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Book of the Month: The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close

Welcome back to the book of the month! I love doing these because people love reading these haha. The book of this month is “The Hopefuls” by Jennifer Close. The thing about giving summaries of books is they are never quite enough. And I’m admittedly not the best with summaries but I’ll try. It tells the story of a young wife who follows her husband to Washington, D.C. to follow his political dreams in the newly minted Obama administration. Matt, the husband in question, is a White House staffer (who was also a campaign staffer) perennially frustrated and antsy about his career. Beth, the protagonist and from whose perspective the entire book is written, is a writer unsure about everything. And when I say everything—I literally mean everything and everyone.  Early on in the novel, at a birthday party for another White House employee, Beth meets Ash and Jimmy. Ash is a Texan who also moved to DC for her husband, Jimmy’s, work as an Obama staffer. The foursome quickly become close, going on vacations today, sharing everything including a “cleaning” lady. The book uses the discomfort of a new DC transplant to tell the story of important themes  of marriage, friendship, career, political campaigns, and envy.

Book of the Month: Life Behind Bars

America’s carceral system is deeply flawed. It is filled with deep injustices and its criminalization of black and brown bodies can never be fully stated. Those are facts. More so, the American prison system suffers from the prison-industrial complex. Where to begin? The imprisonment of people has resulted in the massive economic profit and political influence for certain groups. Again, these are facts. 

But what about the people watching over these inmates? Seldom do we hear about correctional officers and staff charged with the responsibility of overseeing inmates.  Here is where the book of this month comes in. Life Behind Bars is a first-hand testament of the author, who spent fifteen years on a tour of duty at the Delaware Department of Corrections (DOC). He provides excellent and never-before-seen/heard insights into the world of DOC in Delaware. 

Don’t Follow Your Passion; Here is What You Should Do Instead

I have written in bits and pieces, on this blog, about not being married to an idea. Even outside of this blog, I’m sure you’ve heard it before: don’t follow your passion. I am here to reiterate that advice or to provide additional nuance to buttress that point.  

It is not that following your passion is bad per se. It’s that any idea that is so romanticized is bound to fail. Even when you achieve the biggest dream, goal, plan, ambition, you would realize you are still the same person, with the same worries and anxieties. And that is a feeling that destroys people. Following your passion is not a specific salve to bring you happiness for the rest of your life. Your happiness, I am sorry to announce, is not unlocked by some true calling or purpose. Your life is not going to be magically wonderful when you finally achieve the uncrackable dream. I am sorry to let you know. The path to happiness is  broad and filled with bumps that you get better at navigating the further on the journey you go. 

Book of the Month: Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell

Welcome to Book of the Month! The Book of this Month is a historical fiction titled Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell. I know people say awards don't matter (don't believe them by the way) but I still want to start off with  the awards this book has won. It won the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction and the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. It was named "Novel of the Year" at the Dalkey Literary Awards, was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize, and longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. I say all of these to show that this book is a masterpiece. It's O'Farrell's magnum opus.

Remember how I said here that I didn't want to read about a pandemic or similar stuff this soon. It turns out I lied Lol. Because Hamnet is literally about The Plague. The book, set in the 1580s, is about a young Latin tutor—constantly bullied by his violent father—who falls wildly in love with a weird, remarkable woman older than him. She is known throughout town for her eccentricity and her ability to heal people and to understand plants and potions. She falls in love with the tutor right back and they get married, and settle in Stratford. There, she becomes an extraordinary mother, a force in the life of her husband who recently started a career miles away in London theatre scene, and their three children. Life is just getting stable when their beloved young son succumbs to The Plague. It is a story about love, family, and more importantly, the many ways grief can ravage even the most perfect union. It shows how people react so different to grief. 

A Juneteenth Post: How DEI Initiatives Are Stripping Black People of Dignity and Safety

It was Juneteenth on Monday and as far as I'm concerned, we are celebrating all week long. As I said in a previous post on this blog, these past couple of  years, more than ever, I have learned more and had more conversations about emotional safety, belonging, and vulnerability in the workplace. More importantly, I started to better understand that vulnerability needs to be earned; that you deserve a right to protect yourself if you don’t feel “safe”: and that—this is the biggest—vulnerability without boundaries is NOT vulnerability.

Through these conversations, I found that there are places that just expect Black people to remove our armor without sufficient assurance or commitment to our safety. Let me give an example: person X is the “only Black person” in a room and then all of a sudden, they are deemed the race expert. They expect X to open up at every meeting or during every “tough conversation” about the Black experience or about racism. They want X to share their experience of microaggressions, and prejudice, and racism. But what about if X doesn’t want to be vulnerable? Especially if there is no guarantee of protection when X does share something they don’t want to hear. Forget the fear of reprisal; sometimes, people haven’t earned the right to our mind, thoughts, and opinions. So, to not guarantee any safety, yet expect a Black people to speak for all Black people is just wrong.

Why Silence Can Be Ineffective

When Chimamanda Adichie wrote the masterpiece, "It is Obscene", one line stood out and has stuck with me since then. Okay, more accurately, I recently found it again and posted it on Instagram

"Sometimes, silence makes a lie begin to take on the shimmer of truth."

On Serving and Being a Part of Something Bigger

There was a time I was so particular (I don't want to say obsessed) about serving in my community. I truly believe in service. I believe every single person should be a part of something (or some things) bigger than themselves. Normally, this is work. But work sort of feels like work. In any case, I think that being a part of something bigger than you can bring immeasurable purpose. I also think this is a kind of purpose that is good for the soul. The kind that allows you feel like you have a well-rounded life, you know? In any case, I wanted to serve. I also know that if our community is going to progress, then all of us have to be involved.