As we near the end of January, I can say I’m content with the progress I have made this month. I’ve completed a total of 8 books and listened to 3 audiobooks. So I’ve met my goal of 10 books a month with 11: 1 Adult book, 2 Non-fiction, 1 Young Adult, and 7 Juvenile books. However, if you remember, I really want to listen to at least 4 audiobooks a month and I only listened to 3 so far. Let’s see if I can finish 1 more audiobook before the end of January 31st. And maybe even another book, just for the fun of it.
White Trash: The 400-year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
I finished this 12-disc-er on Friday. I’m stunned by the amount of information documented in it. I’m even more fabbergasted that class isn’t discussed more in public. The fact is, rural whites have a huge chunk in the poverty pot. They are beneficiaries of government programs like Medicaid, not just immigrants and non-whites. To assume that race is the only reason for poverty really betlittles the American past and covers up reality. Isenberg does a terrific job unrolling class statification in American history, beginning with its impetus in the 1600s.
She ends the book in a discussion about the universal acceptance of redneck culture. But is it a real acceptance of “white trash?” No. In fact, it is used as a commodity to make money off of. None of the reality shows, jokes or money can help to elvate it the prestige of middle-class. There are always exceptations to everything and those elvated “white trash” do not showcase the millions of others.
What follows is my response to the book’s topic, not a discussion of its content. You could skip this if you don’t like reading or discussing contentious topics.
The reason why I decided to read this book is because I wanted to understand this untouchable class. Here in North Texas and in many other areas of the US, there is a group of people who do not want hand-outs, which seems commendable. Personally, when you get to a certain point in your living, you should take help. Then once you are back on your feet, you can get back off of it and go help others. However, the “white trash” are content wallowing in what mainstream America deems poor living. They won’t take handouts due to pride. They have with backward thoughts and ideals (i.e., racist, pleasure-seeking, violence). They don’t want to “in-better” themselves or for that matter their families. It bothers me because they are NOT living in a happy dream like some assume all rednecks do or have the resources to really advance.
At the library, we provide services and possess knowledge that would benefit this group of people. And week after week we are unable to tap into them and bring them into the library. It seems that to really help this group out, you’d have to go to where they are and help little by little. This is currently impractical at my job but that is my real desire. It’s unbelievable how much you and your life changes when you read.
After reading this book, I’ve changed my stance on school choice. I am an ardent supporter of homeschooling and, if you can afford it, to using private schools. But when it comes to not paying school taxes because your child or children do not attend the public school, I can’t support that. Where do you think the kids that need the most help are? Do you think if you provide subsides to get into a charter school that everyone’s parents or caregivers will do research and fill out forms?? The kids who need the most help have parents that don’t give a fig if their kids are eating or are even around. You trust those same parents to make a decision on education? Public education is probably the best tool to help the “poor trash.” Education is what helped past generations move out of poverty and into healthier, safer, more stable, happier, and, not to even talk about, more respectable lives.
One could argue that what does it matter if they like to live like that? Or shouldn’t it be obvious that since they don’t take hand-outs or take advantage of so many programs that they should just be left alone? But think about that. It’s means that you are okay with a bunch of people just dying prematurely, not living life to its fullest potential and being a part of a violent, unhealthy (in body, mind, and emotion) culture. How is that okay? How can we, as the purported country of equality, allow groups of people not know about a better way of life? Maybe these people are just so stuck they have no idea how a much better life is just around the corner.
And I’m not talking about being wealthy. I’m just talking about being heathy, sound, and contributing meaningfully to society. To be people who don’t see strife and meanness everywhere, or to assume that people are out to get them. Lest you think I am just looking down at this group of people, gawking to make fun at them or even to make me feel better in my life situation, let me remind you I am a librarian and my husband is a teacher. We want to help people.
There is something that really exists called bibliotherapy. Books can help empower people to move out of a bad situation. I know because I have benefited from it. There are so many books out there that have people who were in such dire circumstances as the majority of “white trash” out there and they get out them. But it takes encouragement, and that is what books can provide. Books change people. Education changes people. Let’s support real solutions.
Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
I forgot that I hadn’t read my Young Adult book for January and all the ones I wanted to read were checked-out. Boo, right? So I just had to pick something. After looking around, I found one about a blind girl named Parker. Not If I See You First is about Parker learning to cope with the death of her father. Since her mother has also passed away, her Aunt, Uncle and cousins move in with her. Parker keeps track of how many days it has been since she last cried, which is around the time of her father’s passing.
Spoiler alert: she does end up crying.
Parker is not an easy protagonist to like. In fact, I don’t think she is very realistic and seems too mature for a 15-16 year old. However, she grows on you. As the story develops and she realizes that she still loves the ex-boyfriend she pushed away, you want to see her happy and back with him. Truth be told, I like her better than other impossibly mature and rough girls like Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars and Cassie from The 5th Wave. Granted they all faced terrible circumstances, but Parker at least has a depth to her. Her hard exterior melts during the course of the story. I’m glad I stick to my guns and finish books I don’t start off liking. If I didn’t, then I wouldn’t have finished this one.
Her friends and her curse a lot, including using God’s name in vain, so this book may not be for the sensitive reader. The romance in the book is limited to kissing and a backseat make-out session that is stopped by Parker.
This is book two in the “Understanding China through Comics” series. It seems insurmountable to write China’s long history into bite-sized comic books, but Liu has done it. These books are quick to read. I know if I studied them I could retain more of what I quickly digested. This particular book deals with China’s third to tenth centuries. It was a period of great division. Buddhism played a huge part in bringing the people together. It is interesting to know both Buddhism and Taoism developed and even changed in China.
Theo’s books are not counted toward my resolution goal. I just like to share the books we read with our preschooler.
Humphrey’s Really Wheely Racing Day by Betty Birney and illustrated by Priscilla Burris
Get ready for cuteness! I have read one book from Birney’s “According to Humphrey” series and I wasn’t too impressed with it. It is decent enough to recommend to fellow rodent lovers. So I was shocked that this book was actually superb! Birney has created a beginner reader series based off the “According to Humphrey” series. I decided to give it a go with Theo. I wasn’t sure about trying it as it has spreads without pictures. But we made it and are reading it again.
Humphrey is a classroom hamster. He gets to go home with one of his class members over the weekends. Mandy takes him home this particular weekend. She has a one-eyed hamster named Winky who owns a wheely car. When Humphrey goes back to the classroom, Mandy says how cool it would be if Humphrey had a wheely car so Winky and him could race. Because this race would include math, the teacher agrees to it and gets a car for Humphrey. To find out who wins the race, read the book!
What did you read this week?