Book Review: Tears We Cannot Stop

tearsTears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America
by Michael Eric Dyson
Nonfiction
228 pages
Published 2017

I’m always trying to continue to educate myself on my white privilege, America’s racist history, and civil rights and activism in general. Tears We Cannot Stop fits neatly into that category, but it’s not an easy-to-read book. I mean, it is – in the sense that it’s well-written and flows very well. But it’s not easy to read because of what it says. Dyson is a black pastor, and he wrote this book as if he was preaching to the white people of America, trying to make them understand the plight of the minorities we oppress. Black people specifically.

It’s a short book, but a very powerful one. It’s separated into sections like a sermon would be, with a Call to Worship, Hymns of Praise, Scripture Reading, the Sermon, a Benediction, and more. He’s correlated these sections of a sermon with that of the book – The Offering Plate, for example, is a short little section talking about how one university – Georgetown – apologized for their past use of slavery, and established an institute to study slavery and its effects. Tried to make reparations, in a way. In the scripture reading he quotes a lot of Martin Luther King. In the Benediction he actually talks about a lot of other books to read about the subject of slavery, all of which I’ve added to my already extensive Goodreads shelf on the subject of civil rights and activism. (I’ll be attempting to read as many of those books as I can.)

Tears is a really good opening book to read on the topic, especially for white people. It’s eye-opening, and both invites and provides guidance for further investigation into just how big of a mess we’ve made of things in this country. I highly recommend it.

And, if you happen to be local to Baltimore, the author will be speaking at the Baltimore Book Festival this Friday, September 22nd! Unfortunately, I can’t make it on Friday, so I’m going on Sunday. Sunday I’m planning to catch Daniel Jose Older, the author of the Bone Street Rumba series and Shadowshaper, and Kevin Shird, the author of Uprising in the City, about the Baltimore Riots in 2015 after the death of Freddie Gray. I’m really excited about it, even if it is going to be the hottest day we’ve had in a couple of weeks. (Still only mid-80s, though, so it could be worse!)

From the cover of Tears We Cannot Stop:

As the country grapples with racial division at a level not seen since the 1960s, one man’s voice is heard above the rest. In his New York Times op-ed piece “Death in Black and White,” Michael Eric Dyson moved a nation. Now he continues to speak out in Tears We Cannot stop – a provocative and deeply personal call for change. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted. In the tradition of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time – short, emotional, literary, powerful – this is the book that all Americans who care about the current and long-burning crisis in race relations will want to read.

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More Nerdfighter-y stuff

In the same vein as my last post, I’d like to plug another Youtube channel. This is one I only discovered a couple of days ago, and promptly watched all the videos. It’s called “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” and it’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice as a vlog. It’s also absolutely AMAZING. It was produced by Hank Green, of the vlogbrothers, and he won an Emmy for it. (Learning he’d won an Emmy for something is what brought it to my attention.) It’s hysterical at times, and tear-inducing at others. It’s beautifully done.

I’m a big fan of re-imaginings of old stories. I’ve read (and own!) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I have not yet read Android Karenina, but it’s on my list! In finding the Amazon links for what I just listed, I also discovered several more – Mansfield Park and Mummies, Little Vampire Women, and Jane Slayre. Given my unending love for Jane Eyre, I will DEFINITELY have to get my hands on that last one! There also appears to be both a sequel and a prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Looks like I have whole new slew of books for my to-read list!

(Edit: There’s now a movie in the works of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!)

I’m not sure why I love retellings of Pride and Prejudice so much – maybe because the plot is very similar to Much Ado About Nothing, which is my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays. I love the back-and-forth verbal sparring between two prickly characters. (Perhaps because it reminds me of my relationship with my husband!)

Without further ado (see what I did there?), the first episode of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries:

Crash Course Literature is coming back!

Today is Digital Learning Day, so I feel it’s appropriate to plug one of my favorite Youtube channels!

