Saturday, September 22, 2018

Summer Reading 2018

So, today, September 22nd marks the end of summer, and if you are like me, you will pay the calendar absolutely no mind and wear shorts, and tank tops, and flip flops until I am forced to do something else. However, I will use this day to official wrap up my summer reading and start my 10 to 40 book challenge with my students.

My reading this summer started off slow, because I was BUSY, and sometimes I would get back to my hotel room and be completely brain dead. However, by the end of July, my schedule slowed down and my reading picked up.

I read a total of seventeen books this summer, and I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but we can all be life-long learners, we just need to read. Yes, that’s all it takes. You don’t need to take a class, you just need to read more. AND, you get to decide what you want to learn. For instance, I am very fascinated by people and how we operate, so I read a lot of personal stories, novels, and self-help books. You get to be the captain.

Very Favorite book of the Summer:

The book that caused me to have the hugest paradigm shift this summer was White Fragility by Robin Diangelo. This book is quite scholarly but uses colloquial language to make this book accessible to almost any person. It gives a great overview of what exactly racism is and explains why a whole lot of white people think that the race issue is not their issue; however, it is just as much their issues as it is Black and Brown folks. I thought about my very own biases, and I swear I am working on being less judgmental, checking my biases, and allowing folks to do the best that they can. This is a book that I will read and reread, because I never, ever want to forget the things in this book, and I need the knowledge for when I need to “check folks.” (LOL) You don’t have to walk around in ignorance when it comes to race.... YOU CAN READ, AND EDUCATE YOURSELF.

This one was on President Obama’s reading list, and it is GOOD: 

Educated by Tara Westover! A tragic, coming of age story that is TRUE. I thought a lot about how difficult it can be to overcome trauma! READ THIS MOVING BOOK.

The following are books that I am recommending for folks who really want to know more about being human and all of its possibilities:

Boots On the Ground by Elizabeth Partridge! This book is completely captivating. It tells true stories about different individuals involved in the Vietnam war including US Presidents and Dr. King. I found it so interesting that Dr. King thought really hard about speaking out against the Vietnam War and even had to sever ties with President Johnson in order to not be moved. This book is definitely appropriate for young adults; it has short chapters and amazing pictures.

Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth! This story of a Black man infiltrating the Klan is captivating as well as entertaining. I laughed at times and was quite amazed at other times. Spike Lee did a great job with the movie Black Klansman. It’s a straight forward book, and yes, I think teenagers will find this book engaging and accessible.

Demand the Impossible by Bill Ayers! Now, this book was recommended to me by a teacher whom I was working in Texas. Y’all, this book helped me to see that this country needs to do some serious soul searching and radically change a few things like our health care and educational systems, and I know that it can be done.... We have to demand the impossible!

All The Stars Denied by Guadalupe Gracia McCall! This is a very important, young adult book. This is a fictional story that is based on facts of what happened to many Mexican Americans during The Great Depression. What I love about this book is that we see marginalized people fighting for themselves. Yes, the Mexican Americans are fighting for themselves. There is a strong mother and father figure, and the daughter is my kind of girl: Courageous.

The True American by Anand Giridharadas! Y’all this is a true story that reads like a suspense novel. There is a guy who wanted to ‘protect his country’ from Muslims, and after 9/11, he shot three people whom he thought were Muslims, and two died and one survived. This books goes into the life of the killer and the life of the person who survived. This book challenged my beliefs about a whole lot of stuff. What I know for sure is that hate and love are both real.

If you want to know more about the varied stories of growing up Black in American, I am recommending these books:

No Ashes in the Fire by Darnell L. Moore! I saw an advertisement stating that Darnell was going to be at the bookstore Politics and Prose in DC, and he was going to be interviewed by Clint Smith. So, you know I had to go. After hearing Darnell so candidly talk about his experience of growing up gay in New Jersey, I knew that I had to read this book. Reading this book I thought about inclusion, racism, patriarchy, Black students attending White colleges and so much more.... EXCELLENCE!

