This month I am choosing some titles that I found thought provoking. These are books written by people from parts of America other than main stream. There are books written by and about Native Americans, Black culture in America, growing up in Appalachia and growing up in Johannesburg, South Africa. I picked these books because I think it is important for us to learn as much about all the peoples who make up America. We need to visit with them, read their stories and try to put ourselves in their shoes. If we say we are the inclusive party then I think each and every one of us needs to educate ourselves and strive to be that.
Here are some titles to start the journey. There must be many, many more. Please throw out some suggestions of anything you have read that made an impact on you. If you found a good title then be sure someone else will like it too.
“Killer’s of the Flower Moon” the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann
This book is an account of an investigation into the murders of many members of the Osage Tribe in Oklahoma during the early 20th century. It is a story of betrayal, corruption, theft and murder, and how the fledgling FBI is sent to uncover the tangled conspiracy. The tribal members became wealthy from oil being discovered on their land and an unknown number lost their lives through a conspiracy devised by people in positions of power to steal that wealth. A true story that reads like a thriller. The author has done lots of research and lays out clear case.
“The Absolute True Diary of a Part Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
“You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” : a memoir by Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite writers of prose and poetry. If you aren’t familiar with this Seattle based author now is the time to try a book of his. His first book is the award wining “The Absolute True Diary of a Part Time Indian.” I’d say this is the best one to start with. This is a tale of family hardship and struggle and growing up on the reservation in eastern Washington. Sherman Alexie is a member of the Spokane Tribe and a true wordsmith. The tale is written in an entertaining way with humor interwoven in a way that lends to the impact of the story.
There are several other books of prose and poetry written by Mr Alexie and they are all good. His latest book is the memoir titled “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” This book takes on the turbulent relationship he had with his strong willed mother. It fills in some more of the story from his first book and although they stand alone very well, reading them both gives the reader a better understanding of the lives of the people within the pages.
“Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah
Yes, that Trevor Noah. The comedian and host of the Daily Show. Learn about living with apartheid as you marvel and laugh at the author’s stories of his childhood. He shares the same talent as Sherman Alexie in captivating the reader with a humorous writing style and at the same time showing us the difficulties he grew up with. This is a great book and it led me to read other titles on Boer’s and the British, their roles in South African history and how apartheid unfolded.
“You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain” by Phoebe Robinson
Here’s another comedian and she is writing about some aspects of being Black in America today that aren’t covered in the usual race conversation. Get ready to feel old and more than a bit out of touch! Phoebe takes white folk under her wing for a hilarious and educational ride.
“Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance
There has been a fair amount of press on this book but I wanted to list it because it is very good and concerns a segment of the population that has drawn more attention following the 2016 election. The author grew up in small town/rural poverty in Appalachia. This is a story of substance abuse, grinding poverty and little prospect for a better future. The reader learns much about the meaning of family and home and their importance for people in this region. When coal mining jobs deteriorated many of these people relocated to the steel manufacturing states where they lived in neighborhoods made up of people from “back home”. It is a population that speaks of family going back to the Scottish clans who settled the region. All of this makes improving lives without leaving home problematic. This is a well written book that will have you thinking about it and discussing it for a long time to come.
I signing off I won’t say “happy reading” because it’s not, but these titles will give you a small peek into the lives of some populations who are guaranteed monumental struggles in life that begin at birth. Struggles that most of us can only try to imagine. These people all deserve a better chance at life, one that isn’t so heavily handicapped right from the start. The complicated question is how is that to be done? We all need to think on it, ask for input from these populations and then act. If we fail to act then can we really be the party that calls themselves “inclusive”.