I allowed myself my own version of a family leave with my writing the last six weeks which are also the first six weeks of my son’s new life. Ari James Noble was born on November 24th, 2018 at 1:36 am, 6 pounds, 15 ounces, 19 inches long. I guarantee I will share some poetry and more details of how he made his entrance into the world (spoiler: in a wheelchair), but that is for another time.
I made the goal to challenge myself to re-discover my love for reading while I get this break (albeit, unpaid) from work. I am a reading specialist, literacy coach, and English teacher, and I have found that in a world of smartphones and social media, my own personal relationship with reading has sort of morphed into the aloof step-child that I only think about when someone brings it up. So I determined that I could read 15 books while on leave for 3 months as a strategy to ditch my phone. Turns out, I really missed reading and have really enjoyed actually making time to read. And, not to gloat, but I’m already on book 7…
I decided I want to share little blurbs of the books I read with you and also seek out at least one person to recommend each title to, regardless of what they do with the suggestions. I’ll share 5 at a time and hopefully keep the rhythm up all year.
So here are the first 5-
1. What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey:
I never knew Oprah had a memoir until I got to help a Business Innovations class at my school organize some book clubs, and this was one of the picks. It’s a collection of some of Oprah’s favorite columns from her magazine over the years, offering glimpses of truths she has come to acknowledge in her life. I wish I would have read it as a teenager. I might not have been able to fully grasp her lessons then, but she offers a lot of therapy-like wisdom in each entry.
2. Dream Country by Shannon Gibney:
This is a book I’d love to teach and probably will in the form of a book club choice for books that take place on more than one continent. It was published in 2018 inMinneapolis and two of the five sections are set in Minnesota, so it feels super relevant. I consider it to be the teen-friendly version of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi; this is more accessible. It spans five generations of a family that finds themselves slaves in the southern United States, returns to their “homeland” Liberia as colonizers, and ultimately ends up in Minnesota. I never knew about the American Colonization Society (ACS) which worked with freed slaves and free blacks to organize their return to Africa in the 1820s, this time as colonizers themselves. Fascinating.
3. #Not Your Princess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale:
This collection of writings functions more like a yearbook or magazine of memories, poems, insights, and thoughts. It can be read in one sitting or from more investment in each entry. Reading it felt like I was in a museum exhibit for an hour, looking around and synthesizing patterns from each page to the next. This would be an excellent book for high schoolers who don’t want to read or haven’t finished a book in years because it’s just over 100 pages and is filled with pictures that don’t look childish. With over 50 Native American women contributors, this work showcases the very necessary indigenous perspectives that are often overlooked.
4. Inspired by Rachel Held Evans:
I have a complicated relationship with the Bible. I grew up in a rather fundamentalist Christian home that viewed Scripture as a form of law, and so that’s what I believed for the first two decades of my life. I didn’t really question it too much; just accepted it as truth as a sign of what I assumed was a strong faith. But then I went to college, even a Christian college, and actually started picking apart what I thought to be true then putting it all back together, this time in a different shape. I normally have a hard time reading books from the “Christian” genre, but I actually really enjoyed this. The author is clearly competent and can weave words together about hard topics in a way that makes them accessible to an average girl like me. Highly recommend to anyone who calls themself a Christian.
5. Refugee by Alan Gratz:
I read this book in two days. I really couldn’t put it down. It’s a young adult story, well three stories, following the lives of three young adult refugees in different countries and different time periods (Germany, 1940s; Cuba, 1990s; Syria, 2010s). Ben quickly read it after I finished. It was assigned to me for my SEED class, and I’m so glad. This book gave me so much gratitude for the many blessings in my life, especially as I read it by the Christmas tree with my then three week old baby at my side. This story very much brought me to action and allowed both Ben and I to brainstorm what we can do about the refugee crisis.