Book Snap #102

Title: Dare to Lead: Daring Greatly and Rising Strong at Work

Author: Brene Brown

Date Read: Daring Educator Faculty Book Club, May 2021

Two (very loud) snaps.

Brene Brown has been accompanying me on my walks, in my earbuds, via Spotify, within her two amazing podcasts, Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us. I have been thoroughly enjoying the interviews and conversations. This led me to apply for a grant and launch a faculty book study for #daringeducators. Myself and 28 colleagues read, discussed, and bonded over the reading and weekly work of Dare to Lead. It was exactly what I needed in May of this year. I am grateful for our shared experience, and the amazing co-workers who committed to it.

Divided into four parts: rumbling with vulnerablity; living into our values; braving trust; and learning to rise– Brown shares two decades of research and experiences inside hundreds of organizations, to give a practical, actionable book on what makes a daring leader.

She defines a leader as: “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential” (Brown, p.4).

The heart of daring leadership?

1. You can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability. Embrace the suck.

2. Self-awareness and self-love matter. Who we are is how we lead.

3. Courage is contagious. To scale daring leadership and build courage in teams and organizations, we have to cultivate a culture in which brave work, tough conversations, and whole hearts are the expectation, and armor is not necessary or rewarded.

Through the work, I defined my two values (she insists you must narrow down to only two) to: balance and learning. These are the values that define me. If I am at my best, I am learning and I am also in balance. These values also provide a filter to make hard decisions: am I leaning into my values? I lean into balancing work, play, and parenthood. When I must, I evoke Walt Whitman’s quote, to remind myself to lean into my value to learn: “Be curious, not judgemental.” Seen also in one of my favourite Ted Lasso clips, an Apple TV series that should not be missed. You want feel good entertainment? Ted Lasso is your man.

I’m ready to rumble (with vulnerability and courage), and so are my colleagues!

“Tell me more— what are you thinking?” and respect his truth as a full truth, not just an off version of my truth.” (Brown, Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.)

Book Snap #101

Title: Let That Sh*t Go: Find Peace and Happiness in Your Everyday

Authors: Nina Purewal and Kate Petriw

Date Read: Spring 2021

Two snaps.

Finding peace and happiness within a global pandemic wasn’t always easy– so this just sorted of landed when it needed to. Nina and Kate share stories and advice to put your life in perspective, take each day one step at a time, and find calm amid the chaos. It really is not worth holding onto that sh*t.

Visit the pure minds book site, where they explain:

Let That Sh*t Go has over 100 tips on how to find more peace and happiness in your everyday, a no-filter approach to mindfulness. The chapters are as follows:

Awareness: Goodbye Past & Future Worries

Self-love: What You Didn’t Learn in Middle School but Probably Should Have

Acceptance: You Can’t Control the Number of Instagram Likes You Get

Perspective: You Are Made of Fucking Stardust

Authenticity: There’s Only One Magical You

Forgiveness: It’s Time to Use the F-word

Behind the Screen: Finding Your Tech Zen

The Reveal: What the Fuck Did You Just Do? (Mindfulness)

Next Level: The Mind Workout (Meditation)

I am currently practicing yoga and the mantra of: leave it on the mat, while also practicing next level mind workouts by meditating. A good reminder to keep things in perspective.

Also helpful, this chart on when to give a f*ck:

If any of this sounds up your alley, may I also suggest:

I believe I am on the journey to fully master the subtle art of not giving a f*ck. Join me.

“Imagine if life were always simple and easy. You wouldn't appreciate the good times in the way you do if you haven't endured the bad. You wouldn't be who you are today without your challenges. It's what built your character. It's what made you value life the way you do. It wasn't fair that you had to go through what you did, but you are a different person because of what you experienced.”(Petriw & Purewal, Let That Sh*t Go). 

Book Snap #100

Title: Giving Students a Say: Smarter Assessment Practices to Empower and Engage

Author: Myron Dueck

Date Read: Spring 2021

Two snaps.

