Weekend Reads: “Trailblazer”

Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist's Fight to Make the Media Look More Like AmericaTrailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist’s Fight to Make the Media Look More Like America by Dorothy Butler Gilliam

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am always surprised when I read about a “first” these days … first black female neurosurgeon candidate was the most recent (never mind that we’re so far from parity/equality that it’s absurd that these things still happen).

Dorothy Butler Gilliam was also a “first” – the first black female reporter at the Washington Post. Having come from covering the Little Rock Nine for one of the country’s leading black newspapers, she brought with her a level of experience and talent that could not be ignored by the managing editor.

In her memoir, Gilliam describes her work in the civil rights movement, in working to make journalism a more welcoming place for people of color and thus increase its diversity, and her struggles to report on her culture in a way that gave enlightenment rather than reinforcing stereotypes.

Given Gilliam’s experience as a journalist, it is no surprise that the book is well-written, well-sourced, and intelligent. Gilliam’s authorial voice is frank and direct. Getting a look into the newsroom, as well as life for people of color during both Jim Crow (Gilliam grew up in the segregated South) and the civil rights movement gives an immensely useful perspective.

Highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads, with Bonus Track: “Give Me Some Truth”

Give Me Some TruthGive Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Carson Mastick is determined to win his high school’s Battle of the Bands, because the prize includes a trip to New York City … and getting off of the Tuscarora reservation is part of his major plan. The problem is, he doesn’t have a band.

Maggi Bokani’s mother has brought her and her siblings back to the reservation, and she’s miserable. But she has a new job … and a crush on one of the guys she works with.

The book is told in first person, alternating between Carson and Maggi’s point of view. So, we see the result of Carson’s older brother confronting a racist restaurant owner, and Maggi’s concern for her sister, among other issues, through their eyes.

The entire book takes place in 1980. As one of Carson’s friends is a huge Beatles fan, the band starts by learning their covers. Each chapter has a title from John Lennon’s work … as does the book. It is no great surprise that the entire thing culminates with Lennon’s assassination, by which time numerous subplots have come together and we see the hero’s journey that both Maggi and Carson have been experiencing. No one is unchanged by the end of this book.

Frankly, I think this is book takes a good look at the challenges faced by people of color. Carson is light-skinned and able to “pass” (he calls himself a ChameleIndian) but not all of his friends and family are … and so he’s keenly aware of being treated differently by the white kids at his school. He’s seen as an insider while others are part of an out group — and he has to face some harsh realizations throughout the tale as a result.

However, this is also a heavy tale that ends on a day that many people my age remember far too keenly (I know what I was wearing and doing on the day John Lennon died). While aimed at a YA audience, more sensitive readers may find this difficult to deal with.

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Here’s the title song for you to enjoy.

Weekend Reads: “Creative Trespassing”

I found myself wanting to cry during certain parts of this book … which is weird, because it’s a business book. Thing is, I used to be very creative in the office … and I got slapped down hard for it in the company I worked at before my current one. I was told I was no longer allowed to post a quote of the day, for example. I never put up anything offensive, it was strictly inspirational. Didn’t matter to that particular boss; no one was allowed to do anything out of the ordinary.

Then, I found this book. Read on to see why it was so special for me.

Creative Trespassing: A Totally Unauthorized Guide to Sneaking More Imagination into Your Life and WorkCreative Trespassing: A Totally Unauthorized Guide to Sneaking More Imagination into Your Life and Work by Tania Katan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One phrase reoccurred to me as I read this book: permission slip.

Remember when you were a kid, and your class went on a field trip? A parent had to sign a permission slip for you to attend, saying it was okay for you to do something out of the ordinary.

That’s what this book is, at the end of the day. It’s permission to let the creative parts of our lives “intrude on” and disrupt the mundane, cubicle-based jobs that so many of us hold to pay the bills while treating our true callings as a “side hustle.”

What if it was suddenly okay to bring a new element to your job … and you didn’t have to ask permission from anyone? That’s really the what Tania Katan wants us to do … and each chapter has exercises in it that allow us to stretch our creative muscles in non-creative roles. Katan wants everyone to find meaning in what they do, and has figured out a way to for people to make that happen.

I found her authorial voice delightful, and smiled throughout reading this book. Many business books are serious and staid; in keeping with her theme, Katan wants us to even have fun reading about making work a better place for everyone.

Highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads: “The Lido”

The LidoThe Lido by Libby Page

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am not going to lie; I started this book twice and put it down. I just wasn’t in the mood for it, or something.

Then, a little bit ago, I started it for a third time. This time, I made it to the point where one of the two main characters, a journalist named Kate, has a severe panic attack — and saw myself. (I was a journalist for much of my career, and I had regular panic attacks for many years.) I kept reading.

The unlikely friendship that springs up between 20-something Kate and 86-year-old Rosemary begins when Kate is sent to cover the potential closure of the Brockwell Lido, an outdoor swimming pool in Brixton where Rosemary has been swimming for as long as she can remember. Soon, shy Kate is meeting new people and making friends … and becoming very much invested in keeping the pool going.

Author Libby Page creates a world full of realistic, lovable people … so much so that I cried several times during the final 60 pages or so of the book, as I felt their triumphs, disappointments, and love for one another reaching out of the page and into my heart.

It’s hard to classify this book by genre; it’s by turns romantic fiction, historical fiction (in flashback, as Rosemary talks about her life), and literary fiction. Regardless, it’s a brilliant tale of devotion, kindness, and friendship that I cannot recommend highly enough.

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Weekend Reads: “A Gift from Bob”

A Gift from Bob: How a Street Cat Helped One Man Learn the Meaning of ChristmasA Gift from Bob: How a Street Cat Helped One Man Learn the Meaning of Christmas by James Bowen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was trying to save this book for the holidays, but I just couldn’t. James Bowen’s tales of his life with Bob the Street Cat are just too charming to sit and wait.

In this book, Bowen shares stories of Christmas past as an addict and how the current Christmas of which he was writing was different. He attributes much of his strength and determination to get clean and sober to having Bob to care for, and as usual shares many stories of Bob’s antics as the two went busking or sold The Big Issue homeless newspaper.

In the course of reading this series of three books, I learned a great deal about how different the services available to those with addiction or who are homeless are in the UK from the US. I have a great appreciation for how much work it is to survive day-to-day, even with the far greater services available to those in need.

In any event, the stories told are poignant and heart-warming at the same time, and Bowen’s love for his ginger cat friend come through in every word.

Highly recommended.

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