60 Children's (& Young Adult) Books Written by, for, or about Native Americans

When I was white, it wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t intentional. It started because I was a square peg coveting circles. It started because I stuck out everywhere, even when I didn’t want the attention. Even when race and gender didn’t play a role, I just didn’t seem to belong anywhere.
I struggled to find connections and make real friends. I struggled to find people who cared about me and who liked the same things that I did. I went by Yvonne because it was less southern and seemed less stereotypically black than Anjeanette.
I loved old musicals and Audrey Hepburn. I wore faux pearls and French buns.
During tutoring last night, I asked my 3rd graders to compare the book we’re currently reading to one of their favorite chapter novels. They rattled off a list of texts I’ve never known, inspiring me to expand my pool of diverse writers and literature.
It’s a list I’ll keep adding to and revisiting again and again.
If you’re from a different continent or a different cultural tradition, I’d love to learn what books and authors resonate with you. What would you add?
60 Children’s Books Written by, for, or about Native Americans:
1. Malian’s Song by Marge Bruchac

2. Dreamcatcher by Audrey Osofsky

3. Crazy Horse’s Vision by Joseph Bruchac

4. Night of the Full Moon by Gloria Whelan

5. Jingle Dancer by Cynthia Leitich Smith

6. The Warriors by Joseph Bruchac

7. Eagle Song by Joseph Bruchac

8. Death of the Iron Horse by Paul Goble

9. Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears by Cornelia Cornelissen

10. Code-Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

11. Little You by Richard Van Camp

12. My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith

13. We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp

14. We All Count: A Book of Cree Numbers by Julie Flett

15. Zoe and the Fawn by Catherine Jameson

16. Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk

17. When We Were Alone by David Robertson

18. Mama, Do You Love Me by Barbara M. Joossen

19. Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

20. Hungry Johnny by Cheryl Kay Minnema

21. Powwow’s Coming by Linda Boyden

22. When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger

23. Sky Sisters by Jan Bourdeau Waboose

24. Wild Berries by Julie Flett

25. Kunu’s Basket: A Story from Indian Island by Lee DeCora Francis

26. Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness to Light by Tim Tingle

27. Greet the Dawn: The Lakota Way by S. D. Nelson

28. Rock and Roll Highway: The Robbie Robertson Story by Sebastian Robertson

29. Baby Learns About Colors by Beverly Blacksheep

30. The Path of the Quiet Elk: A Native American Alphabet by Virginia A. Stroud

31. Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story by S.D. Nelson

32. The Star People: A Lakota Story by S.D. Nelson

33. The Apple Tree by Sandy Tharp-Thee

34. The Blue Roses by Linda Boyden

35. Shi-Shi-Etko/ Shin-Chi’s Canoe by Nicola Campbell

36. When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan Fenton

37. Dragonfly Kites by Tomson Highway

38. Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan Fenton

39. Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom by Tim Tingle

40. Hawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson

41. In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall

42. Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin

43. The Good Luck Cat by Joy Harjo

44. Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell

45. No Time to Say Goodbye: Children’s Stories of Kuper Island Residential School by Sylvia Olsen, Rita Morris, and Ann Sam

46. The Journal of Jesse Smoke: A Cherokee Boy by Joseph Bruchac

47. My Name is Seepeetza by Shirley Sterling

48. As Long As the River Flows by Larry Loyie and Constance Brissenden

49. Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story by The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

50. The Good Rainbow Road: A Native American Tale by Simon J. Ortiz

51. The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp

52. The Night Wanderer by Drew Hayden Taylor

53. Blue Horses Rush In: Poems & Stories by Luci Tapahonso

54. Men on the Moon: Collected Short Stories by Simon J. Ortiz

55. One Good Story, That One by Thomas King

56. Waterlily by Ella C. Deloria

57. Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today by Lori Marie Carlson (ed.)

58. Night Flying Woman: An Ojigway Narrative by Ignatia Broker

59. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

60. Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices by Lisa Charleyboy & Mary Beth Leatherdale (eds.)

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Who are your favorite authors? What other titles do you recommend? 