This was a professional read, obviously. It led me to enter Dueck’s Twitter contest by tweeting a photo of myself and Teddy with the book. We won!

Dueck skillfully delivers on topics that resonate with how I teach. Just as the title says: giving students a say is essential in empowering, engaging, and also in communicating student learning. I also strongly believe that in order to accurately report on a student’s learning, they must be a part of the conversation; they know how they learn; who they are, their strengths and areas for growth; and what they have learned: that’s essential information in student-centered pedagogy and essential insight into accurately assessing a student’s learning. It offers a necessary piece of triangulation evidence: conversations, amongst teacher observations and student generated products. Triangulation means using more than one method to collect data on the same topic. Giving students a say ensures the validity of the assessment: who knows more about their own learning than the learner?

Myron Dueck is also the author of Grading Smarter Not Harder which I also resonated with and loved. Dueck still teaches in British Columbia. He can be found on Twitter.

"If assessment means "to sit beside," we need to stop figuratively placing the learning outcomes on the table between us and our students, informing them of what's right and what's wrong, and instead slide our chair around to the same side of the table to facilitate a conversation. Assessment would then become a process by which we collectively strategize and codesign how we will best approach, evaluate, and report on the learning objectives. Students would ideally be able to demonstrate understanding over a period of time, drawing on examples and discussing challenges and what's been learned from these experiences. Just imagine the transformational potential if learning were to truly become a partnership between the teacher and the learner." (Dueck, Giving Students a Say). 

Book Snap #99

Title: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Author: Reni Eddo-Lodge

Date Read: Spring 2021

Two snaps.

Reni’s book is a deeper exploration of her 2014 blog post of the same title. She explores issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism, to the inextricable link between class and race. Born of her frustration with discussions with white people about race, she offers solutions of how to counter racism. Hard not to judge a book by it’s cover here: the white washed and embossed “to white people”, from afar can look as if the title is “Why I’m No Longer Talking About Race” a visual representation the way white people are blind to the structural racism that benefits them. It’s that clever all the way through.

“Not seeing race does little to deconstruct racist structures or materially improve the conditions which people of colour are subject to daily. In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon - earned or not - because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.” (Lodge, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race). 

Book Snap #98


Title: The Rose Code

Author: Kate Quinn

Date Read: Spring 2021

Two snaps.

After just bingeing the Netflix series “The Crown” I fell in love with Kate Quinn weaving the story of Osla, a debutane World War Two codebreaker and girlfriend of Prince Philip of Greece, in two vacellating stories: 1940 and 1947; allowing the reader to see past come to future, and, spoiler alert: Prince Philip doesn’t marry Osla. Three women’s stories are shared: Osla, Mab, and Beth are the codebreakers united at Bletchley Park past (1940), and now (1947) must resurrect their old alliance and crack one last code together before Philip marries Elizabeth.

Kate Quinn is also the author of The Alice Network, which I have not yet read, but it has been recommended to me, and I likely will.

"If you were a man and you wrote funny pieces about daily life, they called it satire. If you were a woman and you wrote funny pieces about daily life, they called it fluff." (Quinn, The Rose Code).

Book Snap #97


Title: Broken (In the Best Possible Way)

Author: Jenny Lawson

Date Read: Sometime last spring, 2021

Two Snaps.

Jenny Lawson is a vulnerable, courageous, and hilarious memoirist. I love the way she openly discusses depression and anxiety, and the hilarious way she does it. There are tough stories there too, but they are honest and brave. Jenny is relatable but eccentric– her life is broken, in the best way possible.

Jenny has written two other memoirs: Furiously Happy and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and they are amazing for all the same reasons. These memoirs are mirrors for those who struggle with mental health and wellness and windows in to the world of depression and anxiety for those who are reading to learn.

“I can tell you that ‘Just cheer up’ is almost universally looked at as the most unhelpful depression cure ever. It’s pretty much the equivalent of telling someone who just had their legs amputated to ‘just walk it off.’ ” (Lawson, Broken). 

