One Innovative Way to Talk About Diversity & Inclusion at Work

One Innovative Way to Talk About Diversity & Inclusion at Work

Navigating our differences in the workplace is not easy. Learning to recognize and appreciate our diversity is even harder – especially when employees have few outlets to display their true selves at work.

A Harvard Business Review piece published in March explored this very idea with black women in the workplace. “A lot of women told me that they code-switched,” wrote author Maura Cheeks, “which involves embracing the dominant culture or vernacular among certain groups (like co-workers, for example) and switching to a more authentic self when around friends and family.”

How can companies create space for colleagues to unmask and discuss their unique experiences and differences?

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Building Bridges Through Conversation

Building Bridges Through Conversation

At Books@Work, we believe in the transformative power of conversation. A good conversation offers “a hospitable environment for creative thought.” Interacting with each other on a deeper level helps to dismantle exclusionary cultures and biases. We all know it’s tough to have difficult conversations at work – but they are critical to conflict resolution and trust-building.

We use narratives – fiction, nonfiction, poems and plays – to kickstart these conversations. We write frequently about the benefits of these discussions. But what exactly does a conversation around a literary text look like in action?

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Reading Mindfully: Two American Poems in Conversation

Reading Mindfully: Two American Poems in Conversation

At Books@Work, we are daily witnesses to the power of conversation. As our own colleague Karen Nestor wrote earlier this year, good discussion is “an incubator for the kinds of innovative ideas that transform our lives” and allow us to reveal our truest selves. Walt Whitman once proclaimed in a poem, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” Conversation draws out the multitudes within us – and putting two texts into conversation can lead to even greater revelations.

In honor of Independence Day, we’re featuring two American poems in conversation: Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” and Langston Hughes’ poetic response “I, Too.” Whitman’s poem appeared in the iconic 1860 collection Leaves of Grass, and Hughes’ poem was published over 60 years later in The Weary Blues at the height of the Harlem Renaissance. Both poets provide their take on America. What does America mean to you?

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Reading Mindfully: Megan Gillespie’s “Cheers”

Reading Mindfully: Megan Gillespie’s “Cheers”

Our blog post earlier this week explored the intersection of poetry and business. Today, we’re thrilled to feature a poem by poet, educator and Books@Work facilitator Megan Gillespie. Megan is Pennsylvania’s 2018 Montgomery County Poet Laureate, and her work has appeared in The Florida Review, New Delta Review and Cimarron Review. Her honors include fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Millay Colony for the Arts and Lector Writer’s and Performance Art Residency.

She currently works as a writing coach for the Wharton Communication Program, where she prepares students for communication challenges they’ll face as future business leaders. She recently facilitated Books@Work sessions with a group of leaders and staff at a large manufacturing company. As you read Megan’s poem “Cheers,” consider why we are so eager to ascribe meaning and order to the world.

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Reading Mindfully: Dave Eggers’ “The Man at the River”

Reading Mindfully: Dave Eggers’ “The Man at the River”

Each month we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to consider your reactions to and assumptions about the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Grab a friend, family member or colleague to read, share and discuss together.

A prolific author of novels, nonfiction books, short stories, screenplays and more, Dave Eggers was raised in Lake Forest, Illinois. At age 21, he withdrew from college to care for his 8-year-old brother after losing both parents to cancer, events that are chronicled in his memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His narrative essay “The Man at the River” appeared in Granta Magazine and tells the story of an American tourist in Sudan who is faced with a choice when he’s asked to wade across a river.

As you read “The Man at the River,” consider the many ways we navigate cultural difference and barriers to understanding.

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Reading Mindfully: Bret Anthony Johnston’s “Encounters with Unexpected Animals”

Reading Mindfully: Bret Anthony Johnston’s “Encounters with Unexpected Animals”

Each month we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to challenge your assumptions about the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Grab a friend, family member or colleague to read, share and discuss together.

Director of the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas in Austin, Bret Anthony Johnston is the author of numerous award-winning short stories and nonfiction pieces. His “enthralling and skillful” debut novel Remember Me Like This was named a 2014 New York Times Notable Book of the Year. “Encounters with Unexpected Animals,” a portrait of a father at odds with his son’s girlfriend, was originally published in Esquire and later appeared in the 2013 Best American Short Stories anthology.

As you read Johnston’s story, consider the many forms of power and how they do – or do not – lead to a false sense of security.

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Reading Mindfully: Kirstin Valdez Quade’s “Jubilee”

Reading Mindfully: Kirstin Valdez Quade’s “Jubilee”

Each month we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to consider your reactions to and assumptions about the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Grab a friend, family member or colleague to read, share and discuss together.

Winner of the National Book Critics’ Circle’s 2016 John Leonard Prize, Kirstin Valdez Quade’s debut short story collection Night at the Fiestas explores complicated race and class dynamics, with characters who “protect, betray, wound, undermine, bolster, define, and, ultimately, save each other.” The New York Times called the collection, which includes today’s story “Jubilee,” a “legitimate masterpiece.” Quade’s other work has appeared in various literary magazines, and she is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at Stanford University.

In “Jubilee,” a young woman finds her biases toward her father’s boss and his family challenged. What does it take to change our minds about someone we’ve previously judged?

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Reading Mindfully: Imbolo Mbue’s “A Reversal”

Reading Mindfully: Imbolo Mbue’s “A Reversal”

Each month we offer you a chance to read mindfully, using literature to consider your reactions to and assumptions about the world in which we live and work. Through these short texts and accompanying questions, we hope to give you a small taste of Books@Work. Grab a friend, family member or colleague to read, share and discuss together.

An English-speaking native of predominantly French-speaking Limbe, Cameroon, acclaimed author Imbolo Mbue arrived in the United States at age 17. Her first novel Behold the Dreamers was published in 2016 and tells the story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York City just as the Great Recession hits. Earning wide critical praise, the novel won the PEN/Faulkner Award and was selected for Oprah Winfrey’s book club. O, the Oprah Magazine wrote that the book “challenges us all to consider what it takes to make us genuinely content, and how long is too long to live with our dreams deferred.” As you read Mbue’s short story “A Reversal,” consider how we determine where we belong.

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Reading Mindfully: Billy Collins’ “Genius”

Reading Mindfully: Billy Collins’ “Genius”

The writer John Updike praised the poems of Billy Collins as “limpid, gently startling. . . they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides.” Arguably the most popular American poet of the modern era, Collins served two terms as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and one term as New York State Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006. Despite his many accolades and awards, he did not begin his career as a poet until the age of forty. His work is widely known for its humor, which Collins refers to as “a door into the serious.”

As you read Billy Collins’ poem “Genius,” consider these questions if genius is something we have or we create.

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Reading Mindfully for the Holiday: Grace Paley’s “The Loudest Voice”

Reading Mindfully for the Holiday: Grace Paley’s “The Loudest Voice”

Widely known for her short fiction, award-winning author Grace Paley was also an essayist, novelist, poet and activist. Born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrant parents in 1922, her prose is heavily influenced by “the language of her childhood, a heady blend of Yiddish, Russian and English.”

In 1978, Paley told The New York Times that she considered her work “a history of everyday life.”Paley’s short story “The Loudest Voice” was published in 1959 and follows Shirley Abramowitz, a young Jewish girl who is asked to be the narrator in her school’s Christmas pageant. As you read the story, think about how we decide who “owns” a certain tradition or ritual.

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