It feels like something has shifted. I’ve only been at this for a short time but this feels different. People who have been at this their entire lives, for decades, say that this feels different. If the New York Times bestseller lists of the past week or so are any indication, people are at least buying the books that will help them get started. Key word: STARTED. More people have reached out to me in the past two weeks about what to do than in the past three years combined. Others have asked what the solution is – why we keep ending up wringing our hands and getting nowhere. I honestly think that until more people learn more about the history we weren’t taught, we won’t be open to the solutions that are being proposed. They’re going to feel like “too much.” If you’ve spent some time learning and reflecting, though, you’ll probably think more along the lines of “this isn’t enough.” We’ve been in this mess for 400+ years and it’s going to take more than a summer to get out of it but I’m feeling more optimistic than I have that people are ready to face that history in a meaningful way.
People who have known me for a while know that I’m a voracious reader. I read every night before I go to bed (there was only one six week stint that I didn’t read and that was when I first became a mom in 2013). The books I’ve been reading of late have been like junk food for my brain – thrillers, romance, YA. I think it’s what I needed to cope with the start of this quarantine. People also know, though, that in the summer I put together a short stack of deeper, nonfiction reading because I generally have more time to read during the day. Here are the four books I’m planning to focus my learning on this summer and why:
- The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer – so much of my learning over the past few years has focused on anti-Black racism. I have deep deficits in my knowledge of indigenous people. I was planning to see David speak at the Antiracist Book Festival in April but….#globalpandemic
- The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein – I have a pretty solid understanding, relatively speaking, of systemic racism in education and the criminal justice system. I want to know and understand more about redlining. This book was recommended by my friend Rachel who said it was fantastic.
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. I’ve never read anything by James Baldwin. I need to fix that and this was what my friend Julia recommended as a starting point with his work.
- We Want to Do More than Survive by Bettina Love. I heard Dr. Love speak in January and she’s the voice everyone needs in their ears when they’re considering what education needs to look like to serve all children – and what it absolutely should NOT look like.
It seems like a lot of us are going to be doing a lot of reading in the coming months. One thing I need to be cautious of, and I encourage everyone to have the same caution, is that I don’t stop with just reading. Reading and learning are important to ground our work but reading and learning by themselves won’t change anything. I need to think about how I’ll apply my learning in my daily interactions, my work, my spending, and my voting.
What are you reading this summer?