80 Children's Books Written by, about, or for African-American, Muslim, or Multi-Racial Families

She chose her words carefully, but purposely. We were a diverse bunch. There were visitors from Australia who worked with refugees and undocumented immigrants there. There were accountants, VPs, Directors, Chancellors, case managers, teachers, and social workers. More than 200 of us were in attendance, many with a recently changed citizenship status ourselves. Many were bilingual, bi-cultural, or biracial.
“This isn’t about what side of the tracks you come from or on what side of the ocean you were raised. This isn’t about race, religion, or creed. I truly believe there are two groups of people. Two distinct worldviews, two distinct camps. You either believe, truly believe, that there is enough to go around, or you don’t. You believe there is enough opportunity, enough wealth, enough freedom, enough love, or you don’t. You either believe there is enough for everyone, or you don’t.
This week I was on the hunt for some late birthday-slash-holiday gifts for a few out-of-state friends.
wedding
Since most of them are recent (or soon-to-be) mothers, I scoured the web for the best gift of all: books!
By, for, or about African-Americans:
1. I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia
2. Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen & Kadir Nelson
3. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
4. The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
5. I Love Me by Carol M. Williams and Carol Ada
6. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson
7. Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier
8. The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy
9. Kevin’s Kwanzaa by Lisa Bullard
10. Jamaica’s Find by Juanita Harill and Anne Sibley O’Brien
11. Catching the Moon by Crystal Hubbard
12. Grandfather and I by Helen Buckley and Jan Ormerod
13. I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo
14. The Buffalo Soldier by Sherry Garland and Ronald Himler
15. Nikki and Deja: Birthday Blues by Karen English and Laura Freeman
16. The Day Gogo Went to Vote by Elinor Batezat and Sharon Wilson
17. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
18. Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis
19. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe
20. Of Thee I Sing: A Letter for My Daughters by Barack Obama
21. Summer Jackson: Grown Up by Teresa E. Harris
22. Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats
23. Summer Sun Risin’ by W. Nikola-Lisa
24. Aunt Flossie’s Hats (and Crab Cakes Later) by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard
25. Do Like Kyla by Angela Johnson
26. Come on, Rain! by Karen Hesse
27. Let It Shine by Andrea Davis Pinkney
28. Eight Days A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat
29. Ziggy & the Black Dinosaurs Lost in Tunnel of Time by Sharon M. Draper
30. Welcome, Precious by Nikki Grimes
By, for, or about Muslim Families:
31. Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya
32. One Green Apple by Eve Bunting
33. Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane and Hoda Hadadi
34. Nabeel’s New Pants: An Eid Tale retold by Fawzia Gilani-Williams
35. My Father’s Shop by Satomi Ichikawa
36. Golden Domes & Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan
37. Night of Moon by Hena Khan
38. Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan
39. I’m New Here by Ann Sibley O’Brien
40. Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed
41. The Librarian of Basra: A Tue Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter
42. King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan
43. The Sky of Afghanistan by Ana A de Eulate
44. The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Saved Jews During the Holocaust by Karen Gray Ruelle
45. Under the Ramadan Moon by Sylvia Whitman
46. Snow in Jerusalem by Deborah da Costa
47. The Best Eid Ever by Mobin-Uddin Asma
48. My Name Was Hussien by Hristo Kyuchukov
49. The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan
50. I See the Sun in Afghanistan by Dedie King
51. My Name is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin
52. Never Say a Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain by Jacquelina Jules
53. The Olive Tree by Elsa Marstan
54. Sami and The Time of Troubles by Florence Parry Heide
55. The Stars in My Geddah’s Sky by Claire Sidhome Matze
56. Mirror by Jeannie Baker
57. The Silence in the Mountains by Liz Rosenberg
58. The Butler Man by Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou
59. The White Nights of Ramadan by Maha Addasi
60. The Boy & The Wall by Amal Bishara
By, for, or about Multi-Racial Families:
61. The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster
62. 15 Things Not To Do With a Baby by M.I. McAllister
63. Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown
64. A Wild Cowboy by Dana Kessimakis Smith
65. The Favorite Daughter by Allen Say
66. My Two Grannies by Floella Benjamin
67. My Two Granddads by Floella Benjamin
68. Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan
69. The Very Inappropriate Word by Jim Tobin
70. You Were the First by Patricia MacLachlan
71. More, More, More, Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams
72. Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
73. Grandfather Counts by Andrea Cheng
74. I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother by Selina Alko
75. Oscar’s Half Birthday by Bob Graham
76. Happy Hair by Mechal Renee Roe
77. A Welcome Song for Baby by Marsha Diane Arnold
78. Where’s Lenny by Ken Wilson-Max
79. Ten Tiny Tickles by Karen Katz
80. Marisol McDonald and The Clash Bash by Monica Brown
What are your favorite titles? What would you add? What would you remove? 

Free Online Courses

He showed up in a miniature Toyota. There was room to seat four comfortably, but we were seven. Four of us over 6 feet two, 240 plus. We argued about the radio; ducked down when we saw patrol cars. Made it to the beach right before dusk and safely back to the conference before dawn.
We’d traveled from Chicago to Florida for a PD conference.
The conference was strange. We walked away with goodie bags of questions. My presenter had taken classes with Einstein and had devised a lecture on understanding your purpose.
He spent more than an hour talking about Einstein and Einstein’s family. He said that Einstein’s mother was embarrassed by him and considered him a burden. Much of his work, his life, and his legacy was instigated by a desire to make his mother proud.
I spent much of the conference in a daze thinking about all the things I’d started but had never finished. I thought about all the books I’d bought, all the stories I’d written, all the memberships, all the clubs. I thought about all the things I’d simply just wanted to learn.
During the new year I always wax poetic about goals, progress, and change. Committed to a new year full of new expectation– new hope. Last month I was itching to go back to school again, so I did a little digging to find some FREE, online courses.
I’m anxious to get started! More to come.
1. Edx.org
EdX
2. Openculture.com
Open Culture
3. Class-Central.com
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4. Coursera.org
coursera.PNG
5. Khanacademy.org
khan academy
What inspires you to keep learning? What resources do you recommend? 

