The beauty of King’s divine dissatisfaction

img_20140119_194133.jpg In early 2014, I wrote about discussing Martin Luther King, Jr. with my then four-year-old son, Li’l D. D had just learned about King in his preschool class.

I asked D if he wanted to learn a little more. Most of what he’d learned, after all, fit onto one coloring worksheet.

He did want to know more, so I began by explaining in simple terms the social constructs of “white” and “black” “races.”* Since he is the son of a black man and a white woman, I felt (and his dad agreed that) it was critical to begin these conversations early.

I answered Li’l D’s questions, first explaining racism before answering questions about how King fought racism. I concluded my post on our conversation:

Someday we’ll talk about how Martin Luther King, Jr. was a human being with flaws and weaknesses just like any other, but that those weaknesses didn’t prevent him from being a powerful, peaceful force for change. Continue reading “The beauty of King’s divine dissatisfaction”


Funny-looking phones

Yesterday, I stepped outside to read a paper copy of Martin Luther King, Jr. on my morning break. I’d barely started walking when someone hollered, “That’s a funny-looking phone you’re reading!”

I laughed. After a moment’s pause, I called, “That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day!”

A day later, I’m still chuckling about the comment.

I have so much to say about (The Radical) King I’m reading. For now, without nearly enough time to do any of that justice, this does nicely to hold the space.

Compelled to recycle

I just recycled a book. That’s to say, I got out of my car, walked to my recycling bin, and deposited Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire there on my way into my house. While I’ll never advocate burning books, I felt quite comfortable opting to take out of circulation my single $30 copy.

The book isn’t worth a long, detailed critique. In fact, it’s barely worth the couple of paragraphs I’m typing here. The only reason I write anything about it at all is to say that the book’s author exemplifies the kind of hubris railed against, in different ways, by my favorite authors (as opposed to those, such as this author, who are largely content to regurgitate and hope readers haven’t read enough to know the difference):

Answers are easy, I have found them,
and I am indisputably, unequivocally right

If he can conceive that human understanding is yet limited and that his so-called truths are based on fractional information, he doesn’t evidence this awareness.

Before I recycled this book, I checked its index to see if its author referenced Neil Postman. He did, once, which made me laugh. If he’d have really read Postman and understood any of the questions Postman posed, I wouldn’t have felt compelled to recycle this book.


Baldwin for the both of us

Mid-morning. Front yard.

Me reading next to my three-year-old.

My eight-year-old son had been whooping and hollering in circles around me for a few minutes. He’d ignored my many requests to stop or take his clamor elsewhere when I realized I knew exactly how to send him running.

He loathes it when I read my books aloud, so I began to do just that:

The father is in a perfectly respectable, perhaps even admirable profession, and the mother runs an art gallery. The setting is a brilliant re-creation of a certain–and far from unattractive–level of American life. And the black doctor is saying, among other things, that his presence in this landscape (this hard-won Eden) will do nothing to threaten, or defile it–

By the time I finished reading this passage, he’d already hollered “aaaaarrrrrrrgh!” (as if a cinematic vampire just doused with holy water), run back inside, and slammed the door behind himself.

Someday, I hope Li’l D will read James Baldwin and appreciate Baldwin’s keen and piercing words. Today, though, is not that day for Li’l; at eight years old, it’s not likely to even be this year.

For now, I’ll enjoy Baldwin for the both of us, and–beginning now, thinking of Li’l–smile every time I look at the cover of The Devil Finds Work.


White Person Astounded

Last weekend, I got a hankering to read some James Baldwin. While I’d read some one- and two-sentence Baldwin quotes scattered through other readings, I’d never read anything more substantively Baldwin than that.

The bookstore I visited only had two Baldwin books: Notes of a Native Son and I Am Not Your Negro. The latter was actually a smattering of slightly longer Baldwin excerpts, but those gave me a better sense of the man and author than did my prior encounters.

The excerpts also left me wishing I’d read Baldwin much sooner, the better to have my earlier confusions more quickly eradicated: Continue reading “White Person Astounded”


Where the Kids Books Are

I’ve been studying Spanish for a few months. I’d focused exclusively on speaking until about a month ago, when I noticed myself struggling to remember certain words because I couldn’t visualize them. At times, I wasn’t even sure I was hearing words right.

I picked up an easy Spanish reader. I worked through the first twenty or so short reads there before getting bored with its content. To mix things up, I picked up some kids books in Spanish.

The first chapter book I picked up was then too difficult for me; I had to look up its every third word. Every fifth or sixth word is fine, but every third, maddening! This led me to seek out easier reads.

I found the enchanting Isadora Moon in Spanish: “Su mamá es un hada, su papá es un vampiro y ella tiene un poquito de los dos.” I’ve read the first three books of the series and have preordered the fifth and sixth (out end of month, woo-hoo!).

I’ve read a National Geographic book on what different animal parents teach their babies. I also read Stink, el increíble Niño Menguante, another perfect read for my current reading level. I got the gist without having to look up words, but looked up some to expand my Spanish vocabulary.

When I look up a word while reading these books, I write the translation under the word in the book. I then go through and transfer those words to a notebook before making flash cards of them. Thus grows my Spanish vocabulary, and my prospect for eventually reading more complicated books!

Yesterday, I stopped by a new-to-me bookstore to check out its selection of kids books in Spanish. I found The Tales of Beedle Bard, which I set back on the shelf. There was no way I’d be able to read it! Still, with nothing else jumping out at me, I grabbed it for later reading. Continue reading “Where the Kids Books Are”


Perfectly Postman

Last year, between working, commuting, and raising two young boys, I read 132 books. These books were mostly political, with a little fiction and some miscellaneous non-fiction thrown in.

Nine of the books I read last year were written by Neil Postman; the first, his Amusing Ourselves to Death. My husband had read that for multiple classes in college and correctly guessed I’d love it. Indeed, Postman inspired my interest in history as well as my appreciation for epistemology. Without Postman, my newfound passion for learning wouldn’t likely … exist, honestly.

The bad news about reading all those Postman books last year is how little “new” Postman I have left to read this year. I’d decided to reread some Postman when my eyes landed on Postman’s Teaching as a Conserving Activity, the partial refutation (or so it seems?) of his earlier Teaching as a Subversive Activity. I don’t normally read books on education, but anything by Postman is good for my head and my heart.

And, of course, within the first few pages, I found myself uplifted by the kind of sentiment all too rare these days:

I have tried to make my argument clear, and I should be very interested to know what are its refutations, for that is how conversation begins. Perhaps we do not require a new “movement” after all. Only a good conversation.*

How perfectly Postman! How perfectly what this world needs now!

* Before I began reading this book, I’d made my eponymous blog private. I’d (1) seen that electronically mediated exchanges perpetrate their own kind of virtual reality, inserting grimy windows between people instead of offering clearer views, and (2) discovered that I most crave direct conversation face to face with real people, not with their (and my!) electronic representations. It’s so sweet to be reminded that a kind of conversation can take place after someone’s died, when that someone has uncommon clarity of heart, mind, and word. Unless/until I have that to offer, I find myself happiest to read, reflect, and remain so very glad my husband pointed me toward Postman.