About Talia Whyte

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My Books of the Year 2016

booksLike I said last week, I have been doing a lot of reading lately.  Below is a list of all the books I have read in the last year.  I made a list not only to share my reading habits but also to hold myself accountable to continue reading.  My new year’s resolution this year was to read more books, and I think I have achieved that!

Some of them are review copies I received from publishers for free, while others are older books that I reread because of their relevance.

Native Son by Richard Wright

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World By the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

Police State: How America’s Cops Get Away With Murder by Gerry Spence

Invisible Man, Got The Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education by Mychal Dyson Smith

Reskilling America: Learning to Labor in the Twenty-First Century by Katherine Newman and Hella Winston

Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta

The United States of Jihad: Investigating America’s Homegrown Terrorists by Peter Bergen

The Longest Trail: Writings on American Indian History, Culture, and Politics by Alvin Josephy Jr.

When Books Went To War: Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning

The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe

Waiting Til The Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America by Peniel Joseph

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris

Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich by Peter Schweizer

The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump and Tony Swartz

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Between The World and Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Radio Girls by Sarah Jane Stratford

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Middle Passage: The Caribbean Revisited by V.S. Naipaul

Reading to Soothe the Political Pain

knowledge-1052010_640Since the terrible defeat of Hillary Clinton a few weeks and the pending disaster that will be Trump’s presidency, I have tried to zone out and concentrate my mind on other things.

I have been watching a lot less cable news and most TV in general since the elections. As a matter of fact, I am seriously considering cutting the cord altogether in the very near future.

But for right now, I have been reading books a little more than I usually do. I have read (and reread) five books since the elections. Four of them were about women’s lives. Since we won’t have a lady president for at least another four years, I thought I would read books with strong female protagonists.

Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
A fascinating study of women’s lives in Jamaica. When most people think about this Caribbean island, they think of the beaches, jerk chicken, and reggae music. However, Jamaica’s extreme poverty and colonial legacy don’t likely come up in discussions. The author creates rich characters of a mother and her two daughters to discuss current issues facing Jamaica women, such as sex tourism, class, skin tone divisions, especially about skin bleaching, homosexuality, and abuse.

The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe
This historical novel is about real-life trailblazer Anita Hemmings, the first black woman to graduate from Vassar College. The catch here is that the school didn’t know Hemmings was black until a few days before her graduation. It was 1897 and most colleges at the time either didn’t allow or permitted a small number of black students. Hemmings was able to get into the school because she was fair-skinned enough to pass for white. This book is also another study of class and race intertwining at the turn of the last century.

Radio Girls by Sarah Jane Stratford
This book takes place in London during the nascent years of the BBC. Maisie Musgrave is a newly-minted Beeb secretary. Based on the real-life BBC radio pioneer Hilda Matheson, Radio Girls gives insights into the struggles of women working in broadcasting at the time.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave in Georgia who goes along with fellow slave Caesar to escape their misery by following the Underground Railroad. All kinds of drama ensue. This book just won the National Book Award – a must read.

I also reread The Middle Passage by V.S. Naipaul, which also to a lesser degree looks at women’s lives in the Caribbean.

I plan to write more in-depth reviews of these great books in the very near future. In the meantime, if you have any other books that you want to recommend to me, please let me know.

It’s going to be a LONG four years, and I want all the reading I can get my hands on to get through it!

What’s In A Name: Indigenous People

Questions conceptI had an informative conversation the other day with my friend David about the correct terminology for indigenous peoples in the Americas. Is it Native American or American Indian or just Indian? David is a Wampanoag and said that personally he doesn’t mind being called Native American or Indian, but it would be preferable to address him by his tribal affiliation. However, this might differ depending on who you speak to about the issue. I found this video that might have a better way of explaining it.

Since it is Thanksgiving, it is also a good time to be reminded of the real stories of indigenous peoples.

Make America Better Again

redbluestatesWhatever the problem, be the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles. – Tina Fey

I know everyone or least half of America is angry with Donald Trump becoming the next the president. The stunning election has resulted in protests throughout the country and social media meltdowns by a lot of people like myself. No, the election wasn’t rigged, and Jill Stein and Gary Johnson didn’t spoil the race. Hillary Clinton just wasn’t popular enough and ran a shady, misguided campaign. Even I have said here multiple times that I wasn’t a staunch Hillary supporter and that I was only voting for her because she is the lesser of two evils.

However, I do think this should also be a time to reflect on what happened and how to use our energies towards making America better again.

