All the World's a Classroom

Best Books of 2020: Part 2

Best Books of 2020: Part 2

This is my second installment of the best books of 2020. See Part 1 here. If you’re curious about all the books I’ve read in 2020, see this page.

1. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson


This is hands-down the best book I read in 2020. While the book is aptly subtitled “The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” you won’t truly appreciate the epic-ness of the story unless you delve into it. The Great Migration that Isabel Wilkerson is talking about is the migration of Blacks from the South to the North throughout the 20th century in America. For this book, she conducted more than 1200 interviews with individuals who either were part of the migration themselves, or those whose lives were touched by this phenomenon. Yet she packages her research beautifully in the story of three individuals, bringing us along the ups and downs of their incredible lives.

Don’t be discouraged by the book’s length–it is a page-turner. Further, this will be one of the most important books you’ll ever read in your life. Note: This book was also featured in my Reading Guide to Antiracist Books.

I would describe Hong’s writing as fierce, because first, she is so incisive in her analysis of the Asian American experience–both as victims and perpetrators of racist attitudes. Second, her analysis is weaved into poignant story-telling. To me, her sentences come blazing out of the page, and I relish the burn from this fiery book. Minor Feelings is an important contribution in the wider multi-way conversation on race.

This is a little-known, under-told history of the decades-long struggle for equity in my particular community of faith. I so appreciate Calvin Rock’s contribution in outlining the context of key events in the denomination’s history with regards to Blacks and Whites’ leadership. Before this book, I, like many others in the community of faith, had only superficial understanding (or rather, misunderstanding) of the racial dynamics in the church. This book is eye-opening, to say the least.

An Important read for you who are fellow Seventh-day Adventists, or others who may want to see an example of how race relations play out in a faith community.

What you’ll find in this extraordinary telling of Mandela’s life is an example of tenacity, a kind of charismatic stubbornness that shrewdly aggravates the power it wants to change (i.e., apartheid). With humor and winsomeness, Mandela graces us with stories of his life, who he is, how he thinks and does things. It’s a fascinating study on activism and how to change the world.

As a member of a faith community that keeps the Sabbath ritual (i.e., ceasing from work from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown), I’ve always found it ironic that most of my favorite books on the Sabbath are by writers who are outside of my own community of faith. Often, Sabbath books in my church tend to be cerebral and academic, whereas my favorite ones tend to be poetic.

Well, this book bucks the trend. It is both resourceful in the academic sense, but also poetic and profound. It synthesizes wonderfully the many facets of the Sabbath, the various schools of theological thoughts on each facet, and the author’s commentary on the prevailing views. In an exhausting year that is 2020, Sabbath carries an extra special significance in retaining and restoring our humanity (more on this in an upcoming post), and it has been a welcome relief to immerse myself in the topic of rest.

 

Favorite Books Lists

2021: Best Books of 2021 Part 1

2020: Best Books of 2020 Part 1, Best Books of 2020 Part 2.

2019: Best Books of 2019 Part 1, Best Books of 2019 Part 2.

2018: Best Books of 2018 Part 1, Best Books of 2018 Part 2.

2017Best Books of 2017 Part 1, Best Books of 2017 Part 2.

2016Best Books of 2016 Part 1Best Books of 2016 Part 2.

2015Best Books of 2015 Part 1Best Books of 2015 Part 2.

 

*Amazon Product and Bookshop links on this blog are affiliate links, which means that each time you purchase something through those links, I get a small commission without you paying any extra. Of course you don’t have to use them, but if you want to chip-in towards content creation for this blog, I’d really appreciate it!

 

Interview with Read4Unity: Diverse Books for the Community

Interview with Read4Unity: Diverse Books for the Community

I’d like to introduce all of you, readers, to Read4Unity, an awesome Atlanta-based initiative to spread diverse books in the community, started by two enterprising women, Yenny and Sara. I have a personal connection here, since they are both Indonesians living in the U.S., and Yenny’s sister and brother-in-law are good friends from way back (see their photography work at enmuseart.com).

 

If my last posts on Children’s Books That Celebrate Differences and the Reading Guide to Antiracist Books appeal to you, then Read4Unity is right up your alley. They are taking real and important actions in their community. Please consider supporting their work (see below).

 

Read on for an interview with Read4Unity!

 

1. What is Read4Unity?

 

We are a grassroots literacy initiative (501c3 pending) with a vision to be the bridge that inspires a diverse narrative in literacy, one book at a time, and we start this by collecting and distributing diverse books (kidlit & adult by BIPOC authors and/or featuring BIPOC main characters) to little free libraries, teachers in low-funded schools and other community partners in metro Atlanta and beyond.

 

Our ultimate goal is to sustainably grow and expand Read 4 Unity’s reach to serve communities with much-needed diverse books NATIONWIDE!

 

2. What inspired you to start Read4Unity? 

I was living and working in south Atlanta for a few years, in largely underserved populations and predominantly African Americans, and during that time, I saw first hand the direct impact of systemic injustices in a form of socio-economic disparities, along with extreme lack of equity in literacy and education. I volunteered as a tutor in libraries lacking diverse books that represent the kids I tutored. Without seeing people who look like them, it was tough to instill the love of reading. I saw very little books with black and people of color as main characters, despite the fact that I lived in a predominantly black community.
 
