“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’.
“I started spending time in the library, researching books on religion and philosophy.” page 56
Un-Ashamed by Lecrae Moore, with Jonathan Merritt.
B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2016.
Autobiography, 204 pages including notes (211 pages including blank note space).
The autobiography of a “Christian rapper” who successfully transitioned to general rap spaces and overcame many personal challenges.
This one is from the library. I knew it was somewhat religious, but didn’t realize just how Christian it was. There definitely were points that could apply to everyone, but it also was very heavy on religion. For example, his conversion experience takes up most of a chapter, while other aspects of his life are given much less detail. Lecrae sees his life through the filter of Christianity and views everything with God’s purpose in mind.
“Most disturbing, Anthony regarded society’s low expectations of him as the reason why his school didn’t have the necessary supplies.” page 12
Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can – and Should – Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids by Nicole Baker Fulgham.
BrazosPress, Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2013.
Persuasive non-fiction, 235 pages including notes.
Fulgham wrote this book for the sixteen million children growing up in poverty in the United States of America and receiving a drastically different education than their upper and middle-class counterparts. This book is fairly unique to America, because US education is uniquely flawed.
The first time I read this book was as a young educator ready to change the world. This time, I read it having parented, including having parented children in highly segregated schools.
“Violence in here is always happening or just about to happen. I think these guys like it – they want it to be normal because that’s what they’re used to dealing with.” p. 144
Monster by Walter Dean Myers.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, 1999.
Teen fictional chapter book/screenplay, 281 pages.
Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Michael L. Prinz Award, National Book Award and more
AR Level: 5.1 (worth 5.0 points).
Monster is a complicated novel of a story-within-a-story. At first glance it is the straightforward tale of a boy who is accused of assisting in a murder during a robbery-gone-wrong, mostly expressed through his recreation of the trial as a screenplay and his diary notes from prison. But it is also the story of a criminal justice system where the mostly white cast assumes all the power over the mostly black “monsters.” Then there are also flashbacks that add more information about Steve Harmon and the other characters which call into question his real role in the murder. Meanwhile, we are seeing all of this through the lens of one desperate young boy – what is the truth?
Honestly, for a book to get this many awards and never attract my attention is very unusual. This book also has never been checked out of the school library I got it from. But opening the book, I’m not surprised. The format is challenging, the language certainly above the level indicated in many places, and the content seems aimed more at high school students in terms of the complexity of thought required to process the novel.
“It was a trivial secret, but one I would remember as vividly as my feeling that while some people are haunted by the dead, others are haunted by the living.” page 71
The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Grove Press, Grove Atlantic, New York, 2017.
Adult short story collection, 207 pages.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
This collection of eight short stories is tied together not so much by the characters as by a common theme – they all deal with Vietnamese immigrants, albeit in very different and sometimes surprising ways.
I first heard of this book when reading an interview with the author prior to the release. Instantly knew I wanted to read it and put in a library request. Received it at the end of April and was about to send it back unread because I didn’t think I’d have time to read it, but then Shenwei posted about the Asian Lit Bingo Challenge … so I read one story at a time during lunch breaks. Because of the tight time frame for this challenge and needing to return the book, I only read it once.
This incredibly challenging but worthwhile read is for grown-ups only.
Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan.
Back Bay Books; Little, Brown, and Co.; Hachette Book Group; 2008, expanded edition 2009.
Adult short story collection, realistic fiction, 369 pages including extras.
Selected for Oprah’s book club in 2009.
NOTE: THIS BOOK IS FOR ADULTS ONLY. NOT FOR CHILDREN OR TEENS.
Further Note: This is a work of fiction although I am not reviewing it on Fiction Friday.
This collection of short stories deals with the children of Africa. Specifically, children who are individually dealing with a variety of horrific circumstances, many of which do not have happy endings. The author is a Nigerian priest but took care to set his stories in several countries in Africa. There is a handy map in the front of the book for Americans or the geographically challenged.
Before I go any further, EVERY TRIGGER WARNING YOU CAN THINK OF for this book. If you are sensitive to bad things happening to children, you might not be able to read this book or even this review. But, on the other hand, I think every adult should read this book at least once. Because these are real things happening to children, and if we ignore this then it will just keep happening.