Sitting on the beach or underneath the shade of a tree, I read books to help me understand the world and how to be a better global citizen.
Right now, the world confuses and frustrates me because we've stopped listening to each other. Complex policy arguments are reduced to 280 characters or less. White people call the police on black people in public spaces rather than asking themselves why they find our presence disquieting. Friends and family members snipe at and talk past one another on Facebook. The incidents of everyday hate
, online and face to face, seem only to multiply.
Reading has become more than a summer escape. It is an act of empathy that provides a passport to understanding diverse perspectives. I chose five books to read this summer because they each challenge accepted structures of form and content. Except for one, most of the books were recently published.
Book: "Perennial" by Kelly Forsythe (August 2018)
The irony about the current debate about school shootings is that the adults making decisions about gun control forgot what it's like to be in high school.
High school is hell. It's a permeable world with fixed rules about who matters and who doesn't. Feelings of isolation, powerlessness, and despair are the perennials of being a teenager.
"Perennial" shifts the conversation about school shootings from policy to people by using poetry to describe the events of the 1999 Columbine massacre from imagined, multiple perspectives of a victim, shooter, and author, who was a child at the time.
Forsythe challenges the reader to mature beyond facile arguments about gun control and bullying if we want to stop classrooms from increasingly becoming killing fields.
Issue: Identity politics
Book: "There, There: A Novel" by Tommy Orange
Orange, a First Nation author, begins his multi-generational novel
about 12 characters who each have their own reasons for attending the Big Oakland Powwow with a history lesson.
"The Indian head in the jar, the Indian head on a spike were like flags flown, to be seen, cast broadly. Just like the Indian head test pattern was broadcast to sleeping Americans as we set sail from our living rooms, over the ocean blue-green glowing airwaves, to the shores, the screens of the New World."
Orange foregrounds history to underscore the genocide of Native Americans isn't in the past but lives as a fight in the bodies of urban people who search for connection and redemption while grappling with suicide, addiction, and alienation.
Issue: Black Lives Matter
Book: "Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over" by Nell Irvin Painter
Painter, a distinguished American history professor
, would probably side-eye the thought of me grouping her memoir about her decision to leave her Ivy League career to become a professional painter in her 60s as an integral part of the next stage of the Black Lives Matter movement.
She readily acknowledges the impa