We’re deep into Saturday afternoon, Dunreith and Aidan are shopping, I have just finished cleaning the first floor, and it’s time to get my blog on!
Today I’m writing a quick post about a couple of books I read this week and enjoyed.
The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t and Why by Jabari Asim looks at the history and cultural significance of those six letters through the arrival of the first Africans in the early 17th century to contemporary comedians, writers and filmmakers. The editor of The Crisis, the NAACP publication that W.E.B. DuBois edited for decades, Asim is also a scholar at the University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign campus. He divides the work into historical periods that take the reader through American history, with breaks at key moments like the Civil War or the period after the Earl Warren-led U.S. Supreme Court delivered the unanimous Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 that overturned legal segregation.
Readers of American history will recognize luminaries like the late George Frederickson and Leon Litwack. Asim also has an engaging take of Mark Twain’s classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and seems most comfortable and fluid when he is writing about the current moment and performers like the provocative Dave Chappelle.
As the sub-title suggests, Asim also addresses the issue of the word ‘nigga,’ which some people use and claim is not offensive for a number of reasons. He ends the book suggesting that either five- or six-letter version of the word be retired from common use. The N Word is a wide ranging read on an often controversial subject.
Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter has written a very different, but also engaging book that has potential application for anyone involved in a sports team, organization or country. Confidence: How Winning Streaks and Losing Streaks Begin and End is chock full of details and examples from each of those arenas. At different points in the book, readers get treated to discussion of the New England Patriots, the BBC, and post-apartheid South Africa under Nelson Mandela. Her main point is that confidence does impact performance and arises from a series of practices that she documents. By looking at leaders like University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, among others, Moss Kanter show the combination of high expectations clearly articulated, a sense of cohesion, and staying calm under pressure that lead to the building and sustaining of confidence. She also provides examples of how losing streaks happen and extend, and explores how cultures of losing can be turned around and become confident ones.
A lot of this material may seem like common sense, and Moss Kanter deserves credit for how she pulls the strands together in an entertaining and informative read.