Two Career Books You Should Read Written By People of Colour

This book is all the things.

My day job is to help students at a large research-intensive university make meaning of their experiences and build purpose. I’m an experiential educator, a position that is a new application for me of my social planning background.  And although the past year has been a steep learning curve, I’m enjoying and growing in this new line of work.

Part of that learning has involved reading ”career” books, and one thing I have noticed is that it’s hard to find books about career that are written by people of colour. And so, every time I find a book that is written by a POC and talks about intersectional identities, I want to tell everyone I know about it.

And so as part of that slowly building list of books, I have two career books to share.

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Thirteen Reflections On Marriage

The foundation of love is prayer (April 2015)

The foundation of love is prayer (April 2015)

Married in Johannesburg. Three years ago if you told me that that sentence would relate to me, I wouldn’t have believed you.  I met my husband two years ago, and though it’s hard to believe sometimes, by the Grace of God, we’ve been married for almost a year and a half now.

Most tellings of love stories stop with the words “and then they lived happily ever after” but in real life (vs reel life) it takes time to figure out what being married looks like and to learn how to share a life. This knowledge requires time, patience and the help of others. Today I found a draft post I wrote about marriage around the time of our one year anniversary, and thought as a means of self-reminding it would be helpful to post some of the things I’ve learned and continue to re-learn every day about marriage. 

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The Story Rumble at Home (Gems from Rising Strong by Brene Brown)

WangThai (Sandton, Johannesburg, May 2016)

WangThai (Sandton, Johannesburg, May 2016)

I’ve been reading Brene’s Brown’s stunning new book “Rising Strong” over the last few weeks (blog post/audio story/video/interpretative dance/all of the above about my thoughts coming soon) but in the meantime, I wanted to share some of her thoughts about talking through our emotions at home, with those closest to us. Reading this book has been transformative for me because it’s helped me find language and ways to sort through my feelings when I’m upset and about to either shut down or have a fight with my husband, and I’m really looking forward to sharing some of our learnings soon. Before that though, I wanted to share some of her concluding thoughts about rumbling with emotions and stories at home. We’ve been reading this book this book from the library (we’ve already signed the book out twice) but we’ve taken a lot of notes along the way to help keep our learnings alive. Have you read this book? What are your key takeaways? We’d love to hear from you.

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A Restless Journey to Naples (On Reading Elena Ferrante)

 

Mangwanani (April 2015)

Tranquility (Hartbeespoort, April 2015)

I’ve been living in 50s and 60s Naples over the past few days and my trip has left me unsettled and restless. This week I read the first two books of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels (it’s a four book series) called “My Brilliant Friend” and “The Story of a New Name”. I’ve wanted to read these books for a long time. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about the series and have heard friends rave about how beautiful and unusual the books are, and so I was really looking forward experiencing them for myself.

The first book “My Brilliant Friend” is the May selection for the Seriously Planning bookclub. The books follow the lives of two friends Elena and Lila from childhood to their early twenties and chronicles their friendship, deep love, loyalty and hatred for each other. Lila is brilliant but stops her studies after elementary school because her father refuses to let her continue. She studies Latin and Greek on her own regardless and has a natural aptitude for learning and a quickness of mind that far surpasses Elena. Elena on the other hand, completes elementary school, middle school, high school and university by studying relentlessly and through feeling keenly the difference between herself and her friend. Whether it is in beauty, in intelligence, in love, in marriage, or any other sphere, to Elena it constantly feels like Lila is better and luckier than her, and the series is about their lives and how they influence one another.

My Brilliant Friend is an incredible book, and the author paints a detailed picture of Elena and Lila’s neighbourhood that makes it alive and real. She makes you feel like you can see, smell, taste Naples in the 50s and because you care about the characters, you willingly immerse yourself in their terrifying world.

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We All Like Different Books (A Post about Diversity Things)

Friday stops (Port Elizabeth, South Africa, April 2016)

Friday stops (Port Elizabeth, South Africa, April 2016)

About a month ago, I discovered a magical community on YouTube called BookTube. “BookTubers” make videos where they review books they’ve read, display their latest “book hauls” of the books they’ve recently purchased or received from publishers, give tours of their personal bookshelves and and generally discuss topics that are literary related.  Not all of this appeals to me – it’s far less interesting to hear about the books you own/have recently bought than hearing what you’ve recently actually read and what you gained from the read, and a lot of existing BookTube content is YA related, which is not really my thing, but still, the premise about books on YouTube fascinates me.