This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jenkins! This book is a collection of essays, and it came highly recommended. I really enjoyed the essays about women and girl relationships, then the essays sort of lost me. However, I think these essays are important to add to the many stories that make up the American story.

Image result for image for this will be my undoing

New People by Danzy Senna! Let me say that I absolutely love the writing of Danzy. I fell madly in love with her novel Caucasia about twenty years ago and have been recommending it to people, and I even have it in my classroom. So, when I saw that Danzy had a new book out, New People, I just had to read it. New People is just as thought-provoking as Caucasia and a good look at race in America in the form of a good story. These characters will be with me for a long, long time.

If you are curious and love mysteries, I am recommending:

I’ll Be Gone In the Dark by Michelle McNamara! So, this book is about a lady, Michelle McNamara, who was obsessed with finding the Golden State Killer. I found it very interesting that the Golden State Killer started killing people before DNA testing was a thing, but once DNA testing came along, this changed the game literally. After about forty years, The Golden State Killer was captured this year. However, Michelle, did not live to see The Golden State Killer captured, she died in 2016 at the tender age of forty-six.

If you want some good, old fashioned stories with depth, I am recommending these book:

Hope Nation edited by Rose Brock! This is a collection of short stories all centered around HOPE.. I love this collection so much. We get to hear from writers such as Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Jason Reynolds and many more. My favorite short story is about how readers are going to save the world, and I believe that we will.

Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert! I was given a copy of Little and Lion, and it was not what I was expecting. Based on the title, I thought this would be a cute book about a boy and lion. However, this is a young adult book about identity, sexuality, and mental illness. I was completely intrigued by this book, because many of the ideas made me feel quite old-school, but according to young adults whom I have talked to, this is the stuff that is on their minds. Grown folks may need to consider reading young adult books to be empathic to what they are experiencing. It’s a NEW DAY.

American Airlines by Ben. H. Winters! A student wrote an essay on this novel, and it blew me away. The premise of this novel is what if the South had won the Civil War....  Quite captivating!

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles! This book also came highly recommended. It is a young adult book, but like Little and Lion, it deals with some complex ideas. I loved every word, but I would recommend that adults read this first before recommending this to a young adult. It is important, necessary, but heart-wretching.

If you love poetry, try this mighty book:

Wife by Tiphanie Yanique! I heard Tiphanie talk about the idea of loving someone, like a husband, whom you are not related to by blood, and I knew that I needed to read this book. Interesting, Interesting look at love.

And, Because I know that I always have room to grow in my profession.....

Summer Reading is over...... NEXT!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Spirit!!!

In front of a wonderful bookstore in Austin, Texas!

Just in case you did not know, I feel incline to tell you that my spirit is very, very important to me. I pay very close attention to my spirit, and I make sure that my spirit stays in good shape by doing things that give me the kind of joy that the world just can’t take away.

Now, everybody knows that I love books and writers and cycling and plays and folks AND where I live. Yes, I am madly in love with the DC area, because every single thing that I love is readily accessible, and therefore my spirit gets fed quite often with things that bring me "unspeakable joy!”

I want to give you a peak into things that feed my spirit and bring me complete joy:

Working with teachers..... I absolutely love working with teachers!

This guy right here... I got a rejection that crushed my soul, and this guy put me back together and sent me along my way: Cornelius Minor! 

So, I love this guy, because he writes great books about teaching:The Kelly Gallagher!

I was on a panel with these two ladies. FUN FUN FUN!!! Rose Brock and Elizabeth Partridge!

My student wanted to go inside the African American Museum, and my friend, Carolyn, and I were able to make that happen....

So, the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl celebrated its 60th anniversary this year, and YES, there is band that is made up of police officers, and they are GREAT! 

