Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Couros Life Lessons Challenge: You Are What You Read

Earlier this month, George Couros (everyone's #EduCrush), posted a challenge on twitter to expand on some life lessons from the post "30 Things About Life Everyone Should Learn Before Turning 30." Having not hit the 30 benchmark yet, it was pleasant to realize some of this I have a good handle on, while others... definitely need some work. But hey, lifelong learning is life-long, right?

In going through the list, one has especially rung true for me in my path as an educator and as a woman finding her place in this world. Not shocking? It's about books :) 
2. You are what you read. If your body is a reflection of what you eat, then your mind is a reflection of what you read and study. Fill it with good stuff--not candy, like social media.
Now, after a long day, it's super easy to Netflix binge until you fall asleep, or scroll Facebook and Instagram wondering what you'd do if you got paid the salary of a normal (non-educator) adult - but really, what good is that? And I'd love to tell you a story about how I have such a great reading routine - how I read 30 minutes every night like my reading log suggests, but let's be real - it's messy! Some days I read nothing. Some days I read for a whole afternoon because I go to Barnes & Noble and forget I have other things to do once I start previewing an incredible book.
Whatever your reading story is, however and whenever you read - just know there is no one way to be a reader. If you think you aren't going to finish it anyway so what's the point (I definitely went through this post-college, so burned out I barely read anything not required of me for work)- Just read. How much you get through will shock you! I went from reading nothing to reading EVERYTHING because as you'll soon remember as you turn the pages - how else can you learn all of the incredible lessons our generation and so many others has to offer? 
There is nothing we are going through now that in some iteration, someone hasn't been through before. To summarize Tai Lopez's incredible Tedx talk - What if someone asked if you wanted to learn from all of history and the present era's greatest leaders, thinkers, writers, artists personally - of course you'd say yes! So the books that they write? Let's dig in. It doesn't all have to be professional reading. Heck, I've read the bachelorette's tell all (you've got to balance your reading diet too!). The main things is - the right book at the right time - magic. And books give is a uniquely accessible, poignant, and permanent wisdom unlike any other.

Need some motivation? Jump on Goodreads to track your reading & set a personal goal with the Goodreads Reading challenge! Already a voracious reader looking for more? Try the #sixtybooks challenge or the centurian if you're up for 100! There's something for everyone! 
So in the spirit of booklove, here are 11 of my non-YA, non-education reads, that have made me, me.  I hope you find wisdom in some of these - and please share yours! 

Grace Bonney's In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs
An incredible collection of over 100 leading women. A gift to women and men of all ages everywhere to see such an incredible array of accomplishments, brilliance, and creativity. It's having a room full of the 100+ most powerful creative and entrepreneurial forces in the palm of your hand.

Atul Gawande's Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
This one came at just the right time as I've struggled watching a dear family member decline in health. An interesting perspective to see a surgeon struggle with the line of medicine, and as he says, what truly matters in the end.

Dalai Lama & Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams' The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World 
Two world leaders, coming together for the Dalai Lama's birthday to write this book as a gift to the world. Yes, please! Takes the reader through their conversations about impediments to joy and tenants that create more joy through the stories of their lives, the context of their faiths, and experience of history. Such a gift to all of us.

Brene Brown's Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent & Lead
We all feel out of sorts at sometime or another. That we're not smart enough, or good enough, or adequate in some way - Brene Brown takes those voices of our conscience and brings them to the table to chat. 

Amanda Lovelace's The Princess Saves Herself in This One 
Fully a child of the Disney machine - this is a coming into your 20s-30s book if I ever saw one. Life is not a Disney movie, shine on anyway, you beautiful diamond!

Sebastian Junger's War
Must read for every American. After being embedded in an incredibly dangerous unit for 15 months - follow Junger in the day to day of modern warfare.

Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
I need to recognize for a second here my blindspot for far too long having the privileges afforded with being a white woman. This book is one of many that has shaped my understanding of systematic racism, discrimination, and structural inequities both historic and modern that have such immense consequences for us today.

Sherman Alexie's Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories
Sherman Alexie. Lots of him. Read every single one, love them even more.

Susan Cain's Quiet 
Game-changer. The power of quiet in a world that doesn't stop talking - YES. Can we make another called the Power of Reading in a world that doesn't read?

Mary Oliver's A Thousand Mornings
"For some things, there is no wrong season..." In a very difficult time, a friend sent me this collection. I now may own just about every Mary Oliver piece ever published.

