Bryan Stevenson -- credit Nina SubinBy Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau, October 2014)

My grandmother was the daughter of people who were enslaved in Caroline County, Virginia. She was born in the 1880s, her parents in the 1840s, and the legacy of slavery very much shaped her and the things she would say to me. When I visited my grandmother, she would hug me so tightly I could barely breathe. After a little while, she would ask me, “Bryan, do you still feel me hugging you?” If I said yes, she’d let me be; if I said no, she would assault me again. I said no a lot because it made me happy to be wrapped in her formidable arms. She never tired of pulling me to her. “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close,” she told me all the time. (more…)

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Quiet by Susan CainSusan Cain’s acclaimed New York Times bestseller, Quiet, is now in paperback. Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves. This week, Educational Leadership, the flagship publication of ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) said this about the book: “Quiet will help teachers who hope to make classrooms more welcoming to introverted kids gain a greater understanding of how highly reserved children operate, how to respectfully coax them out, and how to help them learn to work comfortably in groups—in school and out.”  We couldn’t agree more. And to read Susan’s article, “What Do Teachers Really Think of Quiet Students?, click here.

by Katherine Boo, author of the 2012 National Book Award-winning Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity (Random House, February 2012)

As jobs and capital whip around the planet, college students will graduate into a world where economic instability and social inequality are increasing and geographic boundaries matter less and less. Unfortunately, globalization and social inequality remain two of the most over-theorized, under-reported issues of our age. My book is an intimate investigative account of how this volatile new reality affects the young people of an Indian slum called Annawadi. Like young people elsewhere, the Annawadians are trying to figure out their place in a world where temp jobs are becoming the norm, adaptability is everything, and bewildering change is the one abiding constant. (more…)

Quiet by Susan Cain

I first thought about the powers and challenges of introversion some 26 years ago, when I began my freshman year at Princeton University.

From the minute I set foot on campus, I saw that college could be an extraordinary place for introverts and extroverts alike. A place where you were expected to spend your time reading and writing. A place where it was cool to talk about ideas. A place where there were so many people, each doing his or her own thing, that you could create your own brand of social life. If you were an introvert, you could find friends with common interests and enjoy their company one-on-one or in small groups; if you were an extrovert, the social possibilities were endless, just the way extroverts like them.

I was an introvert, and I thrived. (more…)

Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

I am delighted to tell you about my book Nothing to Envy because I wrote it with students in mind. I was, at the time, on a fellowship at Princeton University where I also taught an undergraduate journalism course called “Covering Repressive Regimes.” My students were curious about North Korea, a country they knew almost nothing about.

When I started telling them the stories—about a country where televisions and radios were locked on government propaganda, where you couldn’t travel to the next town without a permit, where you were required to wear the portrait of the founder Kim Il Sung at all times on your clothing and that you celebrated the birthdays of the leadership rather than your own—the students were incredulous. It was not that they doubted my word; they were unable to grasp that a state as repressive as this one could persist into the 21st century. (more…)

The Social Animal by David Brooks

Several years ago I did some reporting on why so many kids drop out of high school, despite all rational incentives. That took me quickly to studies of early childhood and research on brain formation. Once I started poking around that realm, I found that people who study the mind are giving us an entirely new perspective on who we are and what it takes to flourish.

We’re used to a certain story of success, one that emphasizes getting good grades, getting the right job skills and making the right decisions. But these scientists were peering into the innermost mind and shedding light on the process one level down, in the realm of  emotions, intuitions, perceptions, genetic dispositions and unconscious longings.

I’ve spent several years with their work now, and it’s changed my perspective on everything. In this book, I try to take their various findings and weave them together into one story. This is not a science book. I don’t answer how the brain does things. I try to answer what it all means. I try to explain how these findings  about the deepest recesses of our minds should change the way we see ourselves, raise our kids, conduct business, teach, manage our relationships and practice politics. This story is based on scientific research, but it is really about emotion, character, virtue and love.

We’re not rational animals, or laboring animals; we’re social animals. We emerge out of relationships and live to penetrate each other’s souls.

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario

by Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey

President Obama has vowed that he will soon raise the issue of immigration reform anew, likely igniting heated debates in homes around the country.

Yet in many high schools nationwide, teachers have already sought to help students better understand their newly arrived neighbors through discussions of Enrique’s Journey. Already, scores of high schools from Bay Shore, New York to Santa Monica, California—places that have seen a sudden surge of newcomers from other countries—have used my book about one Central American boy’s quest to reach his mother in the U. S. to take students inside the world of migrants, a world many know little about.

My visits to high schools all over the country have led to incredibly interesting and moving encounters with students, who reveal different responses to my book. (more…)