May Reads: The List

To Begin:

I wanted to note that I turned off my Twitter account. If you haven’t seen me on there, that’s why. I eventually used my account to like political posts and jokes, realizing later that I may not want those “likes” to be recorded on the internet (I can’t think of anything offensive that I liked, but I have become hyper aware of faculty facing student  backlash more and more recently in the news for their ideas shared online). I’m okay with interacting mainly on my blog page for now and may rejoin Twitter in the future solely for book talk.


On the first day of the year, I laid out my 2018 reading goals.

Here’s what’s on the list for May:

#1 Fat Fiction: Losing It by Lindsay Faith Rech

Brief Description: “Everyone thinks Diana Christopher is losing it. . . . All Diana wants is to be normal—but life for this 32-year-old waitress is anything but. . . . An unlikely friendship with her 93-year-old neighbor gives Diana the courage to shed the bulky barrier she has put between herself and the world, and soon, she’s getting attention from a certain pool-playing god at a local singles bar. But after the unspeakable happens, Diana begins to examine her past and finds that losing it is the only way she can truly be free.”

losing it
Looks like a YA character, but she’s supposed to be in her 30s. I really hope the solution to her problems is not weight loss.

#2 The Oldest Book Shelved: What Begins With Bird: Fictions by Noy Holland

Brief Description: “Holland creates an exhilarating tension between the satisfactions of meaning and the attenuated beauty of lyric, making her fiction felt as deeply as it is understood. . . . The poetry of her images, powerful but immediately absorbed, can bring consciousness to a standstill . . .”

what begins with bird
I grabbed this book in 2011 at an innovative writing conference called &NOW

#3 Newest Book Shelved: Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair

Brief Description: “. . . [The] tale of Jean ‘Stevie’ Stevenson, a young black woman growing up through the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. . . . Stevie is a bookworm, yet she longs to fit in with the cool crowd. Fighting her mother every step of the way, she begins to experiment with talkin’ trash, ‘kicking butt,’ and boys. With the assassination of Dr. King she gains a new political awareness, which makes her decide to wear her hair in a ‘fro instead of straightened, to refuse to use skin bleach, and to confront the prejudice she observes in blacks as well as whites.”

coffee
This book sounds like it plays with language, so I’m pumped!

#4 Random Pick: Liberating Minds: The Case for College in Prison by Ellen Condliffe Lagemann

Brief Description: “Anthony Cardenales was a stickup artist in the Bronx before spending seventeen years in prison. Today he is a senior manager at a recycling plant in Westchester, New York. He attributes his ability to turn his life around to the college degree he earned in prison. Many college-in-prison graduates achieve similar success and the positive ripple effects for their families and communities, and for the country as a whole, are dramatic. . . . Liberating Minds argues that it is imperative, both for prisoners themselves and for society, that access to higher education be extended to include the incarcerated.”

liberating minds
I picked up this book about a week ago at a conference for the college in prison consortium.
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50 comments

  1. Good luck with Losing It. I’d say it was a 50/50 chance that the protagonist sees her weight as the problem, and that fixing the past will fix her weight. But hey! I’ve been wrong before.

    More seriously, I can’t see any point to the billions we spend on jails if we are not making wholehearted attempts to give inmates a decent education, including after they’re out if necessary.

    • It’s a very broken system. There are justice reform groups that are fighting to close Rikers, one of the worst prisons in the States. They’ve almost done it!

      I’m worried about Losing It, too. I want to be pleasantly surprised.

  2. Will be interested to hear your thoughts on the College-Prison book. I agree with Bill, there is little point in letting people ‘rot away’ – some may not want to take the opportunity but for those that do, it can be a turning point. There is a chapter in Jon Ron’s book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, that examines these kinds of initiatives in prisons and the outcomes are overwhelmingly positive.

  3. I will be interested to hear what you think about Liberating Minds. I might have mentioned this before when you’ve talked about your work with prisons, but my mum used to teach maths in prisons, which she absolutely loved, and I think she would be fascinated by it.

      • Mum is trained as a secondary school maths teacher (though she now teaches primary) – she was essentially teaching everything from basic numeracy through to A-levels, though I think mostly at the more basic end. Lots of her students were innumerate so she was working on that really.

        • Wow, I’m surprised the level of education is so low, but I’m also not surprised. A huge percentage of people in prison in the States has ADD or ADHD and has spent time in special education classes during their schooling.

  4. You’ve got some interesting choices here, and I do like the variety. I don’t blame you one bit for your decision about Twitter. There are consequences these days for what faculty post.In the meantime, I’ll look forward to your thoughts on these books.

  5. The blurb for Losing It is making me a bit suspicious (“the courage to shed the bulky barrier she has put between herself and the world” sounds…discouraging.) But fingers crossed!

  6. I am pretty careful what I post online as well – I think I am doing a good enough job to be anonymous so far, but you never know. it is also different in Germany I think; I don’t thiink I could get in trouble for what I post and like online, but then I am trying to not find out. I just really do not want to be found by my students.

