Tag Archives: Suggested books

A Summer of Silk Moths

I really enjoyed reading and thinking about Margaret Willey’s YA book: A Summer of Silk Moths.

Life is a complicated journey. This story reflects: loss, confusion, discord, family truths/untruths/unknowns as well as caring, focused energy and growth. Pete, and Nora, both in high school, are the main characters among many other equally authentically believable individuals covering three generations. Many, and certainly the teenagers, are finding their way – in developing an understanding about others and self as well as with the past.

With these engaged characters, Willey crafts thought provoking, realistic journeys. The story is influenced by the pace of nature. With specific focus on metamorphosis: Both with insects and humans. Moths and the potentially multiple metaphors they elicit, are woven into this literary work of art. I found the young people’s growing in their awareness and insights and thus, in part embracing, the natural energy of life’s many transitions – as metamorphic.

I appreciate that the tempo and structure of the story leads you to and through the characters’ lives with genuine frustrations, forgiveness, love, misunderstandings, riskiness, and acceptance. Not in a neatly wrapped package. More authentic – real world.

A Summer of Silk Moths by Margaret Willey, originally published in 2009 by Flux, A Division of Llewellyn Worldwide and republished by Reclamation Press, in 2018, it is a read rich in believable intriguing characters living out the entanglements of the past to create new possibilities for the future.

Other favorite books of mine that Willey authored include: The Bigger Book of Lydia (1983), Four Secrets (2012), The Melinda Zone (1993), and Saving Lenny (1990). All of these works legitimately present YA topics in an artful, accessible, richly human and memorable fashion. If you like A Summer of Silk Moths you may want to check out the above titles.

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Dreams Deferred and Dreams Being Actualized

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I recommend this book.  I appreciate contemporary YA realistic fiction that tackles the complexities of our times.

With genuine voice Patrick Flores-Scott has woven together the story of Teodoro, his siblings, the challenges of a brother coming home from a war zone with post-traumatic stress disorder, a childhood friend becoming his first love, his ambivalence about school achievement reconsidered, family strength and strife, a road trip, and economic hardship.

This is a story of dreams deferred and dreams being actualized.  It is a story of the serious challenges that many families and individuals face.  Teodoro has to find the energy for forward movement when the status quo seems to have him locked in place.  His brother must also secure a healthy path into the future.  It is a hopeful story.  It is not a sugar coated tale.

American Road Trip is journey of falling in love, responding to PTSD, friendship and family energy.

As a person who worked in public schools for over 30 years, I find the way Flores-Scott presents issues around school and schooling to be on target.

It is fast moving and full of life.  Flores-Scott is storyteller.

American Road Trip by Patrick Flores-Scott, 2018, Henry Holt and Company

Energizing, Appreciative and Affirmative . . . A Fulfilling Read!

The book: Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Gregory Boyle is rich in positive ripples of appreciative and affirmative framing. It is respectful, forward-looking, and abundant in love!  Gregory Boyle‘s ability to frame the life journey of the people he serves in the “positive” is beyond inspiring!

He works with ex-gang members. He is a Jesuit priest. He is not young and he has not old – he’s experienced. He is a positively piercing voice related to the goodness that can be achieved by “framing” any and all situations in a life affirming fashion.

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Gregory Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries. He refers to the ex-gang members as “homies”.  This book is full of stories of his interactions with homies and the many gifts that he has received by working with ex-gang members over the last three decades.

Here are some short passages from the book.

“Knowing homies has changed my life forever, altered the course of my days, reshaped my heart, and returned me to myself. They have indeed been trustworthy guides. Together we have discovered that we all are diamonds covered with dust. They have taught me not that I am somebody but that I am everybody. And so are they.”

“I don’t empower anyone at Homeboy Industries.  But if one loves boundlessly, then folks on the margins become utterly convinced of their own goodness.”

“Homeboy Industries has always been the “already and not yet”. What this place announces to the world is aspirational and not declarative of a fully formed, complete thing.”

“When life throws a knife at us, we can either catch it by then blade or by the handle. We can stare right back at the terrifying darkness of what we’ve been through in our lives and grab it by the handle.”

“We always seem to be faced with this choice: to save the world or savor it.  I want to propose that savoring is better, and that when we seek to “save” and “contribute” and “give back” and “rescue” folks and EVEN “make a difference,” then it is all about you . . . . and the worlds stays stuck.  The homies are not waiting to be saved. They are ready are.”

“I met a man, an ex-homie, born –again and with the best of intentions, who was now working with gang members. He asked, ‘how do you reach them?’  My response was, ‘For starters, stop trying to reach them.’”

I love that Boyle embraces the complexity of life and living. I totally respect his absolute focus on building honest, caring relationships. This book and Boyle’s previous book, Tattoos on the Heart, are both excellent reads.  They celebrate humanity.  I find them to be energizing.  I recommend them highly.