My dear friend Sonya, worked some magic, and at the last minute, I was able to do a seven day cruise with these awesome folks..... You got to love your friends who bring you on at the last minute. Thanks Sonya! 

Cycling, Cycling, Cycling... I love cycling, and I really love it when I get to cycle with great folks. The DC area cycling community is AWESOME!

Writer, Writers, Writers... I love writers. And these two....Clint Smith and Darnell Moore. (SWOON!) 

Yep, we scored tons, and I mean tons of AP literature papers, but we also made time to connect and have fun. Love these ladies! 

Went to a book signing, AND in the audience was The Corey Booker....

These two at the same time: Clint Smith and Judith Soriano.... A writer and a person who loves writers as much as I do.

I stumbled across this wonderful book store in Charleston, WV, and lo and behold, I got to meet this Vietnam Veteran, hear him talk about his book, and get his autograph. 

Yep, his book is titled I Can’t Date Jesus! His book talk was delightful just like him: The Michael Arceneaux!

My Tuskegee Folks.... FAMILY!

The Jesmyn Ward..... I think that’s all I need to say. She is THE TRUTH! 

Y’all, I know we are all busy, but don’t ever forget about your spirit!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

10 to 40 Book Challenge (School Year 2017 -18)

The Tayari Jones

This school year was the second year that I challenged my students and my Facebook friends to read 10 to 40 books from September to the last day of school which is mid-June. I got the idea for the book challenge from Donalyn Miller and her wonderful book, The Book Whispers. 

Y’all, it really is TRUE; we can develop new habits. The key is to stick to the habit. Last school year, I read forty-six books, and I could not stop and so I read fourteen books last summer while maintaining quite a busy summer schedule that included quite a bit of work travel.

I went into the school year 2017 -18 completely energized and with a new reading habit that I am completely addicted to. I read fifty-six books all while teaching, riding my bike, stalking writers, and consulting. We can and will make time for whatever is important: PERIOD!

Right now, the literary world is ON FIRE which helps to fuel my love... Y’all, some incredible books are out there in whatever genre that you prefer.

Here is a list of the books that I read this year, and I have tried to do some type of classification:

The Writer that I Just Can’t Enough Of: Roxane Gay. I love her honesty, rawness, the cleverness of her writing, the way that she has her thumb on the pulse of right now. Below are the books that I read that are written by Roxane, and I loved every, single one of them.

1. Bad Feminist: Excellent collection of essays that made me do a lot of thinking about Feminism.
2. Hunger: Memoir about Roxane’s body... This book made me think about a whole lot of things differently.
3. Difficult Women: Wonderful collection of short stories.

Non-Fiction Books that tremendously increased my knowledge base!

4. Moonless, Starless Sky by Alexis Okeowo: Courageous stories of women from the continent of Africa.
5. Promises to Keep by Sharon Robinson: The story of Jackie Robinson told by his daughter Sharon.
6. Evicted by Desmond Robinson: If you want to build your empathy for those who are struggling, read this book.
7. The Awakened Woman by Tererai Trent. You talking about a story of resilience and possibilities....WOW
8. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. A true story of a child soldier... heartbreaking!
9. When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors. This is a memoir about a courageous life... I realized from reading this book that The Black Lives Matter Movement is all about LOVE.
10. Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton: Gave great insight into the Black Panther Party.
11 and 12 Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper: Read it twice and will read it over and over. IT. IS. GOOD.
13. May We Forever Stand by Imani Perry: Excellent overview of an important song in the African American history.
14. The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison: What a good look at a different perspective on some of those “classic novels."
15. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Eight essays over the eight years of President Obama’s presidency.....AMAZING!
16. The Courage to Hope by Shirley Sherrod: This lady was wrongfully fired by the administration of President Obama. What a great story of courage; she should run for the office of President of the Unites States. REALLY!!!

