Don’t judge a book by its cover.
*the Golden rule*: Treat others how you want to be treated.
You know these phrases, as they were both likely recited to you as early as Kindergarten to encourage you to be nice to everyone. Take these sayings and reflect on the current climate of our country: Covid-19 and racial injustice are both alive and well. Is our country actively practicing these entry-level principles?
This is a reading list, so I’ll try my best to not get too far into the weeds. If you’re on any social media platform, you know there’s been an abundance of anti-racist, black voices + stories reading lists circulating that, as a white woman, I’m not going to try and compete with – they’ve left with me a laundry list of books I hope to read someday and also encouraged me to do a diversity check on my personal bookshelf. I am an accountant by day, so you best believe you’re getting the stats on my 27 book sample:
- Nearly 60% of my book sample were written by women – this made sense to me because it’s likely I gravitate towards voices that I identify with
- One-third of the authors were non-American, but only 7% were non-American and non-European authors
- Three (11%) of the books were written by people of color, one of which identified as American and the others were from Nigeria and China
…. In other words, not very diverse. Now you try it!
Whether we’re talking race or book covers, this idea of judging books by their bindings runs deep. I’d say it’s quite natural for humans to gravitate towards humans/books/wine that we are familiar with – as a visual person, I will admit that I judge books by their covers which, in part, has led me to a homogeneous shelf of familiar, comforting stories. So, where do we go from here? Open yourself up to new experiences. Listen to friends and educators that are different from yourself; read their book recommendations. Don’t just read tragedy stories that paint a certain group of people or a place as always suffering; read about triumphs, culture and happy stories, too. Buy books from small businesses, share them with friends. If something makes you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself why. More than anything, I think our country could use a lesson in compassion right now. A very easy way to start that lesson is with a colorful, dynamic bookshelf.
Was that too far into the weeds? Here are some books that have added new perspective to my bookshelf this summer:
Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving
Why do we equate ‘busy’ with ‘important?’ Why does doing ‘nothing’ feel wrong? Did humans always work 40 hours per week? Do Nothing is author Celeste Headlee’s well-researched answer to these questions and many more. I purchased Do Nothing, after one of my favorite bookstores recommended it as a shelter-in-place read back in March. As someone that loves to-do lists and a day well spent, I will be the first to admit that I am no master at relaxing – turns out I’m not the only one. This book blew my mind; it will fill you with facts and new perspectives. I dog-eared many quotes from this book, here’s one for a taste:
“We can and must stop treating ourselves like machines that can be driven and pumped and amped and hacked. Instead of limiting and constraining our essential natures, we can celebrate our humanness at work and in idleness.”
This book is for every human. I’ve already passed it on to one of my friends – that’s her hand in the photo!
This Is How It Always Is
Heartfelt and honest, This Is How It Always Is a coming-of-age story that follows the story of Claude and his loving family. Claude is radiant, a good friend and has four older brothers. Claude was born a ‘boy,’ but would prefer to be called Poppy now – Poppy likes glitter, wearing dresses and playing with legos. But who cares, right? At least that’s how Claude’s family feels, but will everyone feel the same? You already know the answer to that. And as you could imagine, things get more confusing and complicated as Poppy grows older. I think this is the first book I’ve read with a transgender protagonist – protagonist aside, the first book I read that references a character that identifies as a gender different than what they were born with. The author, Laurie Frankel, was inspired to write this book from her own experiences with a transgender child and hopes to spread awareness and empathy that, “there are a lot of transgener people and there are even more people who are gender noncomforming, and these little kids are just kids.” It’s more than a story, it’s also a wake up call to the gender constructs that are embedded into our everyday.
This book is loved, just look at it. I snagged this gifted novel off my bookshelf recently, after recognizing it’s cover and title on numerous black author reading lists. Americanah is a fictional love story at its core, although it’s far from generic. Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian woman who is a gifted writer – and so is Ifemelu, the strong and candid female-lead in Adichie’s Americanah. This love story begins and ends in Nigeria, but the bulk of Ifhem’s story takes place in America where she comes to terms with race and what it means to be a black woman in the United States as she attends university. I found myself having more similarities to Ifhem than I would have imagined, which validates the points the author makes in her ‘The danger of a single story’ TED talk, here. You should all be watching that btw, whether or not this book is going to make your cut! And if you find that TED talk engaging and witty, then yes, you should be reading this book!
How To Kill A City
Truthfully, I just started this book, so I cannot give it an official ‘AL-rating’ yet. However, How To Kill A City seems to fit the bill for a read that will offer new perspectives. This last fall, when my boyfriend surprised me with a trip to New Orleans, we spent one of our mornings biking around the city with a local. We knew she was a local because of two things: 1) she was wearing a winter jacket on a beautiful, sunny 50 degree day & 2) she called everyone she saw ‘baby.’ Because of my love for old homes, I kept asking her questions on home prices and neighborhood affordability. She responded somberly that New Orleans locals, including herself, can no longer afford to live in the heart of the city (the French Quarter specifically). Her comment stayed with me, and recent discussions of segregation made me want to dive deeper into gentrification and its affects on cities. That’s when I found this book. How to Kill A City focuses on the cities of New Orleans, Detroit, San Francisco, and New York and the systematic forces behind gentrification.
Be compassionate; happy reading ♡