Thinking about Nonviolence as a Result of Reading Ahimsa

Being a believer in nonviolence in today’s world is perplexing. So, when I read a book that I think might help people to consider the possibility of thinking broadly about the practical human value of nonviolence, I want to recommend it. Not because this piece of fiction has answers. I recommend it because it might be provocative. I think, we as a human race, have a lot of interdependent thinking to do about how to get along.

The book Ahimsa (a·him·sa /əˈhimˌsä)by Supriya Kelkar gets us thinking about resolving conflict, how we want to be with others and the future.

Kelkar, the author, was born and still lives in the Midwest. She earned her BA at the University of Michigan. AHIMSA, is inspired by her great-grandmother’s role in the Indian freedom movement. This book is marketed as a middle-grade novel. I see it as a book for everyone. If I were a high school or college teacher teaching social studies, history, humanities or civil rights I would consider assigning it. If I were a third (I started my career as a third grade teacher) or fourth grade teacher I would consider reading it aloud.

The story is captivating. Fascinating in that the story is complex, revealing and beckons you to want to know more about the struggles of oppressed people. The issues faced by the characters are fundamental liberty and life. They include: trust across difference, power and privilege, the friendship of a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy, a mother dedicating her self to a cause, India in the 1940’s, the caste system (untouchables), non violence, education in India,authoritarian British rule, Mahatma Gandhi’s deeply held view of ahimsa, well devolved characters authentically navigating the realities of complexity.

According to Wikipedia, Ahimsa is one of the cardinal virtues and an important tenet of Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Ahimsa is a multidimensional concept, inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself. Ahimsa has also been related to the notion that any violence has karmic consequences. While ancient scholars of Hinduism pioneered and over time perfected the principles of Ahimsa, the concept reached an extraordinary status in the ethical philosophy of Jainism. Most popularly, Mahatma Gandhi strongly believed in the principle of ahimsa.

Ahimsa’s precept of ’cause no injury’ includes one’s deeds, words, and thoughts. Classical literature of Hinduism such as Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well as modern scholars debate principles of Ahimsa when one is faced with war and situations requiring self-defence. The historic literature from India and modern discussions have contributed to theories of Just War, and theories of appropriate self-defence. From Wikipedia. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahimsa

Jerusalem and Bethlehem: Complexity Made Assessable Through Good Story Telling

I just read Where The Streets Had A Name by Randa Abdul-Fattah. With Trump bucking the diplomatic world community by announcing our Embassy will be located in Jerusalem this is a timely read.

This novel is one of the reasons I really value the importance of story. The complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is real. And that reality plays out for different people in dramatically different ways. This story takes into the world of conflict, divide, and his historical president in Jerusalem and Bethlehem in 2004.

We enter this world through a Palestinian family and the perspective of Hayaat a 13 year old girl. The characters are strong. The challenges and issues are compelling.

And, YES, the timeliness and ongoing nature of the conflict is enough to potentially interest some readers. And the witty, captivating (you will want Hayaat to succeed in her quest) and interesting story telling rewards any and all readers. I recommend this book to middle schoolers through adults. It will provoke thought and maybe further studying into the complexity of this and other human challenges and opportunities.

Being an Other-fucused Person Can Contribute Greatly to the Common Good!

Change the World: How Ordinary People Can Accomplish Extraordinary Results by Robert E. Quinn (2000)

I like this book. I recommend it to people that are thinking about how a family, group, organization or big system (like a government) moves forward, backward or becomes stagnant. He makes the point that what seem unchangeable might, in fact, be changeable. Also like the book because it sets out the kind of tasks and paths that reasonable normal people might benefit from following to move a family, group, organization or big system toward the common good.

 

This book is ambitious and, as a result, paints a clear broad picture of what it takes to contribute to and impact groups or large systems. Complexity is embraced by the author and, therefore, his change method is not the norm. He explains and makes sense of the challenge to focus on the common good (What Quinn also called the ‘journey of collective fulfillment’) for organizations and groups of people.

 

Quinn makes the point that he feels that ordinary people can become profoundly affected as change agents.

 

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Probes and Questions Can be Valuable to Expand Learning

Change Your Questions Change Your Life by Marilee Adams

The title is straightforward and true, both from my experience and from watching others that are excellent at asking good questions. Not questions to ‘trip people up’ – but questions that help to further everyone’s understanding of the topic. On one level, this concept of ‘changing your questions will change your life’ sounds one dimensional and I am here to tell you that Marilee Adams’ message is complex and daunting. Daunting because just wanting to make this kind of change is just a beginning. It can be a challenging and very proactive journey. I recommend this book to folks who are intentional about self-growth. For anyone who wants to contribute to groups in positive ways and who wants grow and learn – this is a good read!Change_your_questions_change