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The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures, by Anne Fadiman. Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York, 1997.
The story of Lia, the child of Hmong immigrants with an intractable seizure disorder, highlights in dramatic form the importance of understanding cultural influences in order to care for our families.
Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets, by Sudhir Vankatesh. Penguin Books, New York, 2008.
If you’ve ever wondered about what it might be like to be on the inside of a gang, then this book is a must-read. Sociology student Sudhir Vankatesh decided to experience gangs firsthand and spent an extended period of time as a graduate student with a Chicago gang and its members. Over time, he became an embedded observer of the gang’s members, operations, culture, and rules. He describes in gritty detail his experiences in this environment and the people who survive there.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Hachette Book Group USA, New York, 2007.
This book quickly draws you in with its opening line, “I was born with water on the brain.” It is the story of a teenager growing up on an Indian reservation in Spokane, Washington. He has a variety of health problems and few friends. This is the story of his struggle to succeed despite the despair and poverty of the reservation, with particular emphasis on his efforts to understand and to reconcile the two very different cultures with which he must contend. This story also highlights the daily realities of modern reservation life – poverty, alcoholism, and unemployment. It is written from his adolescent vantage point, raw and unpolished at times as he comes to terms with who he is and what his future will be.
Imani All Mine, by Connie Porter. Mariner Books, New York, 1999.
Connie Porter is known as the author of the Addy books in the American Girl series, but in this novel, she brings to life the world of a young teenage girl trying to grow up in the impoverished inner city. She deftly incorporates the multitude of issues found in this environment, including single motherhood, teen pregnancy, poverty, and violence. Through the voice of Tasha, we see the struggles and realities of life in poverty in America’s cities.
A Child Called “It”: One Child’s Courage to Survive, by Dave Pelzer. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, 1995.
This is the incredibly true story of a child who suffered unimaginable abuse at the hands of his mother and at the unwillingness of his father to intervene. For years, young David Pelzer was singled out in his household for extreme forms of physical and emotional abuse, yet his inner strength and strong will provided him the tools necessary to survive until a teacher finally took notice of his plight and he was removed from the home. This is the first in a trilogy that details the life of an abused child, his abupt transition into the turmoil of the foster care system, and his ultimate triumph as a successful adult, family man, and author, despite his dark past.
The Lost Boy: A Foster Child’s Search for the Love of a Family, by Dave Pelzer. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida.
This is the story of Dave Pelzer, an abused youngster who was finally removed from his home and placed in various foster care placements throughout his adolescence. It details the struggles of a child to adapt to life in a safe environment after suffering abuse for so long. It highlights the importance of foster care and how the love and support of these individuals can help children despite the flaws and imperfections of the system. Ultimately, this is the story of a troubled young man and how he finds his way to successful adulthood even though the odds have been seemingly stacked against him for many years.
Just for Fun
Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer, by John Grisham. Penguign Young Reader’s Group, New York, 2010.
If you are a John Grisham fan and you work with kids, then this new book should be on your reading list. This is Grisham’s first children’s book and, in it, he creates a 13 year old lawyer-to-be, Theodore Boone, who runs his own kind of practice. For Theo, the law is his sport and his passion; he spends every extra minute at the court house or his parents’ law offices preparing to be a fine lawyer or judge one day. When he inadvertently becomes involved in a murder trial, he is excited and scared. With Theodore Boone, Grisham creates a likeable cast of characters with a murder-mystery plot that moves along, yet all the while incorporating the basic principles of our legal system into the story at an appropriate level for young readers. A delightful read!
Aristotle and an Aardvark Go to Washington: Understanding Political Doublespeak Through Philosophy and Jokes, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein. Abrams Image, New York, 2007.
This book is a fast-paced course in understanding political posturing and language ploys in modern day life. Using examples from past and current political leaders, the authors highlight such maneuvers as the tricky talk strategy, the “so’s your mother” strategy, and the fancy footwork strategy. They bring us behind the words to understand the maneuvering and how to understand what is (and, what is not) being communicated in the world of American politics.
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