“Unlike most literature about New Orleans, this book focuses on what makes the city ordinary rather than extraordinary.” page 5
Hope Against Hope: Three Schools, One City, and the Struggle to Educate America’s Children by Sarah Carr.
Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2013.
Nonfiction, 317 pages including notes, bibliography, and index.
The story of how a wave of mostly outsider-led charter schools are dramatically changing education in New Orleans, through a year long 2010 study of three different schools.
Carr took such an interesting tactic in this book, and not one I would have thought of myself. She worked closely with three different people: a student, a teacher, and a principal. They are all at different schools, each with its own take on solving the education crisis and its own method for resolving the problems that the 2005 hurricane have only exacerbated.
“Just outside the city, as the sky seemed to expand and the barren mountain range came into full view, we pulled over to buy two stalks of sugarcane from a street merchant.” p. 122
On That Day, Everybody Ate: One Woman’s Story of Hope and Possibility in Haiti by Margaret Trost.
Koa Books, Kihei, Hawai’i, 2008.
Non-fiction/memoir, 143 pages. n
The story of Margaret Trost’s experiences with Haiti which led to her developing a charity to feed and aid children in partnership with a parish there.
Although I’m trying to focus on Africa this year, I went down a rabbit hole because I got interested in Haiti after seeing Rebecca’s Caribbean reading goal. I’ve seen lots of books around about the earthquake and have even read a few, but I really wanted to read books written before 2010.
“Many other strong people came before us and they never got a chance to know what freedom was. They sacrificed their lives so that we could have a better life and we must not forget to pay homage to them in all that we do.” page 37
The Making of a Psychologist by Dr. Earl Bracy.
RoseDog Books, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2010.
Memoir, 268 pages.
The life story of Dr. Bracy, told by himself. Technically an autobiography (told by the author in chronological order) but written with more of an anecdotal memoir style.
I came across this book quite randomly when looking for a very different (not diverse) book. If it wasn’t for this blog, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. Bracy’s life is interesting, but this book needed a heavy editor’s hand. I had to stop myself from grabbing a pencil and marking up the margins several times. If this was a purchased book (rather than borrowed), I’d have done so simply for my own peace of mind.
The formatting is also troublesome with justified margins and a font that doesn’t do the book any services. The book cover isn’t appealing with the tilted landscape, awkward fades, and random American flag. All of that’s too bad, because this could have been a very readable book.
“One of the most sacrificial acts of love adoptive parents can do is to give up their preconceptions and agendas.” page 16
Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge.
Delta, Bantam Dell, Random House, New York, 1999.
Nonfiction, 224 pages including index and recommended reading.
This book of advice, information, and deep thought aims at communicating with the next generation of adoptive parents so the adoptive experience can be better.
This was probably the most helpful book I read before becoming a parent. (One was great for general parenting but not especially relevant to this blog.) Sadly, this isn’t a book recommended by a social worker or from one of our required classes.
Some of my adopted friends reminded us to consider the child’s perspective. At the used bookstore this was the only book by adoptees I could find. Rereading it for this review was an unexpectedly emotional journey.
“Paris was not the place for me or my son. The French could entertain the idea of me because they were not immersed in guilt about a mutual history…” p. 165
Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou.
Bantam, New York, 1977 (originally published 1976).
Adult autobiography, 242 pages.
In a funny coincidence, I gave away Angelou books (not even read yet… but better loved by someone else) and then a month later came across this in the free books. Of course I started reading this one immediately and it was fascinating. I’ve read quite a bit of her poetry before, but never one of her autobiographies. Upon reading this one I realized that they are probably best read chronologically.
This title is the third, and covers the time when she lived in San Francisco after her son was born, worked a wide variety of jobs, spent a few years married to a white man, and eventually found herself with an entertainment career that took her all over the world, but sadly separated her from her son.
“It would be easier to be a criminal fairly prosecuted by the law than an Indian daughter who wronged her family. A crime would be punishable by law rather than this uncertain length of family guilt trips.” p. 29
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal.
William Morrow, HarperCollins, New York, 2017.
Realistic fiction, 298 pages + 14 pages of extras.
Nikki is a modern British girl, but financial troubles lead her back to the gurdwara, where she takes on a job teaching English classes to widows at the community center. Kulwinder is working hard to be accepted as an equal by the male leaders so she can advocate for other women, especially the widows who have little voice in the community. Both run afoul of the conservative group the Brothers, who feel it’s their duty to keep rebellious women in line.
Before we get to the book itself, the reaction people had to this cover was intriguing. Everyone seemed to assume it was very raunchy. Even at the cash register, this book merited a double take and pursed lips as I purchased it together with our normal family groceries (although no kids were with me). People had so many surprised or negative reactions that eventually I hid it in our room rather than face more awkward conversations.
Despite the title, this is not proper erotica. It’s highly literary, dark, yet comedic, with elements of the mystery and thriller genre along with a touch of romance and some steamy scenes. Or rather, it’s a book that’s likely to get typecast but difficult to classify.
“Today there are at least an estimated 3.5 million Americans of Arabic-speaking descent, and they live in all fifty states. […] The purpose of this book isn’t to separate them out but to fold their experience into the mosaic of American history and deepen our understanding of who we Americans are.” p. xi
A Country Called Amreeka: U.S. History Retold Through Arab-American Lives by Alia Malek.
Free Press, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2009.
Nonfiction, 292 pages.
A walk through American history through the lives of a wide variety of Arab-Americans.
I picked this book up on a whim, but it turned out to be very interesting nonetheless. Mostly, I wanted to know why America was misspelled in the title (Amreeka is the Arabic word for America), and after looking at the blurb, I thought this could be an interesting perspective on American history which I personally had not very much considered before.
Much like Prisoners Without Trial, this book opened my eyes to another important part of American history. Similar to that book, this one also deals with a limited time period, since immigration laws prevented large numbers of Arab immigrants prior to the 1960s. However, Malek tells her story in a very different (although just as engaging) way.
After a brief forward explaining the background, format and scope of the book, she takes snapshots from various Arab-American lives and uses them to illustrate a wide variety of experiences and time periods. In between these vignettes are brief chapters that give immigration statistics, updates on legal and cultural developments, and information about world politics that had bearing on Arab-American lives.