Summer 2018 Reading List

Today marks the last day of my Spring quarter, meaning I've completed my first year of graduate school! It's hard to believe I'm about a third of the way through my program; it feels like just yesterday I started my first class. 

Now that my last paper has been submitted, I'm officially in summer mode. I'm anticipating space and time to enjoy my first summer in L.A. and though I'll be working full time, I can put the school work to the side for a few months. One of my goals is to read all the books I've wanted to read but didn't have time for! So many of you have asked about books I'd recommend, especially related to race and culture. Here's a list to get you started!

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1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I read this in a week or two - super easy read. It's a novel that follows the life of an African American girl who must reconcile her culture and neighborhood with her private school life, which predominantly consists of middle class white people. There is language and some adult material, though it helped me understand the perspective of someone coming into my world. 

2. Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People

I just started this one! One of my classmates recommended this book. I love reading anything I can find on the subject of unconscious bias, and this one is easy to read, and less heady than some of the other materials I've studied. Don't read this if you don't want to be convicted by your own biases!

3. A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America

This was my favorite book I read all quarter. It made me cry and get angry at some points, but it's incredibly valuable to look at our nation's history from a minority perspective. I learned things in this book I NEVER heard before. It reads a bit like a history book, but the author also published a version of the book for youth - I hear it's easier to read. 

4. So You Want to Talk About Race?

I have not read this book yet, though I can't wait to dive in. A friend of mine recommended this and I've read this it's a great bridge between people of color and white Americans looking to understand the complexities of race. The author seems pretty straight-forward and takes on some heavy issues like police brutality, micro-aggressions, Black Lives Matter, and white privilege. 

5. The Gorilla and the Bird: A Memoir of Madness and Mother's Love

This has been on my list for quite a while! This book is actually about mental illness, another part taboo topic in our culture. There are elements of both race and culture present, and the main character is actually from my home town. I can't wait to share what I think about this one!

6. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

Some of my old co-workers turned me on to this book. It was named the best book of the year by Amazon and the Wall Street Journal. The book is about the Osage Indians in Oklahoma and one of the greatest and most under-reported tragedies in our nation's history. I'm looking forward to pick this up this summer. 

7. Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race

I haven't read this book yet, either, though I came across it on Amazon. I'm a sucker for a good memoir, and the reviews of this book said it was vulnerable, funny, and "cringe-worthy." I imagine I have similar experiences as the author, who grew up as a white American and started to realize the impact of race in our country in her young adult years. 

8. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race

Listed as another bestseller, this book has been recommended by several people. The author is a psychologist and talks about the importance of addressing racial identity in our culture. 

9. The Leavers

This is a novel about an undocumented Chinese immigrant and her son's journey to finding belonging in a culture that is not his own. I haven't read it yet, though a good friend recommended it! It's a story of loss, sacrifice, and adoption. I'm sure I'll cry my way through it!

10. Intercultural Ministry: Hope for a Changing World

I read this book in my U.S. Ethnicities class and found it so practical and helpful. If you work in any sort of intercultural setting, in the church or outside, this is a great resource. It's also ready to read as many authors contributed to it and tell their own stories in each chapter. 

An Invitation to Deconstruction

What comes to mind when you hear the word "deconstruction?" Does it sound intimidating, challenging, complicated, insightful, fun? It's likely a mixture of all of the above. Yet this deconstruction has been one of my very favorite parts of being in graduate school thus far. 

Last Fall I sat down with another student in my program who was about to graduate. I asked her what advice she'd give to someone just starting out, and she said with a slight smirk on her face, to "expect deconstruction." I thought it was a funny thing to say, but just a few weeks later, I experienced this firsthand. 

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Deconstruction is fancy term to explain what happens when you begin questioning everything - from values to beliefs, worldview, bias, and actions. It's a bit unnerving at first, but the end goal is ownership and a lifestyle of action and reflection. In short, deconstruction helps us understand the "why" behind what we do, believe, say, and think. 

How many of you would say you're able to articulate why you do certain things, believe certain things, or say what you say? For most of us it's second-nature; however, when we take the time to examine and reflect on our actions, we open ourselves up to growing and changing. It takes courage to deconstruct and it is my goal to invite you into my deconstruction process so that it becomes a bit easier (or more accessible) for those of you reading. 

I'm in a class right now about ethnicity in the United States and we are in the process of deconstructing cultural values and worldviews. I am realizing how much my Middle-American upbringing has influenced me. It's quite amazing (and humbling). 

Like it or not, each of us is a product of our culture. We grow up being nurtured in a specific cultural context and learn to adopt the worldview of that culture. According to one of my professors at Fuller, "a worldview is a complex multifaceted fabric of beliefs, often submerged, concerning the world - what it is, how its parts interact and the places of humans." In short, worldview is how we see the world. 

There's no right or wrong kind of worldview, contrary to our Western "black and whiteness." It simply exists. I prefer things to be clear and explainable, though that's not really realistic or possible. I hope to continue examining specific cultural values, like time, progress, individualism, and invisible realities. My hope is to move toward other cultures, continue deconstructing my American worldview, and learning to set aside my differences to embrace others. 