Day 1, Week 1: Year Two (Don't Stop Believin')

It was an elective. We could choose what we wanted, but two were required to graduate. The syllabus should have discouraged me, but there was a part of me buried deep down beneath the stunt double and the dancer who secretly wanted to perform.
I respected his commitment and his determination that we all understand and implement Uta Hagen.
I was discouraged by his quick temper, his intensity, and his theatricality.
He pulled his glasses away from his face abruptly and massaged the brim of his nose up towards his temples. “No, no, no, no, no!” He waved his hand away as if he was dismissing lukewarm tea.
“It won’t work that way. Not like that! Listen; think about how it feels BEFORE it happens.”
We blinked.
“In that moment you tell yourself to keep it together. You think: Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Just keep it together. Don’t cry. And that is the very moment when you break down.”
We nodded slowly.
“So you see, you can’t simply just tell yourself to cry– it’s quite the opposite. You have to pinpoint the moment, a very specific moment, where you did all you could to keep from crying. THAT is how you CRY.”
I held back the giggles but nodded in understanding with the rest of my classmates. We looked at each other with wide eyes and unmitigated amusement.
For all that my childishness kept me from learning, I understood him and I believed.
And if I learned nothing else in Acting 101 more than ten years ago, to this day, I can pinpoint a specific memory from a moment long since passed. No matter the time, the place, or the company, I can make myself cry.
During the holiday season I like to revisit goals I’ve already been revisiting. I think through the ones that have been successful and those I’ve failed to reach. I do this when I’m working towards a large project or a big goal that’s more than I can chew at once. I do this intentionally and strategically so that I can complete, progress, move forward, or learn.
On December 14, 2016, I wrote Day 1, Week 1. It was meant to shift my focus and to help me hold myself accountable. We mounted cork boards and posted stickies with goals.
I wanted to learn Spanish and to write everyday, no exceptions.
He wanted to create two video projects, one about biking through Houston and the other about creating his first coloring book.
On January 27, 2017, inspired by work-related performance evaluations, I created an entirely new set of SMART goals, unlike the first:
Research & Development

  1. Within eight weeks, I will complete draft 1 of my children’s book about dreamcatchers. (But first, I will figure out how to write said children’s book.) I changed the topic entirely, but I wrote about half of the story. More to come. 
  2. Within two months, I will complete cursory research on recidivism, immigration reform, the U.S. Department of Education, common core & standardized testing, environmental literacy, and important public health initiatives (for kicks & giggles). I bought some books on the education system and Common Core, but didn’t actually start reading them. 
  3. Within six weeks, I will finish reading two of the books I purchased this Christmas so I can learn more about education policy and grassroots organizing (and so I can stop being a slob). I didn’t start reading anything.

Health & Wellness

  1. Within two weeks I will commit to a more active, healthier lifestyle by exercising at least three days a week for at least 30 minutes each session. (Yeah, I need two weeks to commit to getting started.) I did start walking for about 30 minutes each day, but it’s due to sheer necessity and my new commute to work. 
  2. Starting in February, my sister and I will work out together at least twice a month. Right, T?! Didn’t happen. 
  3. By June this year, I will have joined a weekly volleyball league. Didn’t happen. 

Family & Relationships 

  1. I will coordinate Sunday dinners with my parents and sister’s family at least twice each month so that we can create new traditions and stay better connected. We have stayed more connected, but no family dinners to date. 
  2. Starting in February, I will visit my brother (who lives in Austin) every other month during the weekend. Right, Rod? Nope.
  3. Within the next eight months, Vern and I will complete at least one 5K together and will have created a regular practice of walking together at least 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes each walk. Right, V? Nope.

On May 25, 2017, dissatisfied with my ability to make headway on either set of goals, I scaled back and created simpler (presumably easier to achieve) goals:
Financial
Save $10,000 this year. (Which I’ve never successfully done.) Made it halfway. 
Invest $5,000 this year. (It’s my first week! I’ve invested $50 so far!) Didn’t quite have $500 to invest let alone $5,000. 
Relationships 
Spend time with family weekly and set regular dates for meeting up. SUCCESS! 
Professional 
Research and develop contextualized workforce curriculum. No longer needed, BUT I did start creating curriculum for an English Language Arts tutoring course (more on that later). 
Develop a solid network of colleagues for resource-sharing, recruitment of students, and exchange of best practices. Nope. 
Health/Wellness 
Drink more water. Eat less dairy. Exercise consistently. Nope. Sometimes. Nope.
Workin’ hard to get my fill
Everybody wants a thrill
Payin’ anything to roll the dice 
Just one more time
Some will win 
Some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on, and on, and on 

Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to that feelin’
Streetlight people, ooooohhhhhhhoooooooo (sorry, got carried away). 
Don’t stop believing.
Start again. Stop. Start over again. Keep starting.
Figure out a system that works well for you.
Lists? 
Organizing and sorting?
Reading?
Finding joy?

Figure out when you’ll decide and under what circumstances. 
Figure out what you might have to give up and what you won’t give up, no matter the circumstances. 
Figure out who you can lean on, who you can learn from, and who might simply just be in the way. 
Figure out whether you can do it on your own or if you need a friend. Or if you need a mentor. Or if you need a teacher. Or if you need a master teacher who can draw you out of yourself and teach you something that will stay with you for a lifetime. 
Set deadlines. Set schedules. Set your watch by it. 
Don’t stop believing. 
What are your goals? How do you stay inspired day after day?