Book Snap #96


Title: Punching the Air

Author: Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Date Read: February 7, 2021

Two snaps.

On the night of April 19, 1989, a 28-year-old female jogger was brutally attacked and raped in New York’s Central Park. After prolonged police interrogation, five teenagers – Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise (later to be known and referred to as the Central Park Five ) confessed to being involved in the attacks. At the time, the defendants were between 14 and 16 years of age. Yusef Salaam (one of the co-authors of Punching the Air) was tried as a juvenile and convicted of rape and assault. He served seven years for a crime he did not commit. The investigation of the convictions of these five teenagers has raised questions regarding police coercion and false confessions, as well as, the vulnerability of juveniles during police interrogations.

This book is compelling. Written in powerful verse, Zoboi and Salaam take us to in to the heart and mind of a young teenager struggling. Struggling with his decision; one that allowed him to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the inevitable price: to be found guilty of being black. Like Salaam’s own personal story– Amal Shahid, the character in Punching the Air, finds out that “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal takes us in to the juvenile detention center with him, where those in power construct an identity for him: criminal, monster; he is dismissed– because they “know his type.” When he is sentenced, Amal compares his life before this moment to Africa and says, “maybe jail / is America” (p. 61). In “DNA,” he connects the shackles he wears leaving the court to the shackles his ancestors wore (pp. 80–81).

Salaam writes that: “Punching the Air builds on some of the poetry I wrote while I was incarcerated. When Ibi and I started to discuss what kind of story we wanted to tell, we started with a name— Amal, which means “hope” in Arabic. It was important that whatever this teen boy was going through, he should always have hope, and we should write a story that instills hope in readers. It was also important that we make Amal’s mother a prominent figure in his life, in the same way that mine was. While Punching the Air is not my story, Amal’s character is inspired by me as an artist and as an incarcerated teen who had the support of his family, read lots of books, and made art to keep his mind free. Amal has to grow up really fast in a juvenile detention center, just like I did. But in his heart, his faith is strong. Ibi and I wanted people to know that when you find yourself in so-called dark places, there’s always a light somewhere in the darkness, even if that light is inside of you. You can illuminate your own darkness by shedding that light onto the world.”

I have said it before, and I will repeat it: there are so many amazing YA authors writing now. They honor teens as thoughtful, intelligent readers who care about complex issues and ideas– Punching the Air is no exception. If you have a young adult reader in your life, add this to their to be read pile. Then, read it with them.


Book Snap #95


Title: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Author: Mariel Barbery

Date Read: January 17, 2021

Two snaps.

Always take second chances. This was a novel that got reshelved a long time ago, when I couldn’t see it’s pure loveliness. When I got to the bottom of the books on my nightstand I went searching for abandoned soldiers and uncovered The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

Twelve year-old Paloma simply crushed my heart with her Profound Thoughts 1 through 15, and a final One Last Profound Thought in which she wrestles with her decision to end her life on her thirteenth birthday, having deciding firmly that life is nothing more than a miserable act of futility.

Renee, the frumpy, plump, widowed, concierge is put upon and dismissed out of hand by the inhabitants of the posh five-floor apartment building in the heart of Paris. Exchanges with each of the apartment dwellers serve only to reaffirm what Renee knows; they cannot detect her intelligence, for it doesn’t seem plausible to them. Carelessly, she slips a few clues to her love and keen knowledge of art, philosophy , and music– and Paloma sees her for who she really is, a kindred spirit.

When the arrogant food-critic from the top floor dies, everyone is suprised that the widow is selling, no one has sold an apartment in the 27 years Renee has been in their employ. The new owner is a kind, elegant, Japanese man in his sixties named Kakuro Ozu.

