Top Ten Tuesday: Giving a Shit 101

August 25, 2015

Good afternoon, class! I assume you're all here because you're ready to embark on the lifelong journey of learning how to Give a Shit™—or, in other words, how to care about what's going on in the world and what's happening to the people in it, particularly people who face inequality due to their gender, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, nationality, and more. Maybe you're looking for a few tricks and tips to get you started on the path to mastering the art of caring.

The first thing you need to know is that there is no fast-track or easy A when it comes to caring about things, because caring is hard. It's so much easier to plug your ears, bury your head in the sand, and pretend that everything is just dandy out there. No effort or uncomfortable feelings required! Unfortunately, avoiding work and discomfort is an excellent recipe for maintaining the status quo. To really excel at Giving a Shit™, you have to accept that it won't often feel good, but that these feelings of anger, sadness and frustration are the first steps toward enacting meaningful change.

The efforts you can expect to make include but are not limited to: keeping your eyes open and thinking critically about not only what happens, but also why it happens and to whom it happens; learning when to speak up and when to shut up while someone else speaks; asking (respectful) questions when you're uncertain; and recognizing when it isn't someone else's job to educate you.

To get going on the education bit, here is a non-exhaustive list of some books that will set you on the right track.

We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Adichie's excellent TED talk about gender norms and how people create culture (not the other way around) was transcribed into book-form. At 64 pages, it might take you even less time to read than to watch on YouTube.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (Michelle Alexander)

Alexander tackles the disproportionate rates of incarceration of young black men in America, paying close attention to the biased laws that land them in jail in the first place and undermine their re-integration into society when they are released. This article serves as an excellent companion piece that addresses some of the nuances Alexander does not go into or perhaps overlooks.

The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin)

In two letters to his nephew, Baldwin delivers a searing critique on the state of race relations in the 1960s but maintains hope that black Americans may live to see better days. I've seen this one compared to Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, but Michelle Alexander doesn't think the books serve the same purpose.

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People (Mahzarin R. Banaji, Anthony G. Greenwald)

This one is for my pop psych fans (I know you're out there). The authors take a close look at how our implicit attitudes affect the way we see, think about and treat other people without our conscious knowledge. Bonus points: one of the authors was my current boss's PhD advisor! 

Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice (Adam Benforado)

I'm still in the middle of this one, but, much like Blindspot, Benforado brings together a wealth of social psychology research findings to argue that our brains may be our own worst enemies when it comes to treating other people fairly. This becomes especially important—and devastating—in the criminal justice system.

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs (Johann Hari)

This book is chock-full of facts about the history of the American war on drugs, how America and other countries treat drug crime and addicts, and how we may be fundamentally misunderstanding what it means to be "addicted." Here are the three most fascinating things I learned while reading it.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World (Tracy Kidder) 

Kidder's biography about medical anthropologist Paul Farmer and his work battling infectious disease in Latin America and the Caribbean is what first got me interested in public health as a career. I dare you not to care about things by the end of it.

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan (Jenny Nordberg)

Nordberg lifts the veil on the world of the bacha posh, Afghani girls who are brought up as boys for social and cultural reasons. She dives into the history of the practice and tells the story of several bacha posh, some of whom still live as men today. Check out my review here.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Bryan Stevenson) 

Another book that focuses on the injustices rampant in the criminal justice system and one man who has made it his career to fight them. This book had me thinking about going into law for a hot minute. Check out my review here.

Possessing the Secret of Joy (Alice Walker)

Alice Walker tells a tale of disintegration of an African woman who undergoes female genital mutilation. This book is painful, no-holds-barred, and sheds light on a practice that, unbelievably, still thrives today.

What else would you put on my syllabus? I'm sorely lacking in LGBTQ books here.
Thanks to The Broke and Bookish for hosting!

You Might Also Like