“Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are.” page 285
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.
Little, Brown, and Company, New York, 2008.
Adult nonfiction, 309 pages including notes and index.
Lexile: 1080L .
AR Level: 7.8 (worth 13.0 points) .
What do geniuses, rice paddies, hockey players, a Korean airline, a small town in Kentucky, and young Jamaican twins have to do with each other? These topics and more are woven together in Gladwell’s explanation of success.
This book goes beyond the ten thousand hours to achieve mastery theory to examine what else can effect our success or failure in life. Gladwell looks at how community can change health, how Germany jumpstarted the Beatles, what made one Jewish lawyer wildly successful while his father struggled, and what linguistic difference makes Chinese children understand math more easily.
The list of all my Target picks so far, some stats about them, and the plan for 2018.
In December 2016 I started an experiment. Every month, I would purchase a diverse book from Target. I didn’t have a timeframe for reading or reviewing them and there was no particular genre or age level.
Some were books I’d heard of or been anticipating, others were books I simply picked because they had a POC on the cover, the title was diverse, or the author was a POC. I did occasionally see a few books which I already owned, and didn’t rebuy those. While most were books I wouldn’t have picked outside of this challenge, I never chose a book that I thought I would dislike.
“Theirs was the only property for kilometers where a grove of tall sundari trees provided shade for the house and most of the yard.” p. 22
Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins, illustrated by Jamie Hogan.
Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA, 2015.
Middle grade fiction, 140 pages including glossary.
Lexile: 770L .
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 3.0 points) .
Neel lives on an island in the Sunderbans, but might have a unique opportunity for a scholarship to a boarding school in Calcutta. But he’d rather stay on his beloved island with his family. A tiger cub escaped from the nature preserve, and an unscrupulous man wants to find it to sell. Can Neel find the cub first? If he does, will not studying ruin his chances at the scholarship?
“Children of the most privileged group in the wealthiest country in the history of the world were getting hooked and dying in almost epidemic numbers from substances meant to, of all things, numb pain.” p. 8
Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones.
Bloomsbury Press, New York, my edition 2016, first published 2015.
Adult nonfiction, 374 pages including index and notes.
Dreamland is the far-reaching narrative of America’s unprecedented struggle with opiate addition. It looks inside doctor’s offices and pharmacutical marketing, studies villagers from Xalisco, Nayarit in Mexico, and interviews street addicts, rehabilitation workers, and more to form a comprehensive picture of how this situation developed.
This book doesn’t entirely fit my usual review criteria. After all, the author and the majority of people in it are white, although there is a substantial Mexican and Mexican-American element present. However, I decided it was close enough to my usual topics (since addicts are generally not a privileged group, even if they are white or privileged in other areas) to discuss here.
America’s opiate epidemic has been getting a lot of attention because it’s affected a lot of people that those in power don’t usually think of as potential addicts – middle class Midwestern white suburbians. Another, lesser known, oddity of the problem is that nearly all of the black tar heroin dealers in American’s smaller cities are from small towns in the tiny Mexican state of Nayarit.
Quinones interviews addicts, dealers, medical professionals, reformers, and law enforcement to provide as accurate a picture as possible of how this came to be. Most of the people he talks to are white, Mexican, or Mexican-American, although he does talk to some people of color, and he brings up the disparity between political response to this ‘epidemic’ and previous reactions such as the ‘war on drugs’.
“If she was laughing at me, I was going to go home and forget about her. But she looked at me very seriously and said ‘It takes practice,” and then I liked her.” p. 62
The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Ann Strugnell.
Random House, New York, my edition 2006 (originally published 1981).
Realistic fiction, 71 pages.
Lexile: 520L .
AR Level: 3.4 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: This is the first book in the Julian series.
Six first-person short stories revolving around Julian Bates.
I’ve already reviewed two later books in this series, Gloria Rising and Gloria’s Way. Series order isn’t strictly necessary, although a few things change as the series progresses (new characters are introduced, the boys get a dog). At this point, the main characters are just Julian, younger brother Huey, and their parents. Gloria is introduced in the final story of this book.
First, I’d like to give some credit to Ann Cameron. It was unusual in 1980 for a white woman to chose to write a book about middle class black children. (Keep in mind this was less than 20 years since The Snowy Day.) And generally speaking, her books still hold relevance today and I haven’t spotted any major issues in the ones I’ve read.
“It was this that inspired me, from the age of fifteen, to undertake a serious study of tidying that led to my development of the KonMari Method.” page 2
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.
Ten Speed Press, Penguin Random House, New York, 2014.
Adult self-help, 213 pages including index.
A method for decluttering and organizing your home or office from a famous expert.
Is the minimalism movement big in other parts of the world too? In America it’s trendy to declutter and simplify right now. Book blogging has ironically led to me buying many more books (because I feel such a time pressure when trying to review library books ), and it’s time to downsize the books.
A graphic novel that uses an unusual conceit to discuss coming-of-age and self-growth.
Good As Lily by Derek Kirk Kim, illustrated by Jesse Hamm.
MG/YA fiction (mostly realistic fiction, but with a speculative fiction aspect), 150 pages.
Minx, DC Comics, New York, 2007.
Lexile: Not leveled.
AR Level: 3.0 (worth 2.0 points) .
NOTE: While the text is a third grade level, this is written for older children.
On Grace Kwon’s 18th birthday, things get a little weird. Friends whisk her away, guitar strings break, and a strange accident with an unwanted pinata leads her to leave her favorite present behind in the park. And when she meets versions of herself at ages 6, 27, and 70, it gets a whole lot weirder.
This is a special review. See, this is a re-read, but it’s also a book I first read in 2007. At the time I was devouring graphic novels as fast as I could get them. However, unlike most of those quick reads, the plot of this one stuck with me for the past decade. I couldn’t remember the title for a long time, just that it was a Minx book. After seeing ReGifters on this great list, I suddenly recalled that Lily was in the title, and was able to find the info. Lily is not the main character’s name, which made it more difficult for me to remember.
Here are five books for the youngest readers that focus on different African Americans. Some you may have heard of before, others may be new to you!
(Perhaps these will help you go beyond the big five.)
Dave must have been very strong, as he was able to create pottery that not many could. He knew how to read and write, because he wrote poems on the side of some of his pottery. This book shares the beauty and artistry of his life without ever ignoring the harsh reality that he was a slave.
This picture book does a great job of presenting the life story of Ida B. Wells, including difficult topics such as lynching. Because of the subject matter, I’d recommend this for older picture book readers, or as a family read so parents can address any questions children might have.
Did you know that Major Taylor was the first black world champion bicyclist? He used hard work and athleticism to prove that race did not determine ability at a time when the world was determined to prove him otherwise. This would be a great book to read before or after a bike ride, or when the weather keeps you indoors!
This nonfiction early reader is actually written by Ruby Bridges herself, and includes photos of her historic integration of a New Orleans elementary school. This is one of my earliest reviews for this blog, so I was hesitant to link it, but there aren’t enough diverse early readers and this book should be better known.
I’m not much of a music person, so it’s surprising how much this book delighted me. The story of DJ Kool Herc is fascinating and covers topics like immigration, community, and of course music! The illustrations never fail to delight new readers and this remains a favorite in our house.
(Note: technically Kool Herc is a Jamaican-American, but he’s seen as part of the African-American community, which is why I included him on this list.)