The World in Words: Summer Reading Recommendations
As we officially enter summer, teachers have varying degrees of relationship to their work. Some teachers use the summer to attend conferences and connect with other teachers, some use it as vital planning time to dig deep into their upcoming year, and some use it to get as far away from teaching as possible to completely recharge and take care of themselves.
All of these are perfectly wonderful options. We all need different things to help us come back to our classrooms eager and excited to work with our students. There's no "right" way to do summer break, as long as you're thoughtful and honest about your needs.
No matter how you choose to use it, summer is a great opportunity to take the time we may not have during the year to sit down with a great read. Even if you're choosing to stay away from "the work," there are still books that can allow us to take their stories and eventually get us thinking about the work we do in our classrooms come fall. By allowing ourselves to dive into someone else's story and voice, we're able to not just gain perspective on our work but also on our own identities in the process.
For the teacher who wants to get deeply introspective: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
I fully believe every educator or, frankly, every person should read White Fragility. DiAngelo's book is frank, honest, and descriptive in the way it breaks down not just white privilege but also the social and internal mechanisms that make it so difficult to have these conversations. The book lays it all on the line and forces us to really question the work we do, the systems in which we do it, and what it will look like for us to move forward toward justice. For deeper learning, also check out #ClearTheAir's discussion materials, particularly the discussion guide for educators.
Math and science have always been traditionally male-dominated fields, and the women who succeed in them often face backlash for going against the status quo. Chung explores these ideas beautifully in her novel, following Katherine as she navigates not just being one of the few AAPI people in her post-war community growing up but also finding success in a world where her very existence in it is a revolution seen as a disruption. The book is not only beautifully written (I wept at the end. A lot. And took a picture of the final page to reread it many times over), but it lends itself to discussions around the struggles our female students face in STEM fields and how our AAPI students can still be othered in communities.
For the poetry-loving teacher: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
This book drew out several long, deep, cathartic sighs as I read it. It's fitting that Acevedo won the Carnegie Medal for the book (though revolutionary and frustrating as the first woman of color to receive the prize), since it's powerful, honest, and breathtakingly beautiful in the way it weaves images to illustrate what its protragonist, Xiomara, faces. ("I've forced my skin just as thick as I am.") It also lends itself to a number of discussions around Latinx identity and the everyday struggles faced by girls and women of color in America.
For the teacher who wants to laugh: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah's memoir succeeded in bringing me deep, gut-busting laugh-out-loud moments balanced with times when I wept at the difficult truths he shared about his life growing up during apartheid in South Africa. Not only is it a fantastic and powerful read, but it also certainly brings up questions about mixed-race identity and blackness that are important conversations to consider as a teacher. Bonus: The audio version, read by Noah, is wonderful. Also, there is now a young reader's version for students.
For the teacher who enjoys a good romance: Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum by Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner
I want to state upfront: what makes this book powerful and inspiring is not the romance in it. Odede's honest, simple recounting of growing up in Kibera, one of Kenya's largest slums, is heart-wrenching and important on its own. It's woven well with Posner's journey to understand not just Kibera but also her own white and socioeconomic privilege in the process. The book also provides a very high-level introduction to how NGOs and grants operate in developing nations. This, on its own, makes the book a great read for educators to discuss global education and privilege and to check our own biases about Africa.
That said, there is a love story here as well, which was lovely and wonderful to see unfold amidst everything else happening in the novel.