Build Your Mindset
By Dr. Sharroky Hollie, Executive Director, The Center for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning
On the surface, eliminating ignorance about the cultures and languages of others seems doable because ignorance is mitigated with knowledge. The more we know about others, the less ignorant we are, and we then reduce our biases and fears. Simple, right? Not at all. The challenge is building knowledge and accepting that in order to be culturally responsive, there has to be a commitment to lifelong learning. My view is by hook or crook, you must relentlessly pursue knowing more about the students you are teaching culturally and linguistically. It sounds corny, but the more you know the more you grow.
Summer break is a great time for knowledge building. Coupled with swimming, snorkeling, surfing, sailing, or any other fun activity that starts with s, learning about others can be a part of relaxing, rejuvenating, and refreshing. Chances are you are planning to take a book or two along the way for a leisurely read while you are on a plane, on a beach, or on a lake. So, here are four titles for your summer VABB knowledge building. All of these titles are fiction/narrative, for the most part, proving that a better understanding of other cultures and languages does not always involve academic, research-based, non-fiction. That's not fun when you are basking in the sun somewhere tropical.
When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
"Esmeralda Santiago's story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her childhood was full of both tenderness and domestic strife, tropical sounds and sights as well as poverty. Growing up, she learned the proper way to eat a guava, the sound of tree frogs in the mango groves at night, the taste of the delectable sausage called morcilla, and the formula for ushering a dead baby's soul to heaven. As she enters school we see the clash, both hilarious and fierce, of Puerto Rican and Yankee culture. When her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven, soon to be eleven children, Esmeralda, the oldest, must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually take on a new identity." (Amazon)
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship. (Goodreads)
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
What makes this novel so compelling is the way Starr negotiates the relatively safe world of school, where she assimilates despite the soft racism of one or two so-called friends, and how she navigates the dangers of her own neighbourhood, where it’s not uncommon to be caught in the crossfire of rival gangs. There is one chilling scene where Starr witnesses a police officer, in a revenge stop, force her father to lie on the ground as he searches him. “Face down,” the policeman yells, his hands never too far away from his gun, humiliating his victim even though Big Mav offers to show his ID and addresses the officer as “Sir”. (The Guardian)
Dreaming In Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
A powerful and visually stunning anthology from some of the most groundbreaking Native artists working in North America today. Truly universal in its themes, Dreaming In Indian will shatter commonly held stereotypes and challenge readers to rethink their own place in the world. Divided into four sections, ‘Roots,’ ‘Battles,’ ‘Medicines,’ and ‘Dreamcatchers,’ this book offers readers a unique insight into a community often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media. (Barnes and Nobles)
All four of these titles will increase your awareness and knowledge about these four cultures, and decrease your "ignorances," all to the benefit of your VABBing mindset with your students.
Special thank you for all that you do, and will continue to do for the under-served.