Melody Warnick's This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place Where You Live
Moving nearly every year since college (average American moves 11.7 times in their lifetime), making a new place home is something I am very familiar with. But still, there's always that nagging "Where do I belong?" and "Should I put roots down if this isn't my forever spot?" feeling - Enter Melony Warnick, who moves often too - and her study of place and moving and home-going - it's like having coffee with a great friend and hearing all about her sabbatical.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Book Review: North of Happy

A Delightful Read
2 cups foodie
1 3/4 cup young love
12 ounces grief
3 slices of identity crisis
1 pinch of alpha-male jealousy
1 lake of bioluminescent plankton
2 plane tickets
2 tsp. fate

From the prologue's "The Perfect Taco" recipe, each chapter begins with a recipe to get your palate ready (structure reminiscent of Sheffield's Love is a Mix Tape, flipping food for the music).

We meet Carlos, who is a well-off teenager living in Mexico City (dual citizen of Mexico & the United States), getting ready to head off to college in the states and then return to his father's business. His older brother, Felix, has been estranged from the family as he made his own path, traveling the world. Their quest to find the perfect taco takes Carlos through all kinds of place he hasn't ever gone in Mexico City. A day of such joy with his brother unfortunately ends in tragedy.

As Carlos tries to cope with his brother's death, he forges his own path separating from his family's expectations, following his brother's guiding voice (while also being petrified of the fact that he's hearing & talking to his dead brother). He finds himself immersed in his passion (food) and meeting a new passion (Emma). When his worlds collide, Emma steadies him. But will their love last? Will he be successful in his new endeavor? Will he be able to stop hearing his brother's voice? Will he return to Mexico or stay in the States? Will he befall the same tragedy his brother's life was ended by? Read to find out! Such a sweet, charged read with incredible characters.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Book Review: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life

This story is of Sal (Salvadore), a high school senior, will break your heart over and over. But it's worth it!

Sal and his friend Sam (best friends from forever) journey with Fito, another friend of Sal's as they both try to figure out and escape their present situations and plan for their future in college. Sal is adopted, but has long been beyond family to his adopted father, Vicente, and his extended Mexican-American family (and he's especially close to his grandmother, Mima). As Sal wonders what his 'bio' dad has imprinted on him, he struggles with figuring out how much of his identity is under his ability, versus how much 'nature' will takeover. Among his greatest fear is that he cannot control who he will become, that he carries the legacy of someone he doesn't even know as oppose to his father who has raised him all these years.

As YouTube vlogger perpetualpages shares in her review:

"I found this to be a powerful story about the families we make for ourselves and the families who claim us in return. It's about the beautiful sometimes messy ways that humans love each other, and about allowing yourself to walk the path you make for yourself." 

Of all the things to love in this book, the relationship between Sal and his adopted father Vicente is epic. In much the same way as Wonder, full of precepts and wise anecdotes, I would buy a book of just Vincente's advice. For instance, in one of the first fights Sal gets in, defending his father's honor - what does his father have to say in reply? "It's not a good idea to jump into the sewer to catch a rat." (14). All the dad expressions - "Sometimes I love you both so much that I can hardly bear it." (252). I just want to send a father of the year award his way.

Areas of immense depth in Inexplicable Logic:

Dealing with Hatred:
By Sexuality-
"My dad is a man. He has a name... So if you want to call him something, call him by his name. And he's not a f......" (9)
By Race & Ethnicity-
"I'm also a Mexican-American. I don't think that makes me a taco bender. I don't think that makes me a beaner. I don't think that makes me a spic. And I don't think that makes me an illegal."[Sal's Father] (21)

Learning How to Cope:
With Grief-
"Silent tears falling down both of their faces. The world had changed. And this new world was quiet and sad." (152) ; "I'd watched them all in their beautiful courage. I'd watched them as they struggled through their hurts and their wounds." (441)
Nature vs. Nurture -
"It was as if I, the Sal I knew, just went away and another Sal entered my body and took over... it all happened in an instant, like a flash of lightning, only... it was coming from somewhere inside me... that scared me." (9)

Learning How to Love: 
"We had to see people because sometimes the world made us invisible. So we had to make each other visible." (354)
"But my father... He'd tamed me with all the love that lived inside him."(15). 

"I didn't know how to tell her that I wasn't all those beautiful things she thought I was. That things were changing, and I could feel it but couldn't put it into words. I felt like a fraud." (58)

In summary: a read absolutely for the high school classroom - a must in every library and classroom! 

P.S. Worth the read and/or including in an author's craft lesson/text set- author interview on Entertainment Weekly where Sáenz explores more of the book's background and origin: 
 “A lot of people say that I don’t write plot, I just write people. But that really isn’t true. I just don’t hit you over the head with the plot. That’s all.”