Dear friend, master teacher, hoopster, dedicated family man, world traveler, passionate reader and Black History Month quiz winner David Russell has come up with this response to yesterday’s post about Alex Kotlowitz’s favorite non-fiction books. I have taken the editorial liberty of breaking Dave’s comment into paragraphs:
“I want to give your question about favorite non-fiction books some thought. How can you decide? I think for me it’ll be the books that influenced me the most, that I’ve gone back to or have thought about the most after reading.
Right away Kidder’s Among Schoolchildren is there; I love the description of the ending of the year: she had not finished, she had just run out of time. That speaks so powerfully to me as a teacher; you always want to and need to do more.
Also Anthony Lukas’s Common Ground. I was a relative newcomer to Boston when it came out, and it gave me the deepened understanding of the recent history of the city that I craved. I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed to finish a book; I wished it could have just kept going and going.
Hope in the Unseen by Ron Suskind could perhaps be number one. I was so moved by the American odyssey presented in the book, but perhaps even more so by the reality that if it was hard and uncertain that Cedric make it, with his skills, determination, and help, how remote is the possibility for others? It is such an unimaginable distance that must be traversed.
All Souls, which lists the blogger in its credits (!), was gripping and gave voice to a story not at that point adequately presented. I loved its demonstration that family disfunction and violence do not have to be related to color (duh, but not enough established in the public mind).
The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom by Herbert Gutman was seminal for me in its proof of the resilience of the black family; the simple thesis that slavery made family life impossible and that this is what has caused 20th century difficulty is shown to be false.
Emotional Intelligence right away rang so true to me; yes, academic skills are important, but what really is most important for navigating the world?
In A Different Voice by Carol Gilligan I loved because it challenged the standard paradigm of how to view women’s valuing of relationships; it is not a lower stage of development–perhaps it is something of importance that males have been missing!
Taylor Branch’s trilogy America in the King Years was magnificent. I love that subtitle: “the King years.” Say what you may about King’s limitations, he was catalyst and moral warrior beyond compare.
All God’s Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence by Fox Butterfield I have gone back to a few times. It starts with Willie Bosket, violent black American criminal, and asks, where did this man come from? How is he connected to the history of this country? The answer is very deeply connected.
I’m going to think about this some more. Thanks for the suggestion. Of course I hope to get to more of the books on Kotlowitz’s list; I’ve read a few, but I’m sure they all are great!”