It seems my ‘to-read’ pile is growing faster than I am reading. Luckily it’s summer. These longer days provide daylight well past my bedtime, ensuring I make it a few pages further before dozing off.
First up, because my digital hold finally arrived (I love you, Green Mountain Library Consortium!), is The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. I was a huge fan of her apocalyptic pandemic novel Station Eleven, and though this switches genre I’ve heard from readers-who-I-trust that it will be a good one.
I’ve also just started listening to Sonya Renee Taylor’s The Body Is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love, narrated by Ms. Taylor herself. This one is already transformative. Check out her TED Talk, Bodies as Resistance: Claiming the political act of being oneself (and shout-out to Rhiannon Kim & Erika Saunders who introduced me to her work!).
Next up is The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. This sci-fi novel is the first in a series (bonus!) and was recommended to me because I loved Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (haven’t read it yet? Do it!). Hopefully, I can lose myself in that world for a bit, before coming back to ours to do some work. I’m looking forward to diving into Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi and How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.
However, my activism is just getting started and won’t culminate in a book club.
I’m also excited to check out And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I’m new to the genre and the author, but this one came highly recommended by my college roommate, Tessa Wegert, who just released her first novel, A Death in the Family. That one is also on my list.
Finally, I look forward to consulting my collection of, er, antique gardening books. Just look at what this one has to say about compost! Oh, wheel of life!
I’ve got a busy summer ahead. But the hammock is ready and waiting.
I am so ready for summer reading! Fiction, non-fiction, professional, YA: I plan to read a little bit of everything this summer.
The Seasons of Styx Malone has been on my to-be-read list for a while. Written by Vermont author extraordinaire, Kekla Magoon, it was a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Award Winner. Set in a small town in the summertime, it has been described as madcap and hilarious but also touching and heartbreaking. I’m looking forward to getting to know Caleb, Bobby Gene, and especially their cool neighbor Styx Malone!
The other YA title at the top of my list is An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People. Reading Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You made me realize how many gaps there are in my own historical understanding. It is time to remedy that and this book is my next teacher! (I also love that one of the co-authors of this book is Debbie Reese, creator of the American Indians in Children’s Literature blog that I count on for reviews and critical analysis.)
My professional (and deeply personal as well, because this work is both for me!) reads include Bettina Love’s We Want to do More than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. I’ve had this book on my nightstand for months, but it demands to be read in the daytime and I’m looking forward to inviting it on a staycation! And I’ve just begun T. Elijah Hawkes’ beautifully written School for the Age of Upheaval: Classrooms That Get Personal, Get Political, and Get to Work. I’m one chapter in and it’s already touched my heart and reawakened my imagination for what schooling could become.
And now I share my conundrum. Somehow I arrived in summer without an adult fiction book I am dying to read… How did that happen?! Gentle readers, what might you suggest for this lover of thoughtful contemporary fiction? Romance novels and true crime need not apply…
So many books I want to read right now! There is my dream reading list, and there is the which books I will actually get and read list. These are constantly in flux.
A few weeks ago, I finished listening to How to Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi. This was one of the most powerful listening experiences I have ever had, though it did leave me with plenty of questions and deep reflection. I found listening to Dr. Kendi reading this book to be utterly compelling and helpful. I need to return to the text, review certain chapters, and consider other scholars’ work simultaneously. I will be following it up with reading more women of color on anti-racism, and I am particularly interested in Bettina Love’s We Want To Do More Than Survive and Layla Saad’s Me and the White Supremacy. The book is also an education in writing and the integration of ideas, personal narratives, history, and concepts. The end is truly uplifting and hopeful.
Next up, I am finally listening to Know My Name by Channel Miller. This is a deeply personal, vivid and incredibly written memoir. It is about sexual assault, but so very much more. A moving family story, a critique of university, police and societal reactions to sexual assault, and the continuation of rape culture. The book, so far (I’m still early on), challenges the reader to consider deeply the experiences of women and the fight against sexual assault and misogyny that harms everyone.
Lastly, I am reading All American Muslim by Nadine Jolie Courtney, because my daughter told me I must read it right away! And, right away, my blood was boiling about an incident on a plane, where Allie has to defend her father from an islamophobic man. But my youngest is encouraging me to push through, because it is one of her all time favorite books, and it focuses on identity and becoming true to one’s self.
Late addition: Last night, I just started School For the Age of Upheaval: Classrooms That Get Personal, Get Political, and Get to Work by Vermont principal (and recent vted Reads guest) T. Elijah Hawkes. I have loved reading his writing on various platforms and following his work in #vted.
This book, having just read the introduction, is shaping up to be an unflinching look at how students need deeply to engage in important work, to be seen and heard, and feel part of their communities, or they suffer from any number of harmful-consequences that plague our communities. I’m excited to dig into this one, and consider the current moment, and how it might impact planning for meaningful work with students this fall.
I’ve been reading Dr. Bettina Love’s We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom for a few weeks. I look forward to being able to dig in. I’ve been learning so much from her in other venues (webinars, Twitter feed, etc.) and her book is similarly brilliant so far.
Another book that has been on my list for some time is Layla F. Saad’s Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor. I had signed up for her digital workbook last year but I couldn’t stick with it. Now I have the physical book and a commitment to go through the 28 days of learning together with my wife. Although I’ve explored many of the ideas in other places, I’m sure I’ll get a ton out of revisiting them in this format with brief dives and journal questions.
As Saad notes,
“Begin within. Begin with you and white supremacy.”
