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What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Fall is just about here, which means it’s time for your book reports!

Here are some recommendations from my summer:

  • Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough follows Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem Children’s Zone (you may have seen him on an American Express commercial) in the fight to close the achievement gap.  As Little Lights moves in a more holistic direction with results-driven, comprehensive services, it’s both daunting and fascinating to watch Canada’s struggle to bear out the research in Harlem:

To change the trajectory of a poor child in an inner-city neighborhood, this research shows, you need to: intervene early in the child’s life; continue to intervene throughout adolescence; give him extra time in school and extra support out of school; involve his parents if possible but be prepared to compensate for their absence; focus on improving his cognitive skills but also nurture his noncognitive, social, and emotional skills.

Tough’s journalistic style isn’t as readable, for me, as my usual novel, though I give him kudos for deftly tying faces, personalities, and personal stories to the events and information he relates. . . I appreciate the macro/micro look at poverty and education.  Especially in DC, it’s too easy to be mired in one or the other–the policy or the pain–unable, or too tired, to see how they connect.

  • In Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi reflects on her life as an English literature professor, and a female, in the Islamic Republic of Iran.  I read this one on some of our long plane rides and layovers this August.  History lesson, memoir, literary criticism in one.  I highly recommend it.
  • Contemplative poetry from Teresa of Avila. . . hat tip, Mary Stafford.
  • Lee Smith’s On Agate Hill is the fascinating historical fiction account of a girl orphaned by the Civil War.
  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave tells the story of an African refugee and the London woman whose life she changes.  A bit of a downer, but it’s good.

Those last two were pass-downs from Mama Rote that she read for book club. To round things out, here’s a peek into her bookshelf these days:

I just started reading a novel by a writer named Josefina Lopez called Hungry Woman in Paris. I’m not sure yet if I like it, but I have picked up a few interesting cultural tidbits.  The narrator, Canela, is a Latina journalist in Los Angeles who has ended her engagement with Armando – a doctor – much to the dismay of her mama, to go to cooking school in Paris.  (Interesting tidbit #1:) Armando is an “M.A.P., a Mexican-American Prince – educated, accomplished, polished, cultured, and loved by his mother; but that was the problem.”  (Interesting tidbit #2:) “Of course a repressed and passionless Mexican-American family will look like a very passionate and enthusiastic WASP family. . . ”  I’ll just leave you to discuss amongst yourselves.

Interesting.  I won’t discuss here whether my in-laws are passionate or repressed, but I will say that perhaps Bachelorette Ali should’ve taken the potential pitfalls of dating a Latino into consideration when making her final choice.  Of course, I was still rooting for the hot hispanic southerner:


They could have a future that looks a little something like this:

(No need to fill you in on what I watched this summer.)

(If you’d like to see more wedding pictures, here’s the album on facebook.)

(Update on Mom’s reading: she opted not to finish Hungry Woman in Paris due to gratuitous F words.  Should’ve known.)

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One thought on “What I’ve Been Reading Lately

  1. Not JUST for gratuitous use of the F word. That, and the unnecessarily detailed hanky-panky descriptions – eeuuww. Loved the book reports.

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