Poetry Is Not a Luxury: Readers' Delight

I knew the diner would be chilly so I wore an extra sweater and scarf. I liked the food there but I wasn’t particularly in the mood for it now. When the waitress came, I just ordered the same thing he did and waited somewhat unenthusiastically for the food to arrive.
The conversation was light but pleasant. There wasn’t a moment’s breath between us as we waited. When it finally came, I listened with interest as I sliced my pancakes into thin, even rectangles. I didn’t use butter and hardly enjoyed the syrup, but he paused for a moment midway through the slicing and shrugged away an irritated, familiar sigh.
“Why does it bother you so much?”
He looked up again and shrugged. “The way you eat pancakes? Why do you have to cut them in little squares like that? Why can’t you just eat them? It’s just so…”
He hesitated, debating whether to continue or to change the subject.
“It’s just so… well, it’s just kind of childish.”
I have to break things into parts before I can digest them.
I do the same thing with tortilla chips except I use my fingers instead of knives.
I do the same thing with books, with new information, and with chores.
I do this when I’m anxious, nervous, worried, scared, but especially when I’m angry.
I do this when I’m working towards a large project or a big goal that’s more than I can chew at once. I do this intentionally and strategically so that I can complete, progress, move forward, or learn.
During the holiday season I like to revisit goals I’ve already been revisiting. I think through the ones that have been successful and those I’ve failed to reach.
I want to read more!
I want to read the way I did when I was little, back when reading was Christmas. Back when its gifts stayed with me for more than a season.
I’m making a list (and checking it twice) of all the things I’d like to do, see, experience, and read next year (actually just the books. Listing that other stuff would be weird, right? I dunno).
THE BOOKS (in no particular order and with no particular preference):
 Books on Global Politics

  1. The Better Angels of Our Nature (by Steven Pinker)
  2. The Great Transformation (by Karl Polyani)
  3. Manias, Panics and Crashes (by Charles Kindleberger)
  4. Rules for the World (by Martha Finnemore and Michael Barnett)
  5. Nimo’s War, Emmar’s War (by Cynthia Enloe)
  6. Ruling the Void (by Peter Mair)
  7. Essence of Decision (by Graham Allison)
  8. Nations and Nationalism (by Ernst Gellner)
  9. The Anti-Politics Machine (by James Ferguson)
  10. Our Enemies and US (by Ido Oren)

Recommended by Neil deGrasse Tyson

  1. The System of the World (by Isaac Newton)
  2. On the Origin of Species (by Charles Darwin)
  3. Gulliver’s Travels (by Jonathan Swift)
  4. The Age of Reason (by Thomas Paine)
  5. The Wealth of Nations (by Adam Smith)
  6. The Art of War (by Sun Tzu)
  7. The Prince (by Machiavelli)

 Recommended by Barack Obama

  1. The Underground Railroad (by Colson Whitehead)
  2. Gilead (by Marilynne Robinson)
  3. The Three-Body Problem (by Liu Cixin)
  4. Song of Solomon (by Toni Morrison)
  5. A Bend in the River (by V.S. Naipaul)
  6. The Naked and the Dead (by Norman Mailer)
  7. One Hundred Years of Solitude (by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  8. The Golden Notebook (by Doris Lessing)
  9. The Woman Warrior (by Maxine Hong Kingston)
  10. Gone Girl (by Gillian Flynn)
  11. Fates & Furies (by Lauren Groff)

Recommended by Warren Buffett (more on that later) 

  1. The Intelligent Investor (by Benjamin Graham)
  2. Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street (by John Brooks)
  3. The Outsiders (by William Thorndike)
  4. Common Stocks & Uncommon Profits (by Philip A. Fisher)
  5. Where Are the Customers’ Yachts? (by Fred Schwed, Jr.)
  6. Essays in Persuasion (by John Maynard Keynes)
  7. Dream Big (by Cristiane Correa)
  8. Little Book of Common Sense Investing (by Jack Bogle)
  9. The Most Important Things Illuminated (by Howard Marks)
  10. Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises (by Timothy F. Geithner)

Recommended by Bill Gates

  1. Business Adventures (by John Brooks)
  2. Tap Dancing to Work (by Carol Loomis)
  3. Life Is What You Make It (by Peter Buffett)
  4. Awakening Joy (by James Baraz)
  5. Where Good Ideas Come From (by Steven Johnson)
  6. Moonwalking with Einstein (by Joshua Foer)
  7. Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (by Richard Arum & Josipa Roksa)
  8. That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented & How We Can Come Back (by Thomas L. Friedman & Michael Mandelbaum)
  9. Deng Xiaoping (by Ezra F. Vogel)
  10. The Most Powerful Idea in the World (by William Rosen)

 Recommended by Ta-Nehisi Coates

  1. The Fire Next Time in Collected Essays (by James Baldwin)
  2. The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life, His Own (by David Carr)
  3. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (by Edward E. Baptist)
  4. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Era of the Civil War (by James McPherson)
  5. Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 (by Arnold R. Hirsch)
  6. Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America (by Beryl Satter)
  7. Confederate States of America – Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union (from Avalon Project, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School)
  8. Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court nomination That Changed America (by Wil Haygood)
  9. American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (by Edmund S. Morgan)
  10. Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life (by Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields)
  11. When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America (by Paula Giddings)
  12. Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign against Lynching (by Paula J. Giddings)
  13. Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household (by Thavolia Glymph)

Recommended by Elon Musk

  1. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (by Walter Isaacson)
  2. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman (by Robert K. Massie)
  3. Einstein: His Life & Universe (by Walter Isaacson)
  4. Howard Hughes: His Life & Madness (by Donald L. Barlett & James B. Steele)
  5. Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants (by John D. Clark)
  6. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (by Naomi Oreskes & Erik M. Conway)
  7. Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down (by J.E. Gordon)
  8. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (by Nick Bostrom)
  9. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (by Peter Thiel)

What are yours?

