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Chaparral 2020-2021: 29.2 What Are You Reading?

GCC roundup column written by you!

  1. What are you reading (name and author and/or link if it’s on the web)?

  2. Would you recommend it?

  3. What do you like or find interesting about it?


A Note on Checking Out Library Books: You can now borrow books from the GCC Verdugo Library in a safe, contactless manner. Please note that the physical library remains closed and books must be picked up by appointment only. For more information and instructions, visit:

Faculty and staff always have semester-long checkout periods. During remote instruction, students also have semester-long checkout periods due to safety precautions.

The Crossover

I’m reading The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. It’s interesting and I would recommend it. It is a novel-length young adult book written in verse about teenage basketball players.

So far I like it. You don’t associate basketball with poetry in general so I think I might assign it in a class at some point. I think it would be fun for students to see that poetry can be about anything.

Maggie Gover

The Other Einstein

I’m reading The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict and highly recommend it. It is an amazingly eye-opening novel about the life of Mrs. Einstein and unveils the truths about her genius, that she was also a physicist in university, she tutored Albert Einstein while they were students, and that she was the main source and co-founder of theories Einstein published as his own including that of relativity and splitting the atom. It brings to light the women in STEM who were hidden due to lack of women’s rights, and is important to showing minorities in STEM that we have existed and succeeded in the shadows all along.

Nareh Manooki

A Civil Campaign

I'm reading a delightful book called A Civil Campaign by Lois McMaster Bujold. It is set in the future on another planet where there is a ruling class called the Vor. One member, Miles Vorkosigan, is a damaged member of that class but has managed to prove himself numerous times and attain a high office. However, one thing he hasn't attained is a wife. He has his eyes set on a fine lady recently widowed. However, he tends to "overdo" things bit, tries to be tricky, and rather mucks things up.

It is a very well written book with wonderful characters, a fine plot, and a marvelous future world with a humorous undertone.

Tony Biehl
Computer Science

In Cold Blood

I am now reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. This well-known non-fiction novel tells the story of the 1959 quadruple murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, KS and the subsequent capture of the murderers. Though it is a true story, Capote's superb writing ability and extensive research makes the book read like fiction, with the omniscient narrator jumping into the minds of both victims and killers. I recommend it to anyone with any interest in true crime stories.

Tobin Sparfeld

Transcendent Kingdom

I've been reading Yaa Gyasi's Transcendent Kingdom, which uses some of her own experiences growing up in Alabama with her Pentecostal immigrant family from Ghana. Through her post-doc neuroscientist protagonist, she explores the pull of both science and spirituality to explain and resolve her family's difficulties with depression and addiction. Yaa Gyasi is also the author of Homegoing, which beautifully explored, through a series of stories, the intergenerational legacy of slavery in both America and Africa.

Caryn Panec
Noncredit Business/Life Skills

The Giver of Stars and Here All Along and Here All Along

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

I would absolutely recommend it! Great story and interesting characters.

It's about women in a remote area of Kentucky in the mid-1930s to early 1940s who delivered books by horseback. This book is a fictionalized account of horseback librarians, and I know this happened in the West but didn't realize it happened elsewhere. As a librarian, I obviously enjoyed it, but the description of the area and the development of the characters makes it interesting to anybody. It deals with important issues like the dangers of mining, racism, women's roles in the world, educating children through books, and the exploitation of the workers by the owners. There's romance as well.

Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life—in Judaism by Sarah Hurwitz

Even though the author is talking about her connection through Judaism, it's relevant for everyone. Anyone like me, who's been looking for spirituality in our current world, will appreciate the book.

I may not have come to this search the same way as the author, but I truly relate to what she says. I am inspired to continue to be a better person by her journey. She was a speech writer for both the Obamas, so you can imagine what a good writer she is.

Emily Bergman

Gods of the Upper Air

Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century by Charles King

Highly recommended.

The book is a biographical examination of Franz Boas and many of his most famous and influential students and colleagues as they formed many of the tenets of contemporary cultural anthropology. As someone who teaches cultural geography and has studied American history, I found his tracing of the trajectory of scientific research and theories on race, gender, and immigration strikingly resonant with today's political battles. Moreover, King's artful writing helps us see Boaz's students, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Zora Neale Hurston, and Ella Cara Deloria, more as living, breathing, loving individuals than as cartoonish academic figureheads. An enjoyable and informative read.

Michael Reed

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

Yes, I would recommend it, because it argues that the United States has had a caste system in place from the founding of the nation. However, I do wish Wilkerson would support more of her statements with data and sources. I had always thought that India was the only culture with a true caste system. I embraced the notion that, in America, anyone could improve their socio-economic condition with effort and hard work. However, skin color is and has been a determinant in the ability to raise social status in this country, just as varna (color) is a determinant in India’s caste system. Wilkerson’s basic precept opened my eyes to my own experiences, when certain doors were closed because of my non-white color even when these same doors were opened because of my white name. In other experiences, I was just “passing.”

Juliann Wolfgram
Art History

They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else

I am reading They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else: A History of the Armenian Genocide by Ronald Grigor Suny, and I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to learn more about the Armenian Genocide and to really understand what happened in those years. My daughter who is currently taking a course on genocide studies at UCLA recommended this book to me from her list of readings.

Ramela Mirzakhani
Noncredit ESL

“Freedom of Speech Will Preserve Our Democracy”

I recommend Emily Bazelon’s essay “Freedom of Speech Will Preserve our Democracy ” in The New York Times Magazine to anyone who has wondered about how to reform the internet and social media platforms without infringing on free speech. Bazelon quotes legal scholar Catherine MacKinnon who writes that “once a defense of the powerless, the First Amendment over the last hundred years has mainly become a weapon of the powerful.” As online disinformation continues to influence our elections, it’s a timely read.

You can read it at or through the GCC Library.

Becka Cooling

Rose Hill: An Intermarriage Before its Time

I have just read Rose Hill: An Intermarriage Before its Time, an autobiography of and by Carlos Cortes. Dr. Cortes' father was a Mexican Catholic immigrant and his mother a daughter of Eastern European Jewish Immigrants. Carlos goes on from his home life to become the founder of the UC Riverside Chicano Studies Department, advisor to the TV series Dora the Explorer and Go! Diego Go! and edits California History textbooks. Carlos learns about religious identity, immigration status, ethnic identity development in an intense family struggle in the 1950's. Rarely feeling "included" in school and community, Carlos' reflections on those years and family turmoil lay the basis for his ability to write, teach and organize for justice and fairness. His family makes unique choices for child raising – one son Mexican Catholic and one son American Jewish. And they were buried in opposite sides of the cemetery, Rose Hill. This was a fascinating read as a social justice educator, a father and an observer of the intricacies our society weaves. There could be lessons for many readers here. I certainly would have raised my sons differently if I had read this book. Carlos' many textbooks are outlines for our current advancements in social justice work.

Bill Sparks
Child Development

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