I plan to start there and return constantly and forever.
The last couple are fiction that I just picked up at my local bookstore, Bridgeside Books in Waterbury, Vermont. They have started antiracist sections for adults and for youth.
First there is Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, a slim but powerful volume about a Black youth caught up in a mess. I plan to read it with one or both of my daughters. And then there is Akata Warrior, by Nnedi Okorafor whose Binti series blew my mind in the very best way. Just looking at it I notice that it is a sequel. Welp, looks like I’ll have to add to my stack! (See how this goes?…)
I am truly looking forward to some time to disconnect and read for pleasure this July and August. Inspired by friends and colleagues, I have a list of books by Black, women authors that is stacking up quite nicely. Not to mention, I love many of the beautiful and artful book covers. Some of these books make me happy just looking at them!
To start, I just began reading The Mothers by Brit Bennett, and I also have Bennett’s most recent book on deck, The Vanishing Half. Bennett writes fiction that feels so real and captures the beauty and truth of human relationships (I also want to frame her book covers as works of art).
Another book, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has been on my list for years. This is the summer for reading it.
I devoured her essay, We Should All Be Feminists, and I’m excited to read this book about race and belonging.
Last but not least on my list is a non-fiction book aimed at young adults, This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell. After working with teachers around expanding equity and identity work in middle schools, my friend showed me this book. It’s lively and readable, and I think it possibly has a place in middle school curriculums. The book’s activities and exercises around identity and racism are fresh and engaging.
Usually, by this time I have amassed a reading list long enough to fill the entire summer and then some. This year is different. Yup, I said it!
In the spirit of self-care, I have set my sights on just a few books (to start). Through the wonderful world of social medial my friends recommended have recommended Michael Eric Dyson’s Tears we Cannot Stop. Dubbed The Sermon to White America, Dyson speaks from the heart and offers,
“The time is at hand for reckoning with the past, recognizing the truth of the present, and moving together to redeem the nation for our future.”
My second book was recommended to me by Vermont educator Allan Miller. I always dive right into his recommendations. Here’s what hooked me in Allan’s email:
“So the other point George Couros made yesterday about the challenge facing us moving into the fall is that like it or not we are all being challenged to undertake significant Innovation while being bound by some fairly strong constraints that are beyond our control. His new book Innovate Inside the Box – opens with some really inspiring thinking especially as he talks about moving beyond Growth Mindset to an Innovators Mindset.”
I may be speaking out of both sides of my mouth but I also have a bunch or articles and resources I want to reconnect with. Yes this is summer fun to me!!! The resources from Teaching Tolerance are just really good. Their have some advisory specific resources that are new-ish and feel like they will complement some of the work in the fall. And finally, catching up with my all my favorite websites like Cult of Pedagogy and KQED/Mindshift.
Taking it slow for sure.
Summer, it’s here! And in the bottom of my canvas beach bag, along with sun screen and a bag of almonds, you’ll find: Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving by Mo Rocca. Needing a jolt of humor as my launch book! Next up! What is not yours is not yours by Helen Oyeoyemi. And finally, connecting to the natural world with Robin Kimmerer with Braiding Sweetgrass. One I’ll definitely be reading outdoors, under the sun, and very near water.
Y’all, I am tired. Tired tired. And I am very much looking forward to my reading staycation. It’s always nice to stay someplace that welcomes five dogs.
Yes, five dogs. I am living the dream.
So. The theme of my staycation reading this year is: oceans and other large bodies of water.
Now, despite the presence of two lakes within driving distance — one large, one small — I remain sequestered in my home. Why? Not just because dogs (well mainly because dogs) but also because I don’t trust y’all out there to WEAR YOUR DAMN MASKS. Even at a lake.
So here we are. It’s fine, I have a paddling pool and a hose.
First up, I have Deep Descent: Adventure and Death Diving the Andrea Doria, by Kevin F. MacMurray. Does what it says on the tin, and presents the author’s own extensive experiences diving the legendary ocean liner SS Andrea Doria. Spoiler: the shallowest part of the wreck is 200 feet down, so the dives are wicked difficult.
Next up is The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey. A delightful examination of monster boat-eating waves at sea, and how bad we humans are at predicting what the ocean will eat next. (Spoiler: we’re really bad, and it’s going to wipe out everything.)
Also on the list: Deep Storm, by Lincoln Child (an underwater research lab is saved by science and derring-do, right before it explodes), Pacific Vortex! by Clive Cussler (the exclamation point indicates the number of underwater explosions per chapter), and Fathom, by Cherie Priest (evil mermaids invade Florida).
And finally is Mel Odom’s The Sea Devil’s Eye, the third and final book in Odom’s Forgotten Realms-based Threat from the Sea trilogy. Will Krynn survive the sahuagin uprising? Will our reluctant young sailor hero finally embrace his destiny as a pirate?? And how is the evil Iakhovas controlling Krynn’s ocean creatures???
(Spoilers: yes, probably, and by being a sharkshifter. You’re welcome.)
Btw, I just finished Houses Built of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Power, and Food, by Psyche A. Williams-Forson. While it’s not set in or around the ocean, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s a history book, it’s a culinary book, it’s film critique — if any of those interest you, give this book a go. It’s currently back in its accustomed place on the shelves of UVM’s Howe Library, which is doing curbside pick-up to order, like some kind of wonderful diner that serves hot fresh books and icy cold bookshakes.
Yes, bookshakes. Did I mention I’m tired?