Editor-in-Chief Kayleigh Thesenvitz weighs in with three nonfiction books to read if you’re curious about female empowerment, global warming or poverty.
If you’re curious about Native American history and female empowerment:
“Cherokee Women in Crisis” by Carolyn Ross Johnston
The best way to introduce this book is to quote its opening sentence: “In February 1757, the great Cherokee leader Attakullakulla arrived in South Carolina to negotiate trade agreements with the governor and was shocked to find that no white women were present.”
Traditionally, Cherokee women were equal to Cherokee men in the home, culture and even in the politics of the tribe. Cherokee women were once sexually autonomous, dancing provocatively in public to meet men and marrying and divorcing at will. Women owned the homes. Women worked in the fields. One observer quoted in the book that he never saw a Cherokee man ever hit or even raise his voice at a woman.
The crux of the book is how removal on the Trail of Tears, the American Civil War and allotment of native lands profoundly impacted Cherokee society.
Throughout the century of genocide, Cherokee women suffered a serious blow to their power and influence.
Survival and the maintenance of culture has never been so hard-fought.
If you’re curious about human environmental impact beyond global warming:
“The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” by Elizabeth Kolbert
A Pulitzer Prize winner, “The Sixth Extinction” chronicles in painstakingly scientific and heartbreakingly dramatic detail how scientists across the globe are documenting the mass extinction of species happening right before our eyes.
Did you know that the Panamanian golden frog, which was once so prolific that it was a tourist attraction, has now been reduced to a less than 1,000 living in tanks in around the world? And none have been recorded in the wild since 2009?
It’s not just Panama. Frog and toad populations have crashed all over the world.
In 1844, a species of penguin called the great auk was wiped out in Iceland.
The human carbon dioxide output has increased ocean acidity by 30 percent since 1800, ruining marine life habitats.
These are only some of the extinctions humans are directly responsible for, and you can read more in this book.
If you’re curious about life in rural, poverty-stricken America:
“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” by J.D. Vance
You may have a different reading of this book than I did. For me, Vance’s description of his childhood in the Appalachian Mountains stuck out as a nearly perfect mirror to my own childhood and the lives of many of my closest friends growing up in rural Oklahoma.
This book was #1 on the “New York Times” bestseller list and was named by the “Times” as one of “6 books to help understand Trump’s win.”
If you have been so lucky as to never experience poverty, Vance’s searing personal account will bring incite. If, like me, you grew up in a single-parent trailer house with more step and half-siblings than fingers on your hands, it will move you to tears.
One of three main criticisms leveled at the book is the focus on the plight of white culture without acknowledging the much more long-lasting and systemic plight of black people.
The second criticism, leveled primarily by his fellow rust-belt Americans, is that he overgeneralizes, making everyone seem trashier than they actually are.
The third is best encapsulated in the 1-star Amazon review that says, “Self gratifying and narcissistic are the only words to describe J.D. Yance,” presumably because he spends the book talking about his own challenges and how he has overcome them.
To each of these criticisms I really have only one thing to say … it’s his personal memoir. He is entitled to tell his life story as he sees fit. I, for one, enjoyed it.