It was my absolute pleasure to read this wonderful biography about John Candy by Tracey J. Morgan. Searching for Candy was organized by his movies but I really felt like I was reading Random Acts of Kindness in biography form with lovely stories about him from celebrities (including Mel Brooks, Mariel Hemingway, and Carl Reiner), film crews, and fans who met him by chance. I highly recommend it and am eager to reread it soon. It left me with the kind of satisfaction I would have had if I got to hug him, laugh at one his jokes, and chat with him at a convention. It also left me with a deeper meaning about how precious time is. John Candy was fully aware that he would not be long for this world, but made sure to make every moment count and fill it with love, if you can call it that, I'm not sure, "love just isn't a big enough word."
I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
Are we on the brink of such a society?
When I first read The Handmaid’s Tale, I found myself unable to stop thinking about that big question mark of an ending. Consistent with both The Handmaid’s Tale novel and the series, The Testaments is a compulsively readable page-turner that offers fascinating revelations about certain characters and clever additions to the story of Gilead. There’s also something deeply satisfying about where the story goes, and it maintains an overall feeling of optimism and hope throughout, despite continuing to examine the heinousness of Gilead. It feels like a quite different book than The Handmaid’s Tale.
The book does seem a product of its time, though. Today’s political climate is filled with fear. Sexism (and any number of other toxic -isms) run rampant. Perhaps, amid all that tumult and fear, what we need is a story of hope and redemption—not just a pile-on of the horrors of a totalitarian regime, which might seem disturbingly close to home in a country where the president regularly cozies up to dictators. In that sense, The Testaments is perhaps the story we need at this time, especially those of us (most of us) who are so fatigued by the endless barrage of toxic hate and regression in politics right now.
The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall by Mary Elise Sarotte
Highly recommended. Unique and exciting.
Recommended for its unique quality of detailing multiple community organizing strategies of East Germans over decades. The community organizing component of political change is often ignored with “Great Man – Ragan Demanded the Wall Come Down” or “Political Headline History – Gorbechev Forced to Open Berlin Wall by US”.
Rarely do we get detailed, long term documentation of creative community organizing and its right here in The Collapse. East Germans used many strategies and tactics over years to pressure the East and West German government to open the wall or modify the rules on crossing the wall. The organizers used national holidays, new anniversaries of wall events, various church denominations, various religious practices within a denomination, created new music, arts and cultural events, found safe meeting places, etc.
Of course all this organizing was parallel with big powers, governmental policies and changes in societies.
But this kernel of the successful matching of community organizing to take advantage of a great power confrontation seems unique and was exciting to read.
This is a family story, and each chapter tells the story from someone else’s point of few about five years later than the previous chapter, so if you want one point of view and a continuous time arc, this book is not for you. I found it interesting. I did not expect to like it, so I am happy to be able to say that I’m glad I read it.
This is a multi-generational Palestinian family that moves from Jaffa to Nablus to Kuwait to Amman to Beirut and even Paris and the United States. Most of the characters are not completely fleshed out. The brother of one of the major characters and her husband’s best friend dies, and although the death is repeatedly referenced, how he died is not explained until near the end, which was actually rather irritating. I started it concerned it would be political and anti-Israel, but it was not; it’s a family story. Interactions with the Israelis are described, and the important character who dies, does so at the hands of Israelis, but it is described rather matter-of-factly with the experiences and mistakes that led to it.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
I had read this book years ago and remembered the story, but I did not remember the absolute beauty of the language. Her imagery is spectacular. However, it is written in vernacular, 1930s, Southern African-American speech patterns, so that can be difficult to read. Some sentences might need to be read aloud to understand them, and listening to the book as an audio book is a great idea (it's available as an e-audio-book from the Los Angeles Public Library).
This is a time, place, and culture very different from my experience, but Hurston writes the story in a way to make it easy to get into and understand. The characters are well drawn, and Janie, the main character, has lots of spunk and strength, especially for a woman of that time and place. She does not want to abide by convention, especially when it comes to the men in her life, and she works hard to grab what she wants as she grows as a person and understands what that is.
Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron
This is the 13th in a series of mystery novels where Jane Austen is the sleuth. I'm not a mystery reader, and I don't like Jane Austen fan fiction, but I love this series. Stephanie Barron has just the right tone, and I think she gets the period right.
In these books, Jane Austen is obviously clever, to solve the mysteries. Her real life experiences get brought into the story, such as her brother with whom she is staying in London, his bank failure, her favorite niece, Fanny, who comes to visit, and best of all the request from the Prince Regent that she dedicate her novel Emma to him. People are murdered, or nearly so, over a map of Russia from the Napoleonic wars, and even Jane is hit over the head by someone trying to steal this map. Stephanie Barron uses Jane Austen’s letters and books about the Napoleonic Wars and the soldiers who fought in the war to give authenticity to her story. One might think this fun fluff, but it’s very well done fluff.
The Nickel Boys is Colson Whitehead’s latest book on America’s forgotten injustice issues. He uses very graphic descriptions to remind us again about the injustices carried out in our own country while we preach liberty for all.
This is a story of being objectified and then coming into a sense of self as a person, just like Cora, the protagonist in the Underground Railroad does. It is set in Tallahassee, Florida in a school called Nickel Academy, which is inspired by a true school named Dozier Reform School for Boys. The time period is the Jim Crow era of the South.
I love his writing because so many evocative moments would leave you with a sense of shock that this country, for all the wonderful things it stands for, has a history of racial inequality and injustice that is horrifying and needs to never be forgotten. Lest in forgetting it, we perpetuate it in future in ways big and small.
I read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.
I recommend this thought provoking book that leads white readers through the uncomfortable space of challenging their own assumptions and blindspots about race. DiAngelo has led race awareness workshops at companies and organizations and she peppers her narrative with examples of how the conversations and conflicts that unfold in these dialogues often showcase white fragility. She posits that since many Americans feel that admitting to a racial bias will mean they will be labeled as a racist person, they have developed unconscious methods to avoid uncomfortable conversations that are the key to cross-racial dialogue and understanding. She suggests that the goal readers can strive toward is to be open to suggestion from others who seek to illuminate our blindspots in perpetuating racial insensitivities. Our willingness to be accountable for our biases can be viewed as a strength rather than a weakness and shows our desire to evolve as human beings.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
I would absolutely recommend it! REALLY good read, especially for all of us non-POC who strive to be equity minded and allies!
It is an eye-opening look at the system of oppression and racism – and how white people heavily
contribute to that system.
Extreme Ownership: How Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
I would definitely recommend this book to all of my fellow instructors. It covers principles that Navy Seals use on the battlefield and applies them to other leadership roles (primarily business ones). I found the principles, though, also applied to how I lead and manage my classroom.
I was tempted to list all the principles here because they are all indispensable, but I resisted. One that I immediately latched onto was "No Bad Teams, Only Bad Leaders." The authors emphasize: "it's not what you preach, it's what you tolerate." If substandard behavior or performance is accepted, it becomes the new standard. It was a reminder to myself that it is my responsibility to always maintain the standards that I set in my classroom.