 
Following those experiences, I wanted to find the most tangible ways I can make my small impact as an individual, and after jotting down ideas and planning on paper for the past few years, I decided to take the first step. With a dear friend of mine, Sara, my fellow Indonesian in ATL, we share this passion to play our small part, and we brainstormed and decided to start curating and collecting diverse childrens books by BIPOC authors and distributing them to little free libraries throughout ATL just as a starting point, and a month later, here we are!
 
 

 

 

3. What is your vision for what you’d like to achieve in the near term and long term?

Near term (now and the next 3 months!):

1. Author partnerships: @qianasbraids and @detectivewordy are helping us not only with book donations but also with our strategic programs!

2. Organizational partnerships: we will install our first 2 R4U libraries soon at Refuge Coffee in Clarkston GA and downtown ATL!

3. R4U champion program: we have been asked by so many people on how to volunteer with us. We need help in collecting and distributing books in your local areas. Email us at read4unity@gmail.com or DM us on IG at Read4Unity for details!

4. We are in conversations with a major library and an institution for some exciting partnerships in the near future! Can’t wait to share them with you all soon.

 

 
Between now and 2022, we hope to install 30 Read 4 Unity libraries in various community partners (such as community centers, underfunded/small charter schools catered to underserved population, etc). We plan to recruit Read 4 Unity champions (volunteers) to help us achieve these goals.
 
Our long-term goal is to mobilize college students all over the US in creating Read 4 Unity Campus Champions (150 campus clubs in 5 years!), with a robust toolkit and leadership program to start a Read 4 Unity Club on campus. We aspire that our Campus Champions will be our extension in providing volunteer-based literacy programs in disadvantaged communities around their respective areas (by establishing reading mentor program, book club, etc)
 
 

 

Yenny - Read4Unity

Yenny, Read4Unity founder.

Sara - Read4Unity

Sara, Read4Unity founder.

4. Since you’ve started, what have been the responses from people/communities?

We just passed our 30 day mark since we officially started, and as of today, we have received 170 diverse book donations from communities and authors all over the US! We have also secured meaningful partnerships with other organizations, and are in discussions with several more like-minded organizations for future partnerships!
 
 
 

 

5. What exciting things can we look forward soon?

Stay tuned for the grand opening of our first 2 libraries at Refuge Coffee in a few weeks where we will host book clubs and other fun literacy initiatives for kids and adults! Many of those will be virtual!
 
 
 

 

6. How can we engage and be a part of Read4Unity?

– DONATE BOOKS: We need at least 150 books for our 2 first libraries we are installing at Refuge Coffee! Please support us by sending us books from our WISH LIST
– DONATE FUNDS: you can send donation via Venmo (Read4Unity) so we can purchase books at a discounted rate to fill our libraries!
– Share our mission on your social media platforms, friends, and family!
– Follow us on Instagram and Website
– Be our champion and volunteer your time, skills, and resources. We currently need a read-aloud champion to be featured on our Instagram on a weekly basis, reading various diverse children’s books, and we need champions to distribute books in your area!
 

 

What are you waiting for? Check our their pages, send over books, and get involved!

 

My Favorite Children’s Books That Celebrate Differences

My Favorite Children’s Books That Celebrate Differences

This post is part of the Favorite Children’s Books series. See all the posts in the series here.

 

For the fifth installment of my favorite children’s books, I’m focusing on children’s books that celebrate differences. With the ongoing racial reckoning in the United States that finds its echoes globally, it behooves parents to be acutely intentional with the way we teach our children about humanity and the various colors and cultures we embody. Even young children can embrace negative racial stereotypes that we consciously or subconsciously hold. So while we fight any racist idea or thought within ourselves, we need to also impart better values in our children.

 

One of the best ways to raise antiracist kids is by diversifying their reading selections. For example, pick up books by diverse authors, books that have diverse characters and graphics, stories that tell counter-cultural stereotypes. Have books that have diverse heroes–characters that center the story line that come in different colors and from different cultures. Also, read books with characters that your kids can see themselves in, not just as token characters, but as characters that truly represent who they are and how they do life.

 

We need to do better. I need to do better. And better is never inevitable; it always takes effort and work. Let’s do this together!

 

For an adult version of antiracist books, see this Reading Guide to Antiracist Books.

I think this is my new all-time favorite book. The Day You Begin is poetic, beautifully illustrated, and most importantly, teaching the very important lesson to open up and share the gift of who you are with the world. My younger self could really use this lesson, as well as my present self.

Amazon | Bookshop

Written by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who has grown up with diabetes, this book tells the stories of kids with different abilities, with their challenges, and with their particular gifts of going through the world.

Amazon | Bookshop

 

One Big Heart is written from a Christian worldview. This fun book celebrates differences and the commonality in all of us–one big heart.

Amazon | Bookshop

Be Kind is an inner reflection of a child on What does kindness look like? And on the power of that kindness to each recipient.

Amazon | Bookshop

For any child who may think that they don’t matter, You Matter!

Amazon | Bookshop

What are your favorite children’s books that celebrate differences? 

Children's Books That Celebrate Differences

To support independent bookstores, shop these books from my Bookshop.org list.

 

*Amazon Product links on this blog are Amazon Affiliate links, which means that each time you purchase something through those links, I get a small commission without you paying any extra. Of course you don’t have to use them, but if you want to chip-in towards content creation for this blog, I’d really appreciate it!

*Bookshop.org links on this page are also affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you purchase from these links, which also help independent bookstores across the country.

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