6 Things You Should Know Before You Get Married

I wasn’t sure if I believed in marriage.
It was antiquated.
It was oppressive.
It was rooted in the myth of female subjectivity. Rooted in a historical legacy of woman as property: capable of, needing to be, and wanting to be owned.
It was the aspiration of overzealous evangelicals, cloaked in insincere holiness, in inauthentic purity, and in short-lived obedience to God.
I was sophisticated and metropolitan and agnostic (Whew! Lol, right?!).
He drank beet shakes for breakfast. Believed in sustainability and longevity.
That children needed more books, long walks, and more water.
That grown-ups needed more books, long walks, and more water.
But love is not a marriage.
There are things we must know, things we must understand, before we say I do.
love

1. Figure out how you feel about power.

I’m not too interested in my own power, but I care very much about the temperament, vision, and wisdom of the person in charge. I can lead, but I often prefer to observe and follow. I don’t support hierarchical systems, but I understand their potential for efficiency.
Power makes me nervous.
People who perceive themselves as powerful make me uncomfortable.
What’s your definition of power?
What does it mean to be powerful? Is it important that you and your partner perceive yourselves as powerful? Is it important that you and your partner aspire for power?
If power is your goal, what sacrifices are you willing to make in order to get it? What won’t you sacrifice for power? What won’t you give up?
Does political power and community leadership matter to you? How important is it that you share the same political beliefs, party affiliation, or political values as your partner? How important is it to you to aspire for a network of politically-connected peers, colleagues, and associates?
What does it mean to have power in your home?
Who is in charge, if anyone?
Does it depend on the situation? Does it depend on the mood? Does it depend on who has the most expertise or experience? Is there no variance? Is it wrong to think in terms of “in charge”?
How important should power be to your children? How important is it that your children know who has power in your home?

2. Figure out how you feel about money.

How will you manage it? How will you use it? How much is enough? How much is too much?
Who should manage it? Will you manage it together? Does it matter who makes it? Should you earn more as you get older, or will what you have now always be enough?
Should you combine your finances or keep them separate? Should you invest together, or make your choices? Who will save for retirement?
Should you keep track of who makes what and who spends what? Should you keep score?

3. Figure out how you feel about difference.

It was an eclectic school with all new staff. The parents were weary, but open-minded. When she asked to visit the class, I was hesitant. I’d worked hard to make progress, but found myself floundering to truly reach her son.
There were tears in her eyes as she started, and I waited for the ball to drop. “He wanted a boy. We loved our other children so much, but he wanted a boy.
When Michael was born, he was so excited. It changed our marriage; it changed our relationship. We didn’t notice anything at first, but when it was finally confirmed, we felt like we’d lost him for good. We just couldn’t raise an autistic child, not together.”
What does it mean to be different?
Do you share the same views, the same response, to difference?

4. Figure out how you feel about faith.

What does it mean to be faithful?
Can faith exist without religion? Can faith exist without God?
Is your faith connected to religion? How might your partner respond if you lose your faith? How would you change if you lost your own?
How important is it for your partner to share your religious beliefs? Is it important that they are just as religious as you? How important is it that your children share your beliefs?
If you lose your faith, can your marriage survive?

5. Figure out how you feel about change.

I’d known him mostly through letters. We both loved languages and writing. He was a few years my senior and was anxious about getting older.
The conversation was light, but he wanted to go deeper. “I take vitamins. Supplements too. Really anything to slow it down.” I smiled politely, but wanted to understand, “To slow what down?”
“Aging. I’m scared to death of getting old. I’d do anything to stop it.”
Figure out how you feel about change.

6. Figure out how you feel about anger.

When I was younger, I didn’t pay too much attention to anger. I was southern. Born and bred on sweet tea, Texas toast, and respectability. Children didn’t have a right to be angry.
Anger was impolite and impoliteness wasn’t tolerated.
As I grew older, I grew ashamed of my anger. Women didn’t have a right to be angry. Anger was impolite and impoliteness wasn’t feminine.
I’m a peacemaker at heart, but anger is useful. Anger is important. It’s a lesson I learned much too late. We can learn from anger; we can grow from it.
We can use it to change our lives.
Figure out how you feel about anger.

Love is not a marriage.

