Why I Never Used to Read
All through High School, my mom gave me a reaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllyyyy hard time because i NEVER read books in my free time. She was always recommending these Victorian murder mysteries or romance novels that I would start, read 50 pages of, and give up on because i couldn't be bothered to finish. None of my friends were avid readers, and I never really found a way to actually FIND the books i enjoyed. So I just gave up on it. Wow, this is pathetic.
Why I Read Now
In college, I started to find books that I actually liked/could be motivated to finish. Some of these were recommendations from my friends or my English teacher, while others were books I actually read in my sociology courses. But I learned an important thing about myself. I'm pretty much only motivated to read a book if I feel like it's going to teach me about something I know nothing about (see my book review of My Promised Land here), or if I feel like it's going to open my mind to a different perspective of looking at the world. Basically, I only want to commit to a book if it's going to make me think deeply and question things I've been culturally conditioned not to question. I just feel like i'm wasting my time if i read some sappy teen love story. Also, those just make me aggravated.
So Here's My List of Books That Will Really Engage Your MIND.
1. A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
3. The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
5. Making Refuge by Catherine Besteman
6. The Land of Open Graves by Jason de León
7. A Woman Scorned by Peggy Reeves Sanday
8. Guyland by Michael Kimmel
9. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
10. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
11. Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol
This list encompasses the following themes: refugee resettlement, the treatment of disabled children in the US, the dangerous, sexist nature of the college fraternity scene, institutionalized racism in schools and in southern society, the dangers of crossing the border and living in the desert, the need to treat our earth with respect, the way in which the Victorian era's social constructs still confine women's expression of their sexuality today, and many more.
So if you're bored and want to feel like you've done something meaningful with your life, please read one of these books. You'll feel great, I promise.
Instead of daydreaming/creeping on people like i did in high school, I actually listened and participated in my classes in college. This is some of what I learned.
1. Ethics and the Environment
This course taught me ethical theories such as consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics, and we learned how we can apply these theories to handle the climate change issue. We also learned about the multitude of different angles of looking at the climate change issue, and how most policy makers see so many practical impediments to implementing any solution to that problem. I could've left this course feeling extremely frustrated, exasperated, and discouraged, but i decided to choose not to feel this way. This course made me realize that two-hundred years ago, slavery was still being practiced. This time one-hundred years ago, women weren't allowed to vote. If we look at the progress our society has made, then we definitely have a reason to believe that we will begin to extend moral consideration to the Earth. I believe that in the not-so-distant future we will start to treat our planet with more respect.
2. Latin American Literature
Almost every single author we studied in this course asked him/herself the question, "What is my identity? Am I Spanish, am i Indigenous, am I American, Am i (insert nation), or am I one giant conglomeration of them all?" While they were trying to figure it out for themselves, I started to ask myself, well, what the heck am I? Even though my ancestors were European (yeah we even have a castle in Scotland that i went to in 6th grade), I definitely would not identify as European. I live in America, specifically Florida's part of the Deep South. But I don't know if i'd say that I'm particularly "Southern." All in all, I ultimately decided that I am just American. And I still ponder just what exactly that means for me.
Also, this class made me realize just how much our entire western world places Europe and all things European on such a high pedestal. So many people operate under the mentality that everything is better in Europe, the art, the landscapes, the food, the fashion, the governmental structures.... the list is endless. My response to this realization was to resist this cultural worshiping of all things European. I developed a new pride for America. America is a beautiful place. We have the grand canyon, New York City, the Gulf Coast, the Senoran Desert, and many more beautiful, interesting places. We invented Blue Jeans. All in all, we're just awesome. And this class prompted me to focus on just what makes me love living in America, and it made me attempt to dress in more of a quintessentially American way, rather than following the trends of the European bloggers on my explore page.
3. Immigration and Refugees
This course showed me how messed up it is that hierarchies are so deeply entrenched in our society. For instance, our culture subconsciously conditions US Americans (of all levels of socioeconomic status) to believe that they are better than the immigrants that cross our border from South and Central America. Everybody needs to just take a second and ask him/herself: Why? What is it exactly that makes you better, or more deserving of a decent job, financial security, and the ability to provide for your family than another human being from a different country? I genuinely believe that if you stopped random Americans in the US on the street and asked them this question, they would struggle to articulate a sensible answer. Culture is powerful because we are unaware of the notions it places in our minds, and we don't think to question them.