  7. Social media can be so tricky that way. I don’t have the same challenges as you, but still try to stick to book talk rather than news and politics. I may still see and read the other stuff – I just don’t comment on it.
    Out of these 4 books, I really like the sound of Coffee Will Make You Black.

    I borrowed a book from the library the other day with you in mind… I have no idea how it’s going to turn out… those few GR reviews make me a little nervous, but also curious.
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2457240.Mile_End?from_search=true

  8. I love how methodical your reading TBR choices are, but that you also include the “random” pick to give yourself some freedom. I am interested in the book about prison. Ever since I read Shaka Senghor’s Writing My Wrongs I’ve been interested in justice reform. Also my mom is active in our local justice reform movement, since family members have had problems with addiction, mental illness, and the legal system.

  9. Good on ya re: twitter. You’ll have more time to read!

    How sad is it, and what does it say about our problems, that the answer to people’s problems in North America is losing weight? Sigh.

  10. Liberating Minds: The Case for College in Prison sounds like a really interesting read. I recently watched an earlier episode of United Shades of America where host visits San Quentin and he talked to several prisoners who felt grateful to be in a place that offered lots of different educational programs. Hope you enjoy all your May reads!

    • There is a podcast called Ear Hustle that is made in San Quentin, and I’ve heard instead talk about feeling safer there than where they came from. I’ve heard of SQ, and it sounds like a tough place, but in reality, I think they have some amazing programs to help with reentry.

  11. Hmm… the blurb of Losing It does sound as if losing weight is going to be the solution to her problems. What made you choose that one – had you seen reviews of it?

  12. I dont have to worry about the repercussions of my social media comments any longer but I am still careful about what I post. Unfortunately there are too many people today who post first and think later – they would never say some of those things in a face to face situation yet they think its ok to hid behind a social media handle

  13. Ugh. I’m so sorry that you feel you need to censor your internet presence so that you can be safe. It makes me so sad that we’re in a place like this in the world. Do you think you’ll still use Twitter as a news feed even without the account active? I know some people who do that and find it valuable.

    I had the same thought reading the synopsis for Losing It— Diana had best not lose weight as a solution. I mean, I’m not saying weight loss is wrong, but seriously… I want something more meaningful.

    You have some super interesting sounding reads on your list for this month. I look forward to hearing about them!

    (P.S. I totally thought I lost it for a second when I couldn’t find your Like button. Then it alllll came back to me. Hehe.)

    • I feel way more at ease with my blog since I got rid of the like button. Also, it’s not that I feel I need to censor myself on Twitter per se. After all, I’m on here, and people can find me. However, I know that Twitter isn’t actually a good place to have a dialogue. Even the way the conversations sprawl into threads and the character limits reduces meaningful conversations.

      • You’re right– Twitter dialogues completely reduce the meaning of the conversation. But, I find that is true on most social media sites. It’s hard to understand the meaning and tone behind someone’s writing online. Plus, the annonimity makes it easy to be mean. Which I strongly dislike.

        I’m glad your blog is still here. 😀

        • To my knowledge, my blog won’t be going anywhere. It’s been a very long time since I’ve even considered throwing in the towel. That feeling usually came when my numbers weren’t huge. But, taking away my “like” button has relieved more anxiety than I even thought possible, and having a challenge for the whole year makes me excited.

          • Huzzah! This makes me happy. I like you and your blog. ❤ I'm glad you are excited to read and write posts. Yearly challenges help motivate me, too, I realized. But if it's a short challenge (a month?), then I get too stressed out. A year is an appropriate length of time.

            • Some if the early months didn’t go to plan (I got behind), but thanks to me having more time in the summer, I can catch up. I think you’re right: a year is a good amount of time.

  14. Some interesting reads coming up here! I understand about Twitter. I’m careful to be very restrained on social media and on my blog so not my true, true self but I can stay connected with people.

    I have some varied books coming up myself which is exciting (posted on my blog yesterday).

    Re your Like button, I had to turn off commenting on a completely anodyne blog post on my professional blog as it was getting flooded by people commenting “Like this post” or pasting in one of my replies to a comment; I can only think the purpose was to block it up or take up my time. I tried to find and delete the original comment that was pulling them in (I’ve had one weird comment then loads of spam before) but I think they shared the URL. Urgh.

    • YES. I no longer see all the spam, either. I’m not sure what happens, but one account suddenly “likes” everything I’ve done in the last two months within a span of 10 seconds. Urg!

  15. I was wondering where you went on twitter! I tried to tag you in a post, but couldn’t find you! I thought I was going crazy lol

    Liberating Minds sounds fascinating! I know a lot of people are against inmates earning degrees while incarcerated, HOWEVER I think it is positive move towards rehabilitation. Often lack of education and lower social standings are factors in WHY these people are committing crimes in the first place…

    • There are many things that contribute to why a person may commit a crime. Some think they’re too smart to get caught–and they are very smart. Those people make the best college students.

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