Renee’s expansive reading diet is complimented by an impressive catalogue of Japanese films– in particular ones by a director called Ozu. “Monsieur Ozu. Could it be that I am in the middle of some insane dream crafted with suspenseful, Machiavellian twists of plot, a flood of coincidences, and a denoument where the heroine awakes in the morning with an obese cat on her feet and the static of the morning radio in her ears?” (Barbery, 138).

What unfolds is a delightful and vulnerable unmasking of both Paloma and Renee. Barbery unspools their knots through beautiful prose, translated from her original French, into short and delightful meditative essays back and forth between the two heroines.

I loved every minute with this book, this time. I am so glad I gave it a second chance.

This is a novel that celebrates the gut feeling, the inspired moment when life changes forever because of a gesture, a laugh, a step off the pavement, or even a glimpse of a beautiful flower. A warning, though: This story, like all great tales, will break your heart, but it will also make you realize — or remember– that sometimes the pain is worth it, that there’s also enough beauty in the world, but only if you see beyond yourself.

Book Snap #94


Title: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Author: Heather Morris

Date Read: December 30, 2020

Two snaps.

There are tattoos that people decide to get because they hold meaning to them. There are also tattoos imprinted on people without their consent. Their meaning is beyond the ink that is crudely etched on their skin; lasting reminders of hate.

Martin Luther King Jr., said that: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This is a story of love that vanquished the darkness.

The atrocities of the Nazis during the second World War are innumerable. Reading this book in the current political climate surrounding us in the United States, it also illuminates the use of dehumanization in the name of hate. Dehumanization is a mental loophole that lets us harm other people; it was present when the Nazis convinced the political soldiers (SS) to conduct unethical medical experiments; physical and mental torture; and worst of all, mass genocide. How we judge others and make inferences about them is fundamentally a social process. Dehumanization is the same tool Trump used throughout his presidency to explain away treatment of immigrants; banning of Muslim travellers; his misyoginst remarks about women; or just a general mailgning of anyone in opposition to him.

The Tattooist at the heart of this story saw the human person in everyone he encountered. Tasked with placing an identifying tattoo at prisoners arriving in Auschwitz, he tried to be as gentle as he could and when his job brought him priviledges, he shared them with the friends he had made in the camp. He falls in love helping a young woman in the camp– and theirs is a remarkable love story that champions against all odds.

Book Snap #93


Title: Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life

Author: Christie Tate

Date Read: December 27, 2020

One and a half snaps.

It is a trope in several films you have likely seen. Pan by the long table with donuts and black tar coffee poured from a large silver urn into small white styrofoam cups; move toward the middle of a large, nondescript room– an abandoned classroom or a large hall in the basement of a church… land on a circle of chairs in the middle. This is group therapy. It is also the central setting of Christie Tate’s memoir: Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life.

Tate’s invitation to her own personal experiences with years of group therapy, under the direction of Chicago’s Joseph Rosen, is unadulterated and unashamedly honest. Tate was a top-of-her-class lawyer and workaholic that just could not seem to get her personal life in order. Dr. Rosen promises healing from several hours of weekly group meetings. Christie is skeptical, insisting that that she is defective, beyond cure. But Dr. Rosen issues a nine-word prescription that will change everything: “You don’t need a cure. You need a witness.” She has witnesses in the circle, but each reader adds to those who will attest to her unravelling and the miraculous arc of her healing journey.

We do bear witness to Chrsitie’s bulimia, her childhood sexual trauma, her relationship disasters, and sex that makes her feel bereft and dirty. The group has no rules around disclosure or fraternizing with others from group. Indeed, we find out that Tate had an affair with a married man from group– a relationship she subsequently points to as evidence that Dr. Rosen is not helping her as he promised. But Rosen’s aloofness, his quirky prescriptions, and the weight of the group puts Christie right again.

Christie Tate is a writer and essayist. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Pithead Chapel, McSweeney’s, Motherwell, Entropy Magazine, A Perfect Wedding, Together.com, Brain, Child and others. Now married and a mother of two (see Epilogue in Group), she wrote a viral essay about her daughter asking her to stop writing about her on the internet. Read it here.