Non-Fiction Books that read like novels:

17. Gucci Mane by Gucci Mane: This is a well-written, though-provoking memoir.
18. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah: Incredible, Incredible memoir.
19. The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton: Y’all, this man was on death row for thirty years for a crime he did not commit... Amazing.
20. Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston: Love this story about the last living man who was turned into a slave: Cudjo Lewis.
21. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua. Interesting story about parenting.

Self-Help Books:

22. The Will To Change by bell hooks: Great reminder that Black men and women NEED each other.
23. Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. Trying to make sure that I stay on track with getting the love that I want.
24. Rising Strong by Brene’ Brown: A book about vulnerability... How to “gracefully go through it.”

Fiction Books That Are Written In Verse:

25. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur: Wonderful book about heartache and finding yourself. Teens love this book.
26. Electric Arches by Eve. L. Ewing: Collection of stories about Black girlhood and womanhood. I love this book with my whole heart.
27. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: Great story that will leave you wanting more.
28. The Good Braider by Terry Farish: Great, immigration story.
29. One Last Word by Nikki Grimes: A collection of poetry that gives a new look at some of the great voices of the Harlem Renaissance.
30. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: A coming of age novel that I think many young adults will absolutely love; it is completely relatable.

Some Good Old-Fashion Fiction Novels:

31. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison: The most wonderful novel that is about so much but mainly love.
32. Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward: This. Book. Is. A. Must. Read. Love those stories that are set in the American South.
33. An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon. A science-fiction novel about life on a slave ship.
34. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: Contemporary story of the American life and its complexity.
35. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. A great story of how our lives are intertwined.
36. The King is Always Above the People by Daniel Alacron. A pretty, awesome collection of short stories.
37. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. A story of folks who immigrant to American and eventually realize that the American Dream may not be for everybody.
38. Augustown by Kei Miller: Amazing Carribean story.
39. Long Divison by Kiese Laymon: One of my students read this book and loved it so, I tried it. It is good. Laymon is a Mississippi writer who is putting a contemporary spin on many societal problems.
40. Underground Railroad  by Colson Whithead. A very good look at The Underground Railroad that is written in a very engaging manner.
41. The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel: This book is all about LOVE.

Young Adult Novels:

42. Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown: A true story about boys trying to get the Olympic Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
43. Dear Martin by Nic Stone. This is a good look at the life of a teenage boy who wants to know “What would Martin do?"
44. The Brief and Wondrous Wife of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: The protagonist in this story wants to fall in love.
45. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle: A science fiction novel about fighting a good fight.
46. Children of Blood and Bones by Tomi Adeyemi: This is Black folks Harry Potter and so much more.
47. After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay: A book about friendship, basketball, and fitting in.
48. Black Panther by Ronald Smith: T’Challa is sent to The South Side of Chicago because of a conflict in Wakanda.

Graphic Novels:

49. Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates: I read all three volumes and the images are AMAZING.
50. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang: a story about identity and fitting in.
51. March One by John Lewis: A refreshing look at the Civil Rights Movement.

Professional Education Books:

52. Readicide by Kelly Gallagher: This book made me change the way that I teach novels...we don’t want to over-teach or under-teach.
53. Embarrassment by Thomas Newkirk: A great book on how embarrassment may be hindering people, particularly students.
54. No More Independent Reading Without Support by Barbara Moss and Debbie Miller. A good look at how to help students as they read independently.

Books I Could Have Skipped:

55. The Leavers by Lisa Ko: A mom leaves her eleven-year old son and the book SLOWLY unfolds.
56. We’re Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union: A collection of stories about Union’s life which really did not tell much.

I hope that this list will inspire a whole bunch of folks to pick books from this list or a book from any other place and READ, READ, READ... and Inspire someone else to read.


Holler, if you want to know more about any of these books.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Seven Years Y’all!

It’s My Anniversary! 

Earlier this week, I walked into the gym and said to Berhane, my trainer, “Our anniversary is on Thursday.”

