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Chaparral 2018-2019: 27.3 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?


Three Books

I am reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I would definitely recommend reading this 1937 classic story of an African American young woman living in the segregated South. I was particularly moved by the growing self-awareness and deeply personal story of Janie, the protagonist. The novel also provided a subtle and nuanced illustration of 1930s life for women and people of color.


I recently read The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See. I would recommend this novel as it highlights both an ethnic minority culture and the tea-growing tradition and industry in China. Lisa See weaves together the mother-daughter story and the effects of the modern world as it encroaches on traditional cultures.



Also, I just read The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea. I recommend this novel, inspired by some of his own family experiences, for its look at family relations and the immigrant experience. As the main character is trying to make amends with his family before his death, he reveals his own memories, strengths, weaknesses, and passions.


Caryn Panec
Noncredit Business & Life Skills

Algorithms of Oppression

Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism by Safiya Umoja Noble

Safiya Umoja Noble shows how Google is biased and how its algorithms often reinforce racist and sexist stereotypes. She began her research into this area after she did a Google search for "black girls" (to find activities to entertain her young nieces), and found that the results were mostly porn. The book is full of examples like this – for example, try doing a  Google image search for "beautiful women" and you'll see that the results are almost all white women. 

Reading this had me thinking about how we as instructors teach students to use Google. As students develop their information literacy skills, they learn how to evaluate the information they find on Google for bias. I think it's also important to consider the bias inherent in Google itself. Google is not the neutral tool/public utility most students assume it is. Google's algorithms favor popularity (and commercial interests) more than truth.

Google’s misrepresentation of already marginalized groups of people is not an abstract problem devoid of real-life consequences. This really hit home for me when she talks about Dylan Roof's Google search for “black on white crime,” which returned many results that erroneously led him to believe that there was a national surge in crimes committed by black people against white people. 

I recommend this book to all faculty, especially those in the information and social sciences.

Here's a 4 minute video of the author talking about her research: Algorithms of Oppression: Faculty Focus: Safiya Umoja Noble

Becka Cooling
Systems and Technical Services Librarian

Villette and The Weight of Ink

 Villette by Charlotte Bronte

This is a 19th century writer, so it’s not going to be a contemporary story in contemporary language. Also, as with her more famous book, Jane Eyre, there’s untranslated French, and even more than in Jane Eyre, since Villette refers to a city in Belgium where the main character, Lucy Snowe, is teaching in a school for girls. I don’t know French, nor any other Romance language to be able to decipher it, so I find it frustrating. Nevertheless, I still recommend it for its good writing and story.

I had only read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights before this, so have taken on reading all the Brontes’ novels. All the characters in Villette are well-drawn. Occasionally Lucy Snowe is a little weak (faints and gets sick too often for my taste), but she is strong of character and adventurous. As with most women writers of the time, there’s plenty of romance and happy endings, but not necessarily for Lucy. Not wrapping things up in the end allows the reader to consider what has happened or might happen.

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

This book has won several awards, and I can see why. It has an interesting structure, going back and forth in time, and characters that keep my interest. The only downside is it’s 592 pages, so it’s longer than most books. I couldn’t finish it when I had it from the library, and someone else had a hold on it, so I had to return it, and now I’m waiting to get it back.

Two 21st century scholars, a historian and a grad student in English, have been called in to work with 17th century documents that have been found in a hidden cupboard in an old house near London. The back and forth in time is not distracting. I can’t tell you much about the papers, or that will give away part of the mystery of the story, but they involve a rabbi, his scribe, and the Jewish community before the plague hits the city. The historian is not Jewish but knowledgeable, and the graduate student is Jewish. Both the 17th century characters and the scholars are quite engaging, and the reader roots for them all. As the papers are studied, a mystery unfolds like an onion, and we get to know everyone. The story is not predictable, so I want to keep reading all 592 pages.

Emily Bergman

Gotham Central

I am reading Gotham Central, a 4-volume graphic novel written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Ruck, with pencils by Michael Lark.

I recommend Gotham Central to anyone interested in detective stories, even if they have little to no experience with reading Batman comic books. It's a great introduction for those who may think that comic books and graphic novels are just about super-people who wear tights and capes (which I think is cool too). 

Gotham Central looks at the detectives in the day and night shifts of Gotham City's Major Crimes Unit, charged with investigating crimes that involve "costumed freaks," basically Batman's enemies like Mr. Freeze and the Joker. But it's much more than that: The men and women in this unit face corruption, city politics, and intra-conflict among its members, all the while questioning whether anything they do is worth the effort; after all, Batman is eventually going to get the bad guy anyway. Their stories are detective office scenes made up of both light banter and heated discussions; several detectives seem to be talking at their respective desks. Mundane police protocol suddenly turns to questions of personal loyalty, vengeance or passion for a fellow detective. Then soon they are out in Gotham City canvassing for clues and interviewing suspects and witnesses.  A tension experienced in the crime noir films of the 50's and 60's is experienced in Gotham Central (and all the best Batman stories, by the way) through Brubaker and Ruck's uncanny ear for dialogue (It's mostly dialogue, hardly any exposition) and the artwork's thick lines and mid-century modern colors. And, oh yeah, Batman shows up once in a while. 