If you’ve followed this blog for a few months, you know I’m a Nerdfighter. If you haven’t, and have no idea what a Nerdfighter is, well. A Nerdfighter is someone who, instead of being made of flesh and blood and inner organs is instead made of pure awesome. …..actually a Nerdfighter is someone who is a fan of John and/or Hank Green, also known as the vlogbrothers of Youtube fame. Several years ago, the two started making Youtube videos to talk to each other, EVERY DAY – and developed a following. These days they run several successful Youtube channels (all educational!), like SciShow, Mental Floss, Crash Course, and the original vlogbrothers. They started VidCon, the Con for Youtubers, and dftba Records, a recording company for Youtube artists. They’re kind of internet famous. (Oh, and John is a highly successful young adult author whose latest novel is being turned into a movie set to release this summer, so there’s that, too!)

ANYWAY. John and Hank make videos for the Youtube channel Crash Course, and they generally do a series of videos on a topic. Past topics include a 40-video series on Biology, a 43-video series on World History, an 8-video series on Literature, 12 videos on Ecology, and the two currently running, U.S. History (at 46 videos so far) and Chemistry (at 47 videos.) Hank handles the science, and John the humanities. When Chemistry and U.S. History wrap up, they’re moving on to Psychology (Hank) and another round of Literature (John).

The last Literature course covered Romeo & Juliet, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. And they were EXCELLENT. So I am very excited for the next round. (I’m excited for Psychology too, but it’s not on topic for this blog!)

I thought I’d post the reading list for the next round of Crash Course Literature, since I’ll be reading it in the next few months and posting the accompanying videos with my reviews of the books. The Course is supposed to start sometime in February.

nerdfighterThe list of books John is covering:

The Odyssey by Homer
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles
Hamlet by Bill Shakespeare
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Beloved by Toni Morrison

I’ve started reading The Odyssey already, and it’s surprisingly good. I expected it to be hard to read, but it’s actually easier than Shakespeare. And I love Shakespeare. So it’s going pretty quickly! I’ve read a few of the others on the list – Oedipus, Hamlet, Jane Eyre – but actually have not read the rest. So this should be fun!

The ALA Young Media Award Winners!

Today the American Library Association announced the winners of 2014’s Young Media Awards – authors, illustrators, books, and videos aimed at Young Adults. I’ll be adding a few of these to my to-read list and I’ll link to my reviews when I do! In the meantime, here are some of the award winners (You can find the full list at ALA’s YMA page):

 John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures” written by Kate DiCamillo

Four Newbery Honor Books were named:

Doll Bones” written by Holly Black
The Year of Billy Miller” written by Kevin Henkes 
One Came Home” written by Amy Timberlake
Paperboy” written by Vince Vawter

The Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:

Midwinterblood” written by Marcus Sedgwick

Printz Honor Books:

Eleanor & Park” written by Rainbow Rowell
The Kingdom of Little Wounds” written by Susann Cokal
Maggot Moon” written by Sally Gardner and illustrated by Julian Crouch
Navigating Early” written by Clare Vanderpool

The Alex Awards for the 10 best adult books that appeal to teen audiences:

 “Brewster” written by Mark Slouka
The Death of Bees” written by Lisa O’Donnell
Golden Boy: A Novel” written by Abigail Tarttelin
Help for the Haunted” written by John Searles
Lexicon: A Novel” written by Max Barry
The Lives of Tao” written by Wesley Chu 
Mother, Mother: A Novel” written by Koren Zailckas
Relish” written by Lucy Knisley
The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel” written by Katja Millay
The Universe Versus Alex Woods” written by Gavin Extence

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults:

Markus Zusak, the author of “The Book Thief,” “I Am the Messenger,” “Getting the Girl,” and “Fighting Ruben Wolfe.”  

Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language works of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience:

Beautiful Music for Ugly Children” written by Kirstin Cronn-Mills
Fat Angie” written by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo

Three Stonewall Honor Books were selected:

Better Nate Than Ever” written by Tim Federle
Branded by the Pink Triangle” written by Ken Setterington
Two Boys Kissing” written by David Levithan 

 

I’ve added Doll Bones, One Came Home, Midwinterblood, Eleanor & ParkThe Kingdom of Little WoundsRelishThe Sea of TranquilityBeautiful Music for Ugly Children, and Two Boys Kissing to my reading list. (Two Boys Kissing, incidentally, is authored by the co-author of Will Grayson, Will Grayson – the other co-author was John Green, and it was an excellent book, also dealing with GLBT issues.)

I might also add Golden BoyHelp for the HauntedLexiconThe Universe Versus Alex Woods, and The Book Thief to my list. Not like it’s not out of control already…