This week's TTT asks us to list our top ten choices dealing with diversity, which is always a sensitive topic and one that seems to become more and more complicated. My issue? I'm afraid of saying the "wrong" thing; it seems that as an upper-middle class, healthy, educated, American, white, heterosexual woman I'm on thin ice (not that I'm complaining about these things or asking for sympathy on this matter). "But hey!" I want to scream. "I grew up in a low-income family! I've watched mental illness wreak havoc on my family! My husband is half Mexican! My kid is a quarter Mexican! I'm a feminist! I donate money to Planned Parenthood! I teach in a low SEC area with a high-level of EL students! I'm a Democrat! I'm very sympathetic to the plight of the illegal immigrants! I have friends of color! I-" But association and action doesn't always matter.
So, I have no idea where I'm going with this. Bottom line: I get it, it's hard to give a shit about the opinions of someone like me when you're oppressed. But, world, I'm trying to understand. I'm trying to practice empathy, and teach it to my son. I'm trying to look at the big picture and small one.
And, while we're all still trying to figure out how to get along, we can keep reading and using the lessons in literature to make us better, more educated humans. Here are my picks for this week's diversity list (I focused on mostly contemporary reads that helped me understand people that are different than I am):
1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie- What is means to be an African, living in America (and not identify as an African American).
2. Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle- This book reinforced the compassion I had for Mexicans coming to the United States illegally.
3. Five Days at Memorial by Shari Fink- This nonfiction account of the events that happened at Memorial Hospital during Hurricane Katrina showed some of the major gaps that happen during crises- ones influenced my race and poverty.
4. A Single Man- Christopher Isherwood- This simple story about a homosexual man who loses his partner is very poignant.
5. 'Master Harold'... and the Boys by Athol Fugard- This is a play I read with my students every other year that examines race and the Apartheid in South Africa.
6. The Round House by Louise Erdrich- I had never read much about modern life on Native American reservations, so this shed some light on this way of life.
7. Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun- This short, bleak novella about a young runaway Asian girl who gets mixed up into drugs helped me find compassion for some students in tight spots over the years.
8. Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Aspergers by John Elder Robison- This memoir was a fascinating look into someone's mind different than my own. I think that the media and pop-culture are attached to certain personas in terms of Autism and Asperger's, so this defied some stereotypes.
9. The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar- Set in Southern California this book shed light on not only illegal immigrations, but also domestic employees.
10. The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall- I think we're super quick to ridicule Mormons, Scientologists, etc... but this novel offered a unique perspective.