Mirrors and Windows: Experience, Memory and Literature

Mirrors and Windows: Experience, Memory and Literature

Reflecting on the purpose of her writing, the Poet Laureate for Young People, Jacqueline Woodson, asserts an evocative mission: “to write stories that have been historically absent in this country’s body of literature, to create mirrors for the people who so rarely see themselves inside contemporary fiction, and windows for those who think we are no more than the stereotypes they’re so afraid of.”

In January, Woodson came to Cleveland, sponsored by Facing History and Ourselves, with the support of Hawken School, Laurel School and the Beachwood City Schools. In an auditorium of teachers, staff, parents, and students, I first heard her metaphor and I can’t stop thinking about it.

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Weekend Reading: February 2017

Weekend Reading: February 2017

Forbes outline nine leadership lessons about workplace diversity and inclusion that we can learn from this year’s top-grossing Oscar nominee “Hidden Figures.” One tip from the movie that leaders can put into action? Removing obstacles for your workers:

“After realizing that Katherine Goble (played by Taraji P. Henson) had to spend half an hour walking across Langley each time she needed to use the bathroom, Al Harrison (played by Kevin Costner) uses a crowbar to smash down the sign that identifies the only bathroom at Langley reserved for women of color. In so doing, he effectively removes a significant obstacle to make Goble’s work easier. And, as is often the case, by identifying and fixing the problem for one person, he removed an obstacle that was impacting a large number of talented people.”

What other obstacles can we remove to foster a more diverse and inclusive workplace?

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“Moments of Pure Community”: Books@Work at The Intergenerational School

“Moments of Pure Community”: Books@Work at The Intergenerational School

The Intergenerational School in Cleveland, Ohio has a unique mission: to “connect, create and guide a multigenerational community of lifelong learners and spirited citizens.” The student body is drawn from neighborhoods all across Cleveland, and students learn in multi-age classrooms. The school recruits adults from the community to serve as mentors, making for a diverse and truly “intergenerational” experience.

Books@Work shares this endeavor toward community and lifelong learning, and it has been a joy to partner with Saint Luke’s Foundation to organize two years worth of programming with The Intergenerational School.

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Human Stories: Unlocking Ideas and Opening Minds

Human Stories: Unlocking Ideas and Opening Minds

My first college-level literature class was called “Writing the Essay,” a required seminar meant to teach the basics of crafting an argument rooted in textual evidence. We would write three essays over the course of the class in response to novels, essays and plays we read. I entered the seminar with a chip on my shoulder. I’d always been a bookworm; I knew how to read closely, and I was confident in my writing. It’d be an easy A.

Oh, how wrong I was.

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Reading Mindfully: Philip Levine’s “What Work Is”

Reading Mindfully: Philip Levine’s “What Work Is”

Philip Levine was born Detroit, Michigan in 1928 and was raised and educated in the city. After graduating from Wayne State University, Levine worked for both Chevrolet and Cadillac where he gathered material for his future poems. Levine went on to teach at Columbia, Princeton and the University of California at Berkeley. He was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States for 2011–2012. Levine’s poem “What Work Is,” published in 1991, is a musing on the purpose of work. What does work mean to you?

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Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

At first glance, Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette might not seem like it would merit four weeks of discussion. The novel has a bright cover, featuring a sunglasses-bedecked woman and blurbs from the New York Times and young adult author John Green. “Divinely funny” and “A moving, smart page turner . . . the funniest novel I’ve read in years,” these two sources respectively proclaim. A “funny” story told from the perspective of a fifteen-year old girl, Where’d You Go, Bernadette seems like it is more appropriate for a day at the beach than a law firm’s meeting space or a college course.

And yet, the novel is much more than a coming-of-age comedy. What can popular literature teach us about self-reflection and connection with others?

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Books@Work: It’s All About Relationships!

Books@Work: It’s All About Relationships!

We are thrilled to include the voices of individuals who have experienced the Books@Work program. Today’s post was written by Kevin Williams, a Senior Service Supervisor at Fairbanks Morse Engine:

“Books@Work (B@W) is using a small piece of writing to foster easy conversation between team members to gain some mutual understanding of how we as individuals think and perceive different situations. We use stories and characters to trigger random conversations about similarities to our own experience, or point of view. We might explore alternate choices characters might have made, or maybe alternate endings. It’s always fun and interesting to see where the conversations go. A participant might just be having fun talking about a character or something, meanwhile the rest of us are learning a little about how to better interact with them.” Learn more about how Kevin’s Books@Work experience has helped him build better working relationships with his colleagues.

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Weekend Reading: January 2017

Weekend Reading: January 2017

Writing for the Harvard Business Review Amber Lee Williams addresses why it’s important to speak up when we witness instances of bias in the workplace: “Failure to acknowledge and address bias or offensive behavior validates the conduct and may create an impression that the behavior is acceptable, and even to be expected, in the workplace. Moreover, normalizing offensive conduct in this subtle manner tends to have a chilling effect on other potential dissenters, and communicates to those who are offended, regardless of whether they are targets of the behavior, that their perspectives and voices are not valued.”

Williams offers advice for how to speak up most effectively, and emphasizes that we should “create the opportunity for dialogue.” How do you foster dialogue at work?

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New Opportunities, New Perspectives: The Value of Books We Dislike

New Opportunities, New Perspectives: The Value of Books We Dislike

I recently had the chance to speak with Professor Sabine Ferran Gerhardt about her experience leading several programs with Books@Work. Sabine is an Associate Professor at the University of Akron, where she specializes in Criminology and Justice Studies, with an emphasis on the children of incarcerated parents and school shooter prevention. Sabine found that reading and discussing texts in the workplace – even texts we don’t like – can be a transformative experience. How can a book we’re not sure about bring us closer to our colleagues?

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