have been some of your most recent reads of late?  What book do you find yourself recommending to everyone?  What author(s) can't you get enough of?




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