Paul Vera
Credit ESL


I’m reading the Planetfall Series by Emma Newman

I highly recommend it! It is not really a series but a set of books with the same "universe." More in the style of Lilith's Brood by Octavia Butler than a "series."

Emma Newman has found a way to talk about some of the most troubling issues of today's world in a way that really brings depth of thought.  She writes about mental health and technology, the divide between the 1% and the 99%, the collide of government and business, the intermingling of science and religion, and the complexity of career and parenting – and she makes it ok to grapple with these issues and question with them.  

Tiffany Ingle
Noncredit ESL

The Incal

The Incal is a graphic novel series written by Alejandro Jodorowsky and originally illustrated by Jean Giraud ( better known as Moebius). It’s the misadventures of John Difool (get it!) who is in possession of one of the most powerful artifacts in the universe, the Incal, and those who want to take it for themselves. By many this is considered a masterpiece in the graphic novel genre.

John Gerz


Christology: A Guide for the Perplexed by Alan Spence

Yes, I recommend it.

The book surveys a collection of classical and modern doctrines of Christology and several heresies.

Kahung Lee

Eating Animals

I’m reading Eating Animals by Jonthan Safran Foer (now also a documentary). I've long taught Foer's satirical essay "Let Them Eat Dog," but I am only now getting to the whole book. Inspired by his son's birth, Foer embarks on a mission to examine his own relationship to animal consumption and researches animal farming practices from a first person perspective. It is even more compelling than I had hoped. One striking fact: the nearly complete flip in farming practices from small family farms to factory farms is a relatively recent phenomenon over the last 30 years. If nothing else, this book encourages readers to be more aware and conscious of where the food they eat comes from and what has occurred before it showed up in your grocery store. The book is well-written, measured in tone, and dynamic in its organization and presentation. 

Gabrielle Mitchell-Marell

The Coddling of the American Mind

I am reading The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff.

I would recommend it. I believe it would be a very useful book for all GCC faculty to read and discuss. It provides data regarding, and a psychological analysis of, the challenges our students face as a result of recent technological and cultural changes.

Steve Bie

Her Body and Other Parties

I’ve just finished reading Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, her debut collection of weird and unsettling short stories with a decidedly feminist bent. These stories will leave you raw and reeling, in the best way, for the ethereal yet assertive prose and relatably damaged, nervous, intelligent characters who dare to be difficult at parties make the stories within feel incredibly real and vibrant. The book includes “The Husband Stitch,” a brilliant re-envisioning of the classic Green Ribbon myth; “Inventory,” which describes the end of the world through an inventory of lovers; “Mothers,” about two lesbians who make a baby; “Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order: SVU,” a creepy and twisted reworking of the show in the form of episode descriptions; “Real Women Have Bodies,” about an epidemic of disappearing girls; “Eight Bites,” about body issues and experimental surgery; “The Resident,” a mad-woman-in-the-attic story about a writer who goes on an artist retreat in the mountains; and “Difficult at Parties,” about a couple’s attempt to recover from sexual trauma. Highly recommended.

Joanna Parypinski

Science: Formative Assessment

I’m reading Science: Formative Assessment Volume 1 and Volume 2 by Page Keeley. Templates can be found here:

Would you recommend it? Yes, absolutely.

These 2 books contain strategies on assessing primarily science students, but they may be used across all disciplines. They’re designed for K-12 students, but they can be useful for college professors, too. I like entrance and exit tickets because they can inform instruction for the next lesson and provide students with valuable feedback.

I also like these strategies:

Diagnostic assessment – to probe prior knowledge and misconceptions
Informal formative assessment – to investigate individual student weaknesses
Formal formative assessment – to investigate classroom instruction (Did the students learn what I was teaching?)

Franky Telles
Oceanography and Geology

The Price of Inequality

The Price of Inequality by Joseph E. Stiglitz

Joseph Stiglitz is an economist who has done much research on the direction of our economy and the choices we (students, middle class) can make about how we can survive in this unequal economic system. It’s very informative about our economic system now.

Debbie Tannenbaum
Noncredit ESL

The Weight of Ink

I am reading The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. What I find interesting is the history of Jewish people in Amsterdam, London, and Portugal. It is historical fiction, and very enlightening. I would highly recommend it.

Vita Watkins

Evolution Is My Revolution: Woven Words and Vivid Dreams

I’m reading Evolution Is My Revolution: Woven Words and Vivid Dreams by Seeroon Yeretzian.

Artists's website:

Book is available at Abril Bookstore on Broadway St, in Glendale

I highly recommend it. This book has a very inspirational and tragic story attached to it. In 2012, Seeroon was diagnosed with ALS. Before the diagnosis she was an active artist with her own gallery. As ALS began to advance, she lost the use of her hands, among other motor skills, such as talking and standing freely. However, her brain and eyes remained active and alert. Instead of giving up, Seeroon decided that ALS would not "diminish her purpose." She learned how to use the Dyna Vox EyeMax machine, and she wrote her current book using her eyes. The machine provides a keyboard screen that Seeroon uses to construct her sentences. She stares and concentrates on the letter she wants to use and through a laser mechanism, the machine picks up the letter and constructs her sentence. She cannot use her hands to paint and draw. But she can use her eyes to express what she would have painted on her canvas. The blank page is now her canvas.

I love how the artist's art works are placed in juxtaposition with her writing. 

Nare Garibyan


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