It’s sky rockets in flight.
But marriage, I imagine, is planting a tree while building a house while untangling the roots while creating a garden while watching the seasons change and the plants bloom and die and bloom and die, but choosing to water, replant, and prune every week, every month, every year, every day, over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Day 2, Week 43: Find the Bottom

I almost drowned during volleyball practice in high school. I can’t remember if it was junior or senior year, but I remember how it started.
We had a new coach that year, one who loved workouts and weight training. Partly because we were young and partly because we were lazy, her presence wasn’t a welcome change.
She took us to the natatorium one day and assigned plyometrics.
I complained because I was lazy.
I complained because I was scared. I didn’t know how to swim.
We stayed in the shallow end in waters less than my height or shorter. We skipped, we hopped, we lunged. We did high knees and jumped imaginary rope.
It was our first workout in the water so we were giddy, albeit annoyed.
It was the high knees that did it.
I lost my footing on the fourth or fifth knee raise and went plummeting dramatically under the water.
Time stood still. I closed my eyes at first, flailing without abandon. My inner narration was remarkably reasonable and calm. She talked to me like a friend would, relaxed and comforting: “You’re okay, just put your feet down. It’s not too deep here. You can stand up. Just put your feet down. Find your footing. Stand up. You can do it. Just stand up.”
I nodded to inner me, but I couldn’t stop flailing. I kicked and shouted imaginary screams, but Superman wasn’t coming.
When I couldn’t find the ground, the panic started to set in. I could see my teammates laughing and pointing. I could hear them cheering, almost chanting—“Stand up! Stand up! Find the bottom. Find the bottom!”
I didn’t have the freedom to be angry. Inner calm subsided and there was only the fear of death and dying. There was only the horror of drowning slowly while watching friends watch me drown. Watching friends watch and wait for me to find the bottom and pick myself up.
Save tonight.
It must have been seconds, but it felt like years. When she pulled me out I was shivering, but not from the cold. All giddiness had subsided, but the echo stayed with me, “Find the bottom. Find the bottom.”
Find the bottom.
Sometimes the bottom is the beginning. It’s just the point or the place where you started. It’s the point of origin. It’s the focal point. It’s the center point. It’s home base where everyone and everything must return.
Sometimes the bottom is the top. It’s the peak. It’s the pinnacle. It’s the mount. It’s the point at which everything you need and everything you want can and will finally be actualized. It’s the point where you can say that everything up to this point has served its purpose. Everything up to this point was needed and was necessary and was an integral part of the story. Everything I’ve lost and everything I’ve given up were for this life-changing moment.
Sometimes the bottom is the bottom. It’s where the rock is. It’s the point at which you can go no lower, sink no further. You can endure or you can suffer no more. It’s the point where your anger overwhelms your fear, and for the first (in only a few moments) you know that you are capable of absolutely anything.
Find the bottom.
Determine whether it’s the bottom or the top. Decide whether this moment will be the one that changes you. Find the freedom to be angry, but don’t waste it on small battles.
Don’t waste it on small victories.
Don’t waste it on people who wish that you were smaller.
Don’t waste it on journeys that don’t cause growth or bear fruit.
Don’t bury it where it will sprout up inside of you.
Find the bottom.
Rose
1. I received some unexpected news and some unexpected intervention that was nothing short of divine.
2. We celebrated my niece’s 7th birthday yesterday. She did my make-up and polished my nails so I wouldn’t “look so old.
Bud
1. We finally started to talk about money.
Thorn
1. Pride and prejudice. 45.
2. Healthcare reform and failing to help Puerto Rico.
3. Loss.

Sometimes They Come Back

I was six when my grandmother passed away, so I don’t remember much about her. What I can piece together is vague and, because of its lack of specificity, unsatisfying.
I know that she had a large family and that she was one of just a few girls in a house dominated by brothers. I know that she had thick, coarse, black hair that contrasted against the lightness of her skin. I know that she had two children: my father and his sister.
I don’t remember the color of her eyes, but I can look back at old photographs. I don’t remember her height, but I imagine that she must have been shorter than my father.
When I was a baby we visited her house constantly. I don’t remember the colors or the smells, or even who might have lived there with her.
I know that she was well-loved and that her death, early on in her 50s, was unexpected; and because it was unexpected, tragic.
Out of the four, she was the only grandparent I could know. My mother’s  mother died when my mother was young, and I didn’t know my parents’ fathers.
Because I was six, I didn’t understand grief or mourning. I knew that my father—who was always a quiet man of little expression—seemed sullen and sadder than I had ever known. I knew that my sister, who was almost 9, was affected too because Grandma was her favorite.
She started asking a lot of questions about her once she was gone, but there was little space for answers in a house of mourning.
Because we were six and almost nine, my father, who married my mother as a teen, must have been in his late 20s, a year or so shy of 30.
We were ill-equipped to console him, but I carry that memory with me.

  1. The memory of abrupt and sudden loss.
  2. The memory of youth and the inconvenience of it.
  3. The memory of the ways death and dying can bring the living closer.