Have you ever thought about why you believe what you believe and see what you see?

Consider this your invitation to start exploring the "why" behind what you do and why you do it. Ask friends of different backgrounds what they see and do and compare it to your own understanding. There will likely be differences, but it's important to note these differences are not black and white or right and wrong. Their just different. Self-awareness of our worldview can be a powerful tool in learning to build bridges in community!

From Trekking the Andes to Sitting in LA Rush Hour Traffic

How did I get here? I’ve asked myself this question quite a few times since landing in LA a little over five weeks ago. Just before I was backpacking into mountain villages in Peru #livingmybestlife. 

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In short, I came here to start grad school and got a job to support myself (because life is twice as expensive in SoCal than small town Texas). In many ways, I fulfilled a dream coming out here, and truly I’m grateful. But all dreams come with small moments, too. 

I’m not very good at small moments. Instead, I live for the big, grand adventure, fantasize about taking risks, and constantly have to be doing something. But most of life isn’t like that. Most days it feels small, even when fulfilling a dream. 

I was sitting in traffic a few days ago (I commute an hour both ways to work), and the still small voice started whispering again. Though I leave a little later than most commuters, I’m still making quite a trek from Pasadena all the way to South Bay in Torrance. The elevation changes and so does the temperature, and most days I drive right through downtown. Each time I pass through, I think wow, so this is what it feels like to live in LA

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There are perks, to be sure, but when you haven’t moved in 20 minutes and the podcast you’ve been listening to gets old, it’s easy to lose perspective. The phrase that still voice whispered was “vantage point” and I feel as though I have been given a gift to appreciate the small moments, all of which add up to something really big. 

I’m extremely grateful I had the courage, the support system, and the means to make a big move like this. It’s opened so many things for me. And I want to stay thankful, to see from this vantage point of what a gift this truly is. Today I even thanked God for traffic - I’ve gotten to catch up with friends and family on the phone more than I anticipated, because what else do you do in a car for two hours a day? (I’m also on the hunt for all the podcasts, so HMU if you have suggestions). 

A little over a month ago I was trekking through mountain villages in the Andes mountains - hadn’t showered in days, packed everything in a backpack, and was doing what I love most. But today I’m sitting in the outside patio in front of my office building wearing heels that hurt my feet and eating the cold lunch I packed last night. I actually mourned having to become one of those meal planner people, but it’s honestly the only way to manage eating well when you are gone from 8 to 10. 

I’m sure the small moments will continue to build as my classes at Fuller begin. I imagine myself staying up well into the night writing papers and listening to audiobooks on my drive to and from work. But all of those moments make up a big, God-sized dream - and that’s significant and big and exciting. 

For the first time in a while, I feel as though I have clarity and focus and even an appreciation for small moments. Because I’m seeing from the right vantage point. And because I’m staying thankful. 

A couple days ago at Fuller’s orientation, President Mark Labberton said “smallness is the antipode to worship.” (If you’re like me and had to look up the word antipode, let me save you some time - it’s basically a fancy way to say opposite). When we worship (and stay thankful) in each moment, no matter how small, life gets bigger. And that’s the point at which I want to keep seeing.

There's No Place Like Home

Maybe it's because my team has started to feel like family, or maybe it's simply the charm or character of the city that's drawn my little heart in, but Cusco has started to feel like home. And for this Kansas girl, there's no place like home. With less than three weeks left, I want to capture my favorite things about this city and share them. Perhaps some of you will get the chance to visit some day and feel the same. 

As I'm writing this, our taxi driver who drove my friend Ben and I around to look at apartments four months ago sat down next to me, remembered my name, and asked me about our team and our time here. These people are so trusting, so generous, so family

I think that's the word I'd use to describe this culture compared to others I've interacted with before. From our landlords across the street, to the ministry partners we're working with in the city, our team has felt so included (almost to a fault), valued, and welcomed. Our landlords come over nearly every day - sometimes with good news, sometimes with bad, or sometimes just to say hello. Last week they even invited me to join their family vacation! 

After experiencing this culture (and weighing lots of options), I am so excited to start my Master's at Fuller Seminary in Intercultural Studies with a concentration in Race, Culture, and Reconciliation this Fall. I've always wanted to go back to school, and for the little explorer inside of me, this seems like the perfect fit. 

Traveling for me isn't simply about enjoying new places or adding to my bucket list; it's much more than that. It's about learning new things, challenging myself and ways of thinking, appreciating things about people I am different from, and developing a more holistic picture of our world and how we were made to function in it. 

Cusco has been no exception. I've learned to embrace people quickly (and quite literally through their familial greetings) and let my walls down. I've learned to allow more time for people and for tasks. I've learned a little Spanish and explored so many local gems. Though I will be sad to leave, I'm excited to step into what's next. 

Cusco feels like home, but soon, so will Pasadena, California. Next I'll be stepping into another culture, similar to my own, yet much different than my little Midwest hometown or my six years in the South. For me, experiencing new cultures is a way to keep learning, growing, and challenging myself as I step outside the box, explore, take new ground, and become who I was created to be.