Bookshelf: Understanding Other Perspectives

In the past few years, our differences as human beings have been in full view. In the news, we hear about how the "liberal elites" are living in a bubble, the ignorance of which led to the results of the 2016 election. As someone who reluctantly falls into that category, I do agree although I don't blame people for existing in these bubbles.

It can be hard to get outside yourself and your immediate circle. As a "liberal elite", I'm in a bubble. As a white, middle class woman, I'm a bubble. We all exist in our own bubbles that we should make an effort to get out of every once in awhile. I've been making an effort to read more books, articles, and essays written by or about individuals who experience life from different perspectives than mine. I truly think this is the best way to start bridging the divide, so here are a few options: 

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
Vance, who grew up in rural Appalachia before going on to graduate from Yale Law School, writes about his childhood and family. While this is an incredibly interesting family memoir, it also serves as a look into the people we refer to as "hillbillies", portraying them as human beings who make certain decisions and develop opinions based on their circumstances, rather than the stereotype developed in Hollywood.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This story follows a high school girl who witnesses the murder of her childhood friend by a police officer and the aftermath of the event both in her psyche and in the world, from the news coverage to the reactions from people around her to the court case that follows. This book blew me away and is incredibly timely.  

The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen
A Finnish journalist becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen and uses this book to compare and contrast the culture, values, and specific policies that make the Nordic countries so desirable to so many Americans. From maternity leave and taxes to healthcare and employment, this book provides an in-depth understanding of the specific ways in which Nordic countries are running their governments. 

The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse
Senator Ben Sasse writes about what he believes to be an existential threat to America's future---a generation concerned with trigger warnings and safe spaces with overprotective, coddling parents. Sasse outlines his the ways he believes parents can raise their children to uphold the values older Americans were raised to respect. My personal belief is that millennial and younger generations are, understandably, beginning to have very different values than their parents and grandparents but in order to defend those new values, we should attempt to understand the values that came before ours.

Strangers In Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
Arlie Hochschild, a renowned sociologist from California, embedded herself in rural Louisiana in order to understand those who subscribe to the beliefs of the conservative right. Embedding herself into a group of people whose beliefs are diametrically opposed to her own, she digs deeper into the issues that plague their communities in order to dispel the liberal notion that poor conservatives are being "duped" into voting for people and policies that hurt them.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In his National Book Award winning essays written as letters to his son, Coates (who also writes for The Atlantic) explains to his son how race has shaped the history of the United States through personal experiences as well as historical anecdotes. Topics addressed are the murders of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and the worshipers killed in South Carolina as being part of a structural, systemic construct in American culture. 

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche  
This story follows a young Nigerian woman who immigrates to the United States and her lover who isn't able to follow her and ends up in post-9/11 London. The young woman is confronted in the U.S. with vastly different race politics than she experienced in Nigeria and provides an interesting perspective for those of us who exist outside of this spectrum. The story follows the young woman's experience with everything from dating as a black woman in America to the under-representation of black women in American beauty campaigns.

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
A compilation of short stories about the lives of people in "laundromats and half-way houses of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Bay Area upper class, among switchboard operators and struggling mothers, hitchhikers and bad Christians". These stories will bring you into the unique stories of those who live the kind of lives you may never live.