It is time to have some real talk. This might offend some people… but, whatever…

  1. Get informed: I have mentioned here time and again that there is a basic civics deficit among the American citizenry. We can’t be surprised an ill-informed man just became president when many of the people voting for (and against) him are just as uninformed. The quality of the candidates that run for office today generally reflects the electorate.  It is seriously time for everyone to put down People magazine and turn off TMZ and start reading books, magazines, and newspapers that distribute real news and information. Only then can we make better, informed choices for the way our government is run.
  2. Stop sanitizing intolerance: A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the disgraceful effort by some people to try to sanitize slavery. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who think racism is over and we should either just stop talking about it or try to whitewash or sanitize this intolerant history, like calling slaves “migrant workers.” The problem with this is that when we don’t talk about and truly understand the past, history has a way of repeating itself. Trump was elected partially because a lot of people just assumed someone like him couldn’t get elected because everyone is so tolerant in 2016. But in reality, this denial actually shows how intolerance works today. We just went from the first black president to a president endorsed by the KKK.
  3. Call out intolerance: If you see intolerance happening, do something about it. Tell that person why their bigotry is wrong. Sitting on the sidelines being silent doesn’t help.
  4. Practice nonviolence: Protesting is great and it is our first amendment right, but don’t turn your anger into physical violence. It doesn’t help and it’s uncivilized in a democracy.
  5. Vote: Voting is the only way in our democracy things get done. When you don’t vote, you are a part of the problem. A lof of people didn’t vote this cycle, including blacks and millennials. It is always interesting that the people who complain the loudest about societal ills don’t vote, like Colin Kaepernick and a lot of the protesters. When you are not part of the solution, no one will take you seriously. Also, not voting is a slap in the face of so many who came before us who struggled so we can all have the right to vote.
  6. Engage in local politics: I know it is more interesting to follow national politics, but participating in local politics is just as, if not more, important as what is going on in Washington. It was great to see a high turnout at my local voting precinct last week for the presidential election, but just two months ago, there were barely any people in the same precinct for local elections. Your city councilor, state representative, alderman, the mayor and other local elected officials have a greater impact on your day-to-day life. For instance, if you are a person of color, you should definitely care about who your local district attorney is, as that person will be in charge of making major life and death decisions about you if you get in trouble with the law.
  7. Volunteer in your community: Doing volunteer work for a local nonprofit is a great way to give back to your community. It also gives you better insight into the many challenges facing your community and how to make things better for everyone. I volunteer my time at my local library, supporting literacy issues, as well as work for my local economic development committee and mentor at-risk young women. I also “think globally and act locally” by doing a lot of international pro bono work including organizing fundraisers for humanitarian concerns in developing countries and provide media development and technical support to international journalists.
  8. Organize in your community: If there is an issue you care about and there isn’t a group for it yet, why not organize your own group! It is very easy today to organize. A couple of years ago a neighbor started up a group to better address pedestrian and walkability concerns in the community. Today the group has regular meetings with local politicians and are really making an impact on community relations by improving sidewalks, road crossings, and bike paths.
  9. Support organizations that do good work: If you don’t have the time to volunteer, provide support to organizations doing good work in other ways with monetary or in-kind donations.
  10. Talk to someone who is different from you: Yes, everyone would benefit from widening their social network to include all types of diversity, including race, ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, religion, geographic location and even political persuasion. I had a good, long conversation on Saturday with a very good friend of mine who is a Christian, white guy from rural Michigan about why he and others in his community voted for Trump. Even though we respectfully disagreed on many issues, it was good to talk out our differences and understand where each of us is coming from.
  11. Actually talk to someone in person: Social media and all the accessible technology we have today are great, but sometimes things that are said on these networks can get lost in translation. Also, it is easier to say hurtful or untrue things about people online than to a person’s face. The internet has become a cesspool for cyberbullying and bigoted vitriol. Instead of getting on Facebook, pick up the phone or better yet talk to people in person.
  12. Stop the empty gestures: I just started seeing people the other day wearing these safety pins as a way of showing they are “safe and welcoming” to marginalized groups such as people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women and LGBT folks. But in reality, these are just empty gestures that don’t mean anything if you are not actually doing something to create a safe and welcoming space. For many people, the safety pins give temporary satisfaction and the false illusion that you are doing something by wearing it when you are really not doing anything.  Instead of wearing safety pins, please do any of the above activities. Trust me, marginalized groups would prefer this.