When I was eight, we moved to a different house in a different neighborhood. The move was insignificant and anti-climactic, but the neighbors—an elderly, affectionate couple—were eccentric and warned us about benign but consistent spirits.
Sometimes they come back.
My asthma medication made me stocky. Any time I’d catch a cold it would trigger my asthma, and I’d find myself struggling to breathe. I remember taking slow, measured steps throughout the house, counting the rhythm against the pace of my breathing.
The neighbors who could sense my struggle, urged my mother to draw a horizontal line on the wall near the doorframe right above my head– to indicate my height. When I passed the line, I would grow out of my asthma.
My mother smiled politely and laughed nervously. Although she was skeptical, as soon as they left she grabbed a Sharpie and ushered me towards the door.
The strangeness that came later was subtle.
Although I’d taken my inhaler for years (and had a larger, bulkier, light blue, breathing treatment for near misses), I started to see a big purple haze whenever I used it.
The purple haze made me feel like I was floating above everyone, and I didn’t like it. Whenever I could get away with it, I’d pretend that I couldn’t find it.
I expected the lights to flicker or the doors to slam suddenly and dramatically, but there was none of that. What happened was much simpler. What happened seemed to not really happen at all.
Sometimes my sister would pile all the clean clothes up on her bed as high as she could pile them. Then she’d squeeze in tight and drift peacefully off to sleep. The first time it happened my dad froze in the doorway. He was silent, but I could tell he was affected.
When she woke later, he asked if she’d slept that way because she missed Grandma. No one understood what he meant.
We spent most of our days as kids do—creating problems, building fake sand castles, and dreaming elaborate dreams.
My mother says that my sister is just like our father’s mother. She shares her softness and her heaviness and her subtlety. She has her mannerisms and her temperament and her punctuality.
When she passed away, we always felt that she needed more time with us and more time with my father.
In our haunted house, it seemed like she was far from gone and very, very near.
Sometimes they come back.
Sometimes they come back in order to be near us. To assuage our fears and put our hearts at ease.
Sometimes, it’s to remind us that their memory lives on and that we can never truly lose them.
Sometimes, it’s to teach us something we’ve lost, or something we’ve forgotten, or something that we’re capable of but haven’t fully actualized.
Sometimes we imagine that they’ve returned. We are young or scared or overwhelmed by grief. We make ourselves see them in friends we love or friends we loathe or lovers not yet borne.
We imagine that they are with us always, because if they are gone, we will lose ourselves completely.
I grew out of my asthma a few years after college.
In grade school, I was hospitalized frequently and consistently. Three inhalers were always available, one as back up not too far behind.
After college, the first time I got sick but didn’t need my inhaler, I called my mother excitedly from Chicago. I reminded her of the little house in that quiet neighborhood back when I was eight, “I grew past the line! I grew past the line!”
She couldn’t place the reference at first, but then light but nervous laughter, “The one that was haunted by your grandmother?”
Sometimes we don’t imagine them because we are so desperate to believe.
Sometimes, they come back.

Save Tonight

Back in February I flew to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t afford the trip, but honored to be a bridesmaid. I wouldn’t dare, couldn’t dare cancel– under any circumstances.
In the past few years the bride had become like a sister to me: an inspiration who never set limits on anything and who believed that anything could be overcome with patience, faith and good old-fashioned, hard work. I was honored to participate and excited for her marriage.
When I boarded the plane, I was frazzled. Although I’d picked the two most feasible sizes, my bridesmaid dress wouldn’t zip. On top of that I couldn’t afford more shoes, so I brought the only heels I had: thick, black, army-like ankle boots.
I took a window seat on the flight in the very last aisle of the last row– at the back on the right. I was in a hurry and wanted the least human interaction possible.
When the turbulence started, my heart fluttered. I put my scarf over my face and tried to sleep, but the rattling was overbearing and persistent. The plane shook left a few times then shuttered to the right. I could feel my chest tighten, so I grabbed a book and started flipping through. It took a few pages to calm my nerves, but the swaying was so pronounced and clear that the couple up ahead gasped in fear, and the woman to my left (who’d previously declined my hello) grabbed and held my hand.
We looked at each other with such fear and panic, and neither of us let go until the plane had almost landed. We said nothing but breathed heavily through our fear.
When the plane landed it hit the ground with such ferocity that we thought it would explode on impact. Some of us shrieked, and when the fasten seatbelt sign dimmed, we removed our belts, grabbed our chests, and exhaled (to each other, and to ourselves) in unison. We knew, without questioning, that it very well could have been our last flight.
For those like me who were spared by Harvey, there’s a collective sense of grief and shame. We’re embarrassed, but grateful. We feel a collective responsibility to feed, shelter, and contribute, but a keen awareness that many of our friends and families have lost everything.
We understand our privilege, and we are ashamed.
Since it landed, I’ve called my mother everyday. I’ve checked in with my sister and her family constantly. When I ate breakfast this morning, I thought about not having access to food, or not having enough food for my family. I thought about being scared to drink the water, and not knowing when, where, or if my next meal would come.
Today, and everyday since it landed, everything was significant. Everything was important. Everything was sacred. I was overwhelmed by the desire not to be wasteful. Not to waste anything: a scrap of paper, an inch of bread, an ounce of time.
Save tonight.
Do what you can to show your appreciation for what you have and who’s helped you acquire it.
Use your anger in meaningful and significant ways. Don’t waste it on small battles. Don’t waste it on small victories. Don’t waste it on people who wish that you were smaller.
Don’t waste it on struggles that don’t cause growth or bear fruit. Don’t waste it or bury it where it will sprout up inside of you.
Save tonight. Value it. Treasure it. Use it. Keep it in the place you have for keeping.
Call on it when you need its memory to save you.