We talked about how time really moves fast, and change seems to happen really slowly, because most changes do not happen overnight. I told him that I would love to see a picture of the inside of my body when I first started working out with him to compare that image to how the inside of my body looks after working out with him and being mindful of my diet for SEVEN years. Yes, I’ve been working out with Berhane for SEVEN years.

Sometimes I am not as mindful of my diet as I should be, and that’s when he states “We need to work on your diet, and a new diet shows up in my email.”

One thing for sure... If I make up my mind that I am going to do something, I go ALL THE WAY.  I don’t test it; I go ALL THE WAY. When I started working out with Berhane, I decided that I would go ALL THE WAY. I do ALL of the crazy exercises that he want me to do, such as, lunges the length of an entire football field in the middle of Virginia's, HOT summers.

I watch my diet most of the time. However, I went through a period where I thought I could introduce wine back into my life, and lo and behold, my stomach started showing it. So, now I am not drinking alcohol unless it’s Tuskegee’s Homecoming or some other occasion where I will drink alcohol without an ounce of guilt.

Y’all, this is a journey that I love, and I don’t do it for nobody but me. I DO IT FOR MYSELF. I get up every, single morning, and I look at my naked body in a full length mirror, and assess my stomach, thighs, and butt. Normally, with no judgment, I just get a good look at myself daily, and I start my day.

When I started working out with Berhane SEVEN years ago, I did not think about how long I would be with him. But, I knew that I was committed to my health for a lifetime.

SEVEN years later, and I am still committed!

Y’all, don’t be afraid of committing.....

It’s My Anniversary.

One Year Anniversary
Two Year Anniversary
Three Year Anniversary
Four Year Anniversary
Five Year Anniversary
Six Year Anniversary

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


"It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn."
                                                                The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

For folks who are not educators, I want you to know that school starts and it keeps going and going, I mean it just keep going and going. Before you even realize it, it is the middle of the school year, and many folks who work with children are tired to the bone. 

This school year has been rolling, and I looked up to catch my breath, and it was the end of the first half of the school year. Students wanted to do make-up work from three weeks ago: NO! Counselors were moving students into my classroom one week before the end of the quarter: NO! And, parents wanted to meet: NO! 

Yall, I felt a lot like this: 

have been practicing sitting with my feelings instead of acting out or telling everybody and their grandma. I did pretty good, but I did call a friend and say something like:

Im done with teaching.

“Teaching is for young folks.”

I noticed that being in this state caused me to push my students even harder, and you know how that goes; The harder you push, the more they resist. I finally heard this voice loud and clearly: “This ain’t about the kids, this is about you.”

Yep, I need to work on not being influenced by outside forces.

So, this weekend, I got some much needed rest and church, and I went to school and changed my attitude. No lie, my students have been reading and asking questions. We had a great classroom discussion based on this incredible short story, and overall, things went well. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was tested a few times, but I focused inward, and....everything was all good. 

"It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.”

Today was DAWN!

One of my co-workers came in EARLY this morning to let my students and me know that he had finished his first book of the school year, and he wrote it on his reading log:


During study hall time, I had a table full of students who came to get help with their writings; I thoroughly enjoyed working with that small group who would not allow me to take a picture of them. 


As I was working with this group of students, one of our counselors came in to add two books to her reading log, and she would not allow me to take a picture of her either.


Right after talking with the counselor and working with the students, one of our assistant principals came in to write book titles on her reading log and to talk about books. 


While the assistant principal was in the room, two other teachers came in to get book suggestions for some of their struggling readers, and you guys know how much I love talking about books and reluctant readers.


Finally, my last class came in, and I have a few reluctant readers who actually read today and were visibly engaged. At the end of the class, one of the students even came to talk to me about the book that he is currently reading.


I swear, If you had asked me a few weeks ago about teaching, I’m sure I would have stated quite a few unpleasant words; however, 

"It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.

To all of my people out there who feel like you are barely holding on....

"It is said that the darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.

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