“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.
“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’.
“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.
“Another world’s accomplishment was done and finished, and as in the past, from the beginning of history, wherever the world’s work was done by a white man, he had been accompanied by a colored man.” page 136
A Negro Explorer at the North Pole by Matthew Henson, forward by Matthew E. Peary and introduction by Booker T. Washington.
Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York, 1912.
Available online at www.gutenberg.org/files/20923/20923-h/20923-h.htm
Accessed in September 2017.
Nonfiction, 200 pages.
Matthew Henson was the black man who accompanied Peary on most of his expeditions, including to the North Pole. He received scant notice from the white people of the time, but his life story was very much in demand among African-Americans. Eventually he used his journals from the trip to write this book.
The book is a curious mix of direct entries from Henson’s journals, summations of journal entries, and his direct writing covering periods of time when he couldn’t write or adding information he felt was helpful.
Racism is very present in this book. For the most part, this is overt, although it does come out more blatantly. There are two main forms of racism present – against African-Americans, and against Native Americans.
“To him it was his highest obligation and a duty of his faith to educate his children so that they could share their knowledge and serve their communities.” page 27
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.
Harper Perennial, Harper Collins, New York, 2012 (first published 2011).
Nonfiction, 270 pages including extras.
Lexile: 1090L .
AR Level: not leveled
The story of one young woman and her five sisters who stayed in Kabul and started a home dressmaking business under Taliban rule that not only provided for their family, but also allowed them to teach other women sewing and positioned them to be leaders in Afghanistan’s economy.
I’d been traveling and was hoping to visit a specialty gift shop to pick up some diverse books, only to find it closed, so I found a nearby library. The library wasn’t so diverse, but had extremely cheap books, so I purchased a bunch for under $1 total, including this one.
“I had loved myself at 500 pounds. I loved myself now, even with my loose skin.” page 203
An XL Life: Staying Big at Half the Size by Big Boy (Kurt Alexander).
Cash Money Content, 2011.
Autobiography/memoir, 237 pages.
The autobiography of Los Angeles radio personality Big Boy, once known for his size as much as the music he played.
This book opened with Alexander talking about the father he never knew and how he didn’t feel that contributed to his weight at all. It’s a marked contrast to the last biography of a black man I read, Un-Ashamed.
On the other hand, Alexander was greatly impacted by constantly moving around as a child. His stories about homelessness and frequent moves reminded me more of Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness, although he wasn’t moving from relative to relative. His mother must have been truly remarkable, because his six siblings stayed with the family through various moves and hardships, even after they were adults.