Hello All! We’re all the way to the middle of May, and it’s flown by! Although we spend a whole lot of our time reading children’s literature, we have some favorite books for adult readers as well! As educators, we especially enjoy books that expand our knowledge about theoretical background behind our work on anti-bias and gender-neutral parenting and education. These books are standouts, packing a double punch of fascinating information and great writing!
Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference
Written by: Cordelia Fine
“Neurosexism promotes damaging, limiting, potentially self-fulfilling stereotypes. Three years ago, I discovered my son’s kindergarten teacher reading a book that claimed that his brain was incapable of forging the connection between emotion and language. And so I decided to write this book.”
“If we think we have left behind the cliché “Men think and women feel”, Fine persuades us to think again. Newer, shinier versions take hold every year: “The female brain is predominantly hard-wired for empathy. The male brain is predominantly hard-wired for understanding and building systems,” writes Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, while the neuroscientist Louann Brizendine describes a “female brain” and a “male brain” forever divided by their genetic destinies. Drawing on more sound but less high-profile research, Fine argues that most gender differences arise within social, cultural and personal environments that influence what hormones we produce and how our genes work.”
-Terri Apter, The Guardian
The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence
Written By: Rachel Simmons
“Shame is a virus that creates paralysis in its hosts. When you’re busy telling yourself what a bad person you are, you expend most of your energy obsessing over your self- not what you may have done wrong, not what you can do to fix it. For this reason, shame creates a moat around girls’ potential. It limits their ability or willingness to face challenges. It makes them want to be alone, isolating them from friends, their most important buffer against stress. Shame is therefore a major threat to girls’ resilience.”
“In this volume for parents of middle-school daughters, the author of Odd Girl Out observes that girls today still pressure themselves to conform to the old, narrow paradigm of a nice, people-pleasing, rule-following, even-tempered, socially acceptable good girl, shunning the image of a rebellious, proud, socially outré, in-charge, outspoken bad girl. To dispel the curse of the good girl, and despite using those familiar, easily misconstrued labels as a touchstone, Girls Leadership Institute founder Simmons offers instructive tales out of school and workshops, revealing that flawed communication rituals and fear of confrontation contribute equally to a girl’s belief that it is more important to be liked than to be an individual. In order to become a successful, well-adjusted “real girl,” she needs to know how to say no to peers, ask for what she needs and express what she thinks. In the second half of this book, parents will find concrete strategies and tools—confidence-building exercises that emphasize emotional intelligence, self-evaluations, q&a’s, scripts and lots of first-person stories—to help guide a girl’s growth into a young woman who can respect and listen to her inner voice, say what she feels and thinks, embrace her limits and present an authentic self to the world.”
Assata: An Autobiography
Written by: Assata Shakur, Angela Y. Davis Lennox S. Hinds
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
How did Shakur become a woman considered so dangerous by the US government that her name is ranked alongside members of Hezbollah? There is a $2m reward for information on her, unprecedented for an American citizen who maintains her innocence and has become a hip-hop cause célèbre, cited in songs by everyone from Public Enemy (Rebel Without A Pause) to Common (A Song for Assata). Undoubtedly, her relationship to Tupac– she was his step-aunt and godmother – has played a role. But it is only a small part of a story tangled in a series of criminal charges – which were variously dismissed, acquitted, or ruled mistrial – of violence, prison time, escape and political asylum in Cuba.
Life in the US in the 50s was tough if you weren’t white. The civil rights movement was slowly trying to undo centuries of damage and change government policy, but there is no doubt that as a black child born in the 1940s, Shakur’s life was permeated by racism in a way that seems almost unimaginable today. Born JoAnne Deborah Byron in Queens, New York, she moved with her grandparents from New York to Wilmington, North Carolina, to live in the house that her grandfather had grown up in. It was a time of segregation, of “Coloured Only” and “White Only” signs, and Jim Crow laws. As a result of the prejudice shown, Shakur’s grandparents drilled into her the idea of personal dignity. “I want that head held up high, and I don’t want you taking no mess from anybody, you understand? Don’t you let me hear about anybody walking over my grandbaby.”
-Bim Adewunmi, The Guardian
Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes
Written by: Christia Spears Brown
“That assumption—that labeling and sorting children based on gender doesn’t really matter as long as everyone is treated fairly—would hold true if children only paid attention to the more overt, obvious messages we adults send. If children only listened to our purposeful messages, parenting would be easy. Most (but not all) parents and teachers take great effort in treating their children fairly, regardless of gender. Parents don’t need to say to their daughters, “You probably won’t enjoy math” or say to their sons, “Real boys don’t play with dolls.” Most parents wouldn’t dream of saying these blatant stereotypes to their kids. But research has shown that when we label (and sort and color-code) by gender, children do notice. And it matters—children are learning whether you mean to be teaching them or not.”
Brown, associate professor of developmental psychology at the University of Kentucky and a Psychology Today blogger, has researched the impact of gender stereotypes on children and teens. Here, she presents her argument to parents, asserting that the differences between boys and girls are far less pronounced than the media and some other authors contend (most notably, Michael Gurian, whose Gurian Institute trains educators to approach the learning styles of boys and girls quite differently). Wading through and interpreting the gender studies, Brown concludes that the way boys and girls learn, play, verbalize, and think is far more similar than dissimilar, though some differences do exist; for instance, boys are more physically aggressive and their brains develop at a slightly slower pace than girls’. The mother of two girls, Brown urges parents to beware of studies that are flawed and overstated, and to place greater focus on the individual child. As Brown also explores her own feelings as a mother, she is not without humor, sharing for instance, a boy/girl pizza birthday party ambushed by the pizza maker’s unsolicited gender-based comments (“Boys always like pepperoni”). Though her anecdotes and observations can be amusing, Brown’s message is simultaneously a somber and far-reaching commentary on the ways that gender stereotyping needlessly limits and labels children.