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Grad School Books Worth Reading

It’s been a little bit of a slow week in terms of reading. I’m not sure how wide the news coverage is nation wide, but here in Illinois, teacher jobs are being cut left and right due to lack of government funding. Unfortunately, I’ve been affected by this and have had a hard time focusing on reading or audio books because there is so much else on my mind.

Since I’ve been distracted from reading, I thought I would take an entry to revisit some books I’ve read in the past. I had to read plenty for grad school, mostly boring articles and text books. I did, however, have a few opportunities to read some excellent books that I never would have read had they not been assigned to me. I got my masters in Special Education, but these books are worth the read for anyone interested in reading about culture, literacy, overcoming hardship, and forming relationships.  Here are mini reviews of a few of them:

Push by Sapphire

Way before all the hype came along for the movie Precious (which I have not seen), my untraditional grad school teacher assigned us this book for my critical literacy class. This was a class about giving a voice to those who usually don’t have one. Push is that kind of book. It is about a girl named Precious who has been sexually abused by both her parents and has one baby by her father and another on the way. With a little help she gets into a program and meets a teacher who teaches her not only how to read and write, but how to express and empower herself by doing so. Although hard to stomach at time, it was also inspirational and showed the true power of an education.

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Ann Fadiman

I can’t actually remember which class I read this one for, but the book and the discussions my class had on it have stuck with me. Lia Lee, a Hmong child living in California, is diagnosed with severe epilepsy. Hmongs living in America are refugees from Laos. I have actually never heard of this group of people until I did my student teaching in Madison, WI where there is a large Hmong population and there were a few Hmong students in my class. In the book, Lia’s family clash with the doctors trying to care for Lia in terms of cultural ideas and what is best for her. The book alternates, every other chapter being about Lia’s situation and the others about Hmong culture in general. This book was truly an educational experience for me, helped me to learn about a different culture, and how damaging a clash in cultures, even ones with a common goal, can be.

One Child by Torey Hayden

This book was haunting, especially since it is a true story. Just like Push, it was hard to read at times, but turned out to be worth the read. Sheila was a child that nobody wanted. She was abandoned by her parents and committed an act of violence that many would think unforgivable. Sheila was placed in a class of special education students with teacher Torey Hayden. Very slowly she opened up to Torey and came out of her shell. This did not happen overnight and it was certainly not an easy transition. Torey’s patience for this child is beyond commendable. She took on a child that nobody in the world would go near, and got her to open her heart and slowly start to move beyond her horrific past. Torey saw something in Sheila that nobody else took the time to see, and it turned out that Sheila was full of potential.

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

I’ve mentioned this in my blog before, right after the earthquake in Haiti took place. In this book Tracy Kidder follows Paul Farmer, a doctor who has devoted his life to bringing assistance and medicine to poor nations. He travels to places such as Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia. In these places, Farmer meets the people and helps to change their practices and views of medicine. Partners in Health is the organization that Farmer has helped to found, and it has been a huge fundraiser in this time of great need for Haiti. This book was assigned to me for a research class and was meant to show  how qualitative and quantitative methods of research were used in the book, but I won’t bore you with more of that. Basically, it was just a good book, so read it!

So there you have it. I would definitely be lying if I told you I enjoyed grad school, but at least I got to read a few good books.

In other news, I love the NCAA tournament and am running the pool at my school for the fourth year in a row. The Wisconsin Badgers have one their first game and hopefully will go all the way. (Maybe wishful thinking, but not impossible!)

Go Badgers!

Bucky Badger!


8 Responses

  1. I second both The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down and Mountains Beyond Mountains — they were both amazing. The first one, in particular, was so good because Fadiman wrote it in a way that didn’t turn anyone into a villain, but instead showed how even well-intentioned people can make mistakes.

  2. I third The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. It should be required reading for health care professionals, and social workers, and anyone working with other cultures, and heck, everyone!

  3. Oh my, I was hoping the economy is way better now. I’ve been hearing of jobs getting cut and libraries closing over the past week. And I’ve been looking for a job as well. Kinda sucks!

    The books you recommended sound good! I esp want to read Push, but I’m on hold at the library. Need to check out the other choices.

  4. Teachers jobs are getting cut like crazy here in California too…not that that’s much comfort as I think the whole world thinks California is just a joke when it comes to their budget but nonetheless pinkslips are being handed out like crazy round the schools.

    Great book roundup!

  5. I don’t think I could read Push for some reason –too sad I guess, but yet I read other sad books???

    • There were people in my class who stopped reading it because they felt it was too graphic and depressing. It is a hard one to read. I am still debating if I want to see the movie.

  6. You’ve brought some interesting books to my attention. I had already heard of Push of course but just have to be in the right mood to read it because I know it will be difficult to stomach some of the stuff that happens.

  7. I’ve read Mts Beyond Mts – AWESOME book. I have his latest, too, but have yet to read and I have the Fadiman in house and hope to get to and yes, I want to read Push. Great list!

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