When I first discovered BookTube I found a few people I really liked, and hearing enthusiastic people talking about books they’ve just read felt almost as nice as having a conversation with a wonderful friend who has read something amazing and wants to tell you about it. But at the same time, when I discovered BookTube one of the first thing I noticed is that it’s not a very racially and geographically diverse community – the vast majority of the people making videos about books are white, female and from North America or the UK. Though this surprised me I wasn’t sure if it mattered so much, after all, good books are good books no matter who you are right?

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A Funny Eurocentric Read ( On Reading “Love Illuminated” by Daniel Jones)

Beautiful beginnings (Krugersdorp, South Africa, April 2016)

Beautiful beginnings (Krugersdorp, South Africa, April 2016)

A year ago, I was in a bookshop in the Vancouver International Airport trying to pick a good read for my journey to South Africa to get married to my best friend. As I browsed the shelves, I came across a book called “Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject with the help of 50,00 strangers” by Daniel Jones, who has been the editor of the New York Times Modern Love column for the last ten years. As I stood in front of the shelf debating whether I wanted to spend $20 on the book and whether the book would help me in my new married life, an announcement came on the PA system making a last call for the flight I was waiting to board, and so I dropped the book and ran. Since then, I’ve wondered about the book. Reading “Modern Love” is a weekly personal ritual and since I always benefit from reading the column’s stories, I was interested to know what reading thousands of essays from strangers worldwide over the course of a decade had taught Jones about love.

To pursue this question, a few days ago I borrowed the book from the public library and have been reading it steadily over the past few nights. Last night I finished it, and although I enjoyed the read, I’m glad this is not a book that I own. Despite the subtitle of the book (which uses the word exploration rather than lessons) I thought the book would be about love lessons and practical advice one could apply to their own relationship. Instead, the book is organized into ten chapters with each chapter title/subject being one of ten topics related to love. Because the book’s chapters are not structured very clearly though, at times it was not clear where the book was going and the lack of clear direction interfered with my enjoyment of the book.

The ten principles/topics are pursuit/finding the person for you, destiny, vulnerability, connection, trust, practicality, monotony, infidelity, loyalty and wisdom. Each chapter talks about the principle in question but the majority of each chapter is about the flip side of the principle; the things that take place in relationships when things go wrong. The chapter about pursuit for instance, talks about the rise of online dating and the people we miss meeting because we exclude entire categories of people in our preferences and matching algorithms.

The chapter following pursuit discusses vulnerability and explores how many modern relationships (at least those that make it across his desk) strive to avoid vulnerability and are about acting aloof, both behaviours Jones says are aided by technological tools of today. If being aloof is something you are interested in learning how to do, “Love Illuminated” takes a “tongue in cheek” approach and delves into strategies to avoid openness and vulnerability and to maintain your distance from romantic partners. If you’re interested in real connection, the book and specifically the chapter has advice on how to be vulnerable too (Hint: real, grand gestures are good, gestures that are filmed, aimed at viral YouTube popularity or will likely embarrass the recipient are the kind of gestures to stay clear away from).

Building on this discussion, the chapter on connection looks extensively on online relationships and the rise of relationships in which communication through WhatsApp and Gchat and various social media platforms is commonplace, but real, in person communication is rare or nonexistent. For some people who have written their stories for Modern Love, the act of meeting killed their feelings and their love story. Chapter 5, the chapter on Trust, gives advice on how to avoid being conned (avoid someone too normal, or not normal at all) to say that it is impossible to protect yourself against betrayals of trust. As you continue to read, it feels like the book is telling you, there is no way to armour yourself against love,  but regardless of the risks, fall in love anyway.

These reminders are important, but the book feels less than a book about love and improving love than a description of the very strange things people do in relationships.  Having said that, there are some gems to be had.
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On Making A Difference in Math Education (Day 9 of ASRI)

A flag to be proud of (Constiutional Court, Joburg, February 2016)

A flag to be proud of (Constiutional Court, Joburg, February 2016)

It’s week three of ASRI and the theme of this week is “Civil society and NGOs”. Today began with a visit from CIVICUS, a global alliance of citizens and civil society groups striving to protect, enable and enhance civic action and civil society around the world. They are a membership network with 2100 members in 160 countries with partnerships with global regional, national and local CSOs, and I’m so grateful that they had time to speak to us. It’s been a while since my second year international relations classes; more recently most of my attention has gone to local poverty issues, but I thoroughly enjoyed their presentation and hearing them speak was inspiration and a reminder to follow international politics more closely. What surprised me most was how unaware I was in 2015 of international politics and their presentation was a great way to catch up on things I missed this year. I wish they had had more time to speak; they were so engaging that we all had lots of questions for them and they weren’t able to get through most of their presentation, but I still want to learn more.

Here are a few terms I learnt from their presentation:
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