One constant that has kept me balanced is my reading. Never have I had so much inclination to read. When I read in the fall after COVID, I would prop up my book because my arms would get too tired from the weight. Now I’m walking around the house with it in my hand to increase my endurance as well as keep up with my reading goals. The before and after is amazing to me.
As for my reading choices, recent events have kept me centered on social justice topics. My focus feeds that hunger in my soul that wants to be better, craves a better world for my students. It’s often discouraging to see and hear the things you read about coming from your kids. I’m lucky they trust me enough to share their experiences; it has taken well over a decade to become an advocate for my students in this way. Is it enough? Am I enough?
So enjoy my reading picks for this month. If you get a chance, I 100% recommend that you pick one!
By Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha
I work within driving distance of the site of a man-made disaster. I used to live a stone’s throw from a poisoned city, thousands of people drinking water every day that slowly chipped away at their health and well-being. It’s an atrocity that happened in Flint, an homage to racism and an inept government that openly allows an entire city to suffer to this day. Flint still needs clean water.
With that said, I’ve always admired Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. She is the boss lady pediatrician/scientist/residency director who put her career on the line for her kids. They subjected her to a smear campaign, tried to deny the obvious disaster, but she just kept pushing. Every word in this book is a testament to her work and the dedication of many others who stood up. I’m not just recommending this book; I implore you to read it. Your eyes and heart will thank you later.
*I will be talking about her in a future post. Wonderful news! :)
The second book in the series, Class Act continues the journey with a group of black and brown students in an elite, predominantly white private school. I’m looking back at my earlier comments about how awesome the first book was, and the second did not disappoint. In fact, I’m even more excited to recommend the series!
The part that struck me the most was the section that dived into the school’s inclusivity training. A very nervous white principal tried connecting with his students in ways that just fell flat. As an educator, I’ve seen similar situations with fellow educators who didn’t understand the impact of their words and actions. There were moments of trauma opened raw in the frames, and the author has again made me question and reflect on my own mistakes/experiences. I am going to highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone, especially white educators. The images can sometimes speak louder than words.
When I was in junior high, I won a poetry contest at school. They sent in my poem to an anthology, so technically I’m already a published poet? I’ve taught creative writing over the years, and we spend a lot of time unpacking student fears about the written word in general. Poetry is very near and dear to my heart.
But my favorite part about poetry? Deconstructing it, making it a less annoying subject to study. Shakespeare’s sonnets are off the table! This book really embodies that attitude. The authors express disdain for structured poetry and instead point the reader towards poems as an expression of thought, rather than the heavy-handed, over-analyzed drivel that is so common in poetry instruction. I say this AS AN ENGLISH TEACHER. Words can be used in any way imaginable and should be treated like little puzzles of awesome. I may be using some parts of this book with my students, simply because it makes poetry fun!
This book has been recommended by so many people. In the past year, I’ve worked hard to better understand my own biases and shortcomings; it’s a reflection-heavy process filled with some not-great realizations. Unfortunately, my upbringing, while filled with some cultural awareness due to my Mexican heritage, did not fully embrace others. This book has really helped me to question every thought I’ve had about race and recenter my focus.
The author does an amazing job of making the reader question. There were so many things I didn’t even factor into the equation of racism, including microaggressions and perceptions in public. How can we claim that racism is “over” if there are still so many examples of black and brown oppression? This book has made me focus on how I can practice allyship in ways I did not even understand. If you are interested in dismantling your biases and making the world a better place, read this White Fragility and work on your process.
I’ve not included many children’s books in my list, which is a shame because they are so awesome! We don’t have kids in our house now, but I’ve slowly collected a library over the years. These will either be used by my future children or nephew or even both.
Yuyi Morales wove a beautiful story about her immigrant experience, one filled with vivid illustrations. I think of my own family when I read this, my Grandma and Grandpa learning how to navigate a new world. Her words are poignant and powerful, and it makes me want to learn more about my grandparents’ story. If you have children, this is a great book to introduce the idea of immigration and creating community.