Black On Both Sides

When I was white, it wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t intentional. It started because I was a square peg coveting circles. It started because I stuck out everywhere, even when I didn’t want the attention. Even when race and gender didn’t play a role. I just didn’t seem to belong anywhere.
About seven years ago the Ensemble Theater introduced “The Ballad of Emmett Till” in Houston. It was a work of musical theater meant to share the story of his life. I wouldn’t have known about it, except that there is a picture of the playbill that hangs in a frame on the wall of the museum.
I started volunteering there because I wanted to learn more about art, and I wanted to meet other people. While I was sitting at the front desk today, a family came in. The parents wandered over to Faith Ringgold’s exhibition while the boy wandered over to the picture on the wall—captivated by Till’s beaming face—a young black boy, similar in age and appearance.
He was excited to see a picture of someone his age who looked so much like him, so he ran over to his father to share the news. “Look! Who is that? Is he famous? What did he do?”
I winced, but turned my head– pretending to refold shirts that sat comfortably on the shelves. But the father, unfazed and unfettered, looked him squarely in the eyes. Without malice, shame, or horror he retold the story of Emmett Till.
I winced again in secret, feeling an old, familiar, deeply rooted pain.
Why are these the stories of our children?
Why does our desire to tell the truth to our children create sadness and fear and harm?  Is it better that we keep this trauma hidden, at least to a certain age?
My lord.
When I was white, it wasn’t on purpose. It wasn’t intentional. It started because I was a square peg coveting circles. I wanted what they had.
It started because I stuck out everywhere, even when I didn’t want the attention. Even when race and gender didn’t play a role. I just didn’t seem to belong anywhere.
I struggled to find connections and make real friendships. I struggled to find people who cared about me and cared about the things I was interested in.
For the first few years, I didn’t know that I was white. I was colorblind and compassionate. If you had asked me, I would’ve said something like race doesn’t matter, or that race isn’t real.
We all struggle. We all suffer. We all set out to carve our own path.
In the last few years that I was white, I was sullen and bitter. I was angry because of the boxes I was put in. It wasn’t my fault that the things I enjoyed were already assigned to a white majority. People needed to be more open-minded and less-bigoted.
When I was white, I subscribed to a few truths I held self-evident. I believed them to be both universal and unequivocal.

  1. I believed that we all sunk or swam by our own merit. I am the captain of my ship. I am the master of my sail.
  2. I believed that we all should be held accountable for our choices.
  3. I believed that if we failed to launch—we only had ourselves to blame. Poverty came from a lack of ingenuity and a failure to make good choices.

I loved Keifer Sutherland and Robin Williams. I aspired to attend USC and to play beach volleyball professionally. I loved penny loafers and Clueless and idolized Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King.
I preferred my hair blond and curly. I critiqued the way people mispronounced words. I mocked their intonation.
I went by Yvonne because it seemed less ethnic, less southern, and less stereotypically black than Anjeanette.
Jonathan Taylor Thomas was one of my favorites. Hanson’s Weird was on repeat. I studied Latin in high school and again in college, and I opted to attend a predominately white institution for undergrad. And again for grad school. And again for grad school. And again for grad school (the struggle).
I loved old musicals and Audrey Hepburn. I wore faux pearls and French buns.
I didn’t aspire for whiteness as a pathway to perceived security or luxury. I was just a square peg coveting circles.
I don’t mean to imply that being white is problematic. Race is a social construction, which means it was made up. I also don’t mean to imply that other cultural groups can’t enjoy and experience whatever they’d like, cultural appropriation aside (more on that later).
But it is a problem, as a by-product of our location and time, to choose whiteness and idolize it for the sake of economic gain. Worse still, just to have what we perceive would be an easier, simpler, and more comfortable life.
Becoming black again was long and arduous, but in ways I never imagined it would be, it was easier. I found her inside myself, and I loved her. I loved her fiercely.
When my niece was born so many memories came flooding back—so many decisions I made for the sake of a separate peace and a simple life.
I worried (in advance) for her livelihood. I worried (in advance) for her heart.
I didn’t want her to have the same questions I had, to have the same insecurities. I wanted her to know and believe that she was loved unequivocally: completely and without conditions. Regardless of who she might become. Regardless of what she might do or say. Regardless of what she might worship or who she might choose to love or how she might choose to express her identity.
I wanted her to feel complete and whole and powerful. Capable of anything and everything she could dream. Not bound by a need or by an expectation to look a certain way, sound a certain way, dance a certain way, cook a certain way, worship a certain way, or love a certain way.
Not bound by an expectation of how much she should weigh. Not bound by the idea that black people aren’t supposed to be smart, or that women aren’t good at Math or Science. Or that a woman’s purpose is to be a helpmate for her husband.
When I was white, it wasn’t on purpose. I was a square peg coveting circles.
Not because they were circles and I disliked being square, but because there was a noticeable difference in their lives. There was a different expectation for their families and their children. There was a different expectation for their wealth, motivation, and drive. Different expectations and belief in their capacity and willingness to be good people, upstanding citizens, voters, caretakers, stewards, and lovers. Leaders and thinkers and visionaries and romantic leads in the most popular romantic comedy.
There was a different expectation of their ability to be human.
I didn’t become white on purpose.
But becoming black on both sides again has been an awakening, a rebirth, a reconciliation. A Women of Brewster Place brick by brick by brick homecoming.
I am home.