Reading, a quarterly update
We are a quarter of the way through the year (how did time fly by so quickly?!) and I’ve committed to do some quarterly reflection this year.
As part of that reflection, I’m looking back at some of the books I’ve read over the past three months. If you’re not following me on Goodreads, here’s the full list so far:
- Becoming, Michelle Obama
- Lucky Boy, Shanthi Sekaran
- Not That Bad, Roxane Gay
- Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin
- There There, Tommy Orange
- Summons, Richard S. Mabala
- Children of the Atom, Dave Lapp
- Bad Blood, John Carreyrou
- Literary Chickens, Beth Moon
- Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi
- Islands of Decolonial Love, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
- Solitude, Michael Harris
- An Ocean of Minutes, Thea Lim
- So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo
- This Accident of Being Lost, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
- The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance, Audre Lorde
- Upstream, Mary Oliver
- A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver
- Rules for the Dance, Mary Oliver
- Celebrations, Maya Angelou
- Masnavi I Ma’navi, Jalalu-’d-Din Muhammad Rumi
- My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh
- Don’t Call Us Dead, Danez Smith
- The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo
- The Uninhabitable Earth, David Wallace-Wells
- How Lovely the Ruins, Spiegel & Grau
- Happiness, Aminatta Forna
- The Friend, Sigrid Nunez
- The Boat People, Sharon Bala
(For the books where I’ve written a reflection, rumination, or some scribbles of marginalia, I’ve linked to that post from the title above.)
A few observations from the past three months:
- I have rediscovered poetry, and have immersed myself into it deeply. I find that it often takes me longer to read a collection of poetry than a much longer fiction novel; poetry demands time and space, and lots of reflection.
- When it comes to non-fiction, two main themes emerge from my reading: race and its intersections in our current society, and the impending climate crisis and its repercussions. Come to think of it, these are themes in my fiction reading as well.
- Being very conscious about seeking out books by women and writers of color has led to a richness in my literary experience; this intentional effort I’ve engaged with over the past three years leads to such delight and depth of perspective.
- I am often brought to tears reading novels these days. Something about my current mental health (and fragile emotional state) has made me feel even more deeply than I usually do. I find myself wiping tears off a page quite often, and for that, I credit the brilliant authors that bring these beautiful stories to life.
What have you been reading recently? What should I be reading in the next nine months of the year? I welcome your thoughts, recommendations, and reflections.
Poem of the week:
Asking for Directions
We could have been mistaken for a married couple
riding on the train from Manhattan to Chicago
that last time we were together. I remember
looking out the window and praising the beauty
of the ordinary: the in-between places, the world
with its back turned to us, the small neglected
stations of our history. I slept across your
chest and stomach without asking permission
because they were the last hours. There was
a smell to the sheepskin lining of your new
Chinese vest that I didn’t recognize. I felt
it deliberately. I woke early and asked you
to come with me for coffee. You said, sleep more,
and I said we only had one hour and you came.
We didn’t say much after that. In the station,
you took your things and handed me the vest,
then left as we had planned. So you would have
ten minutes to meet your family and leave.
I stood by the seat dazed by exhaustion
and the absoluteness of the end, so still I was
aware of myself breathing. I put on the vest
and my coat, got my bag and, turning, saw you
through the dirty window standing outside looking
up at me. We looked at each other without any
expression at all. Invisible, unnoticed, still.
That moment is what I will tell of as proof
that you loved me permanently. After that I was
a woman alone carrying her bag, asking a worker
which direction to walk to find a taxi.
A few things to read and explore:
Confronting racism is not about the needs and feelings of white people:
Just once I want to speak to a room of white people who know they are there because they are the problem. Who know they are there to begin the work of seeing where they have been complicit and harmful so that they can start doing better. Because white supremacy is their construct, a construct they have benefited from, and deconstructing white supremacy is their duty.
What it’s Like to Grow Up Black and Muslim in a Place That Says Racism Doesn’t Exist: “Acknowledging our cultural mosaic meant talking about how lucky we all were to be in Canada without ever discussing its shortcomings.” Hear, hear. This whole piece is a must-read.
A belief in meritocracy is not only false: it’s bad for you: I grew up in a community and family where I was pushed to work harder because the world was framed as meritocratic. It has taken me years to disabuse myself of that worldview and acknowledge my luck and privilege.
“What if there is no predefined life purpose? What if you don’t need to spend your precious life searching for one, because there isn’t one to discover?”
Here’s a beautiful, one-minute, animated video that is a wonderful jolt of perspective in the morning:
10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2019: Reading through lists like these make me hopeful for the future of humankind.
How to Support a Loved One With a Mental Illness: I have so many loved ones supporting me through my current rough time, and I am ever so grateful to them for all they do.
The Pressing Need for Everyone to Quiet Their Egos: “A noisy ego spends so much time defending the self as if it were a real thing, and then doing whatever it takes to assert itself, that it often inhibits the very goals it is most striving for.”
Hierarchy Is Not the Problem: Every organization should have an org chart that highlights reporting relationships, and then another that highlights power dynamics. This would make navigating the organization so much easier.
The right way to be introspective: I learned early in my reflective practice to only ask myself “what” and not “why.” This piece shows how grounding ourselves in observation, rather than explanation, is important.
The Makeover Scene Gets a Makeover: “Weave your parachute every day; don’t wait until you need to jump out of the plane.”
The Cult of Homework: Now that I’m done teaching my class, I’m going to be doing a deep dive into my assessment and assignment process and see if it was valuable or just added work for my students.
How The Very Hungry Caterpillar Became a Classic: I didn’t get to read this book as a child, but discovering it in adulthood while reading it to other children made me quickly realize just how great it is.
The sharing economy is going to innovate us into the Victorian Era: We talk a lot about regulating the digital economy in our class, and I refuse to use the words “sharing economy” to talk about what is happening. I prefer “servant economy.” It feels more accurate.
An oral history of 10 Things I Hate About You: I can’t begin to tell you just how much I adored this movie. I can’t believe it was made twenty years ago.
My friend Amy has hosted a podcast club (like a book club, but instead of reading the same book, you listen to the same podcast episodes) for the past two years. If you’re looking for a thematic approach to podcast-listening, her lists are an excellent place to start.
I hope you’re able to find some quiet time to read and get lost in the worlds found in the pages of a book. Talk soon, my friends.