I Am Not Posting About How to Think by Alan Jacobs Today

If I was posting about it, below the pilcrow, you’d see a few paragraphs about the book:

How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at OddsHow to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds

by Alan Jacobs

Uncorrected Proof, 156 pg.
Convergent Books, 2017

Read: October 3, 2017


But now, I just can’t. I’m really surprised I read this all in one day, but there’s something very engaging about this book that you can’t put it down. It’s much more fun than you’d think from the title. But one of the things Jacobs stresses is taking time to think — and this is one of those books I have to ponder about before putting down any thoughts.

(which works out nicely, because I’m beat, and this helps to justify taking a night off — but really, I need to think about it).

(and yes, I also realize that this isn’t exactly the point he’s making — but you’ll have to read the thing to see how much I’m twisting his point)

I’ll try tomorrow, but for the time being: go order this before it comes out and give it a read. Whatever I end up posting will be very positive.

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Jamarr’s Promise by Kristin I. Morris & Joseph J. Zielinski, Ph.D

Jamarr's PromiseJamarr’s Promise: A True Story of Corruption, Courage, and Child Welfare

by Kristin I. Morris, Joseph J. Zielinski, Ph.D.

ePUB, 160 pg.
Wisdom House Books, 2017

Read: August 31, 2017


Here’s a book that should apply to a wide variety of people — others who believe that Child Protection Services (using that as a generic term for all sorts of states’ services); those who are convinced that the system will work if we trust it and have the right people in it; those who are convinced that New Jersey’s state government is impossibly corrupt; those who like True Crime; and many others. Sadly, what all these different potential readers get is a poor book.

Jammarr Cruz was a nine-year-old whose Division of Youth and Family Services case worker was unable to keep his mother and her boyfriend from exercising their legal right to take the boy home. She fought it as hard as she could, but ultimately she was thwarted by those over her — the boy went home and died a few months later. Kristin Morris, the caseworker, despite a total lack of evidence of her culpability, lost her job because of it. The book details her efforts to clear her name, get her job back, and make changes to prevent this from happening again. Meanwhile her family suffers, her finances suffer, as does her health (mental and otherwise).

Now, I’m supposed to be talking about the book, not about the events in it. Which is a shame, because I’d much rather talk about that.

The book is told in the present tense — which is a choice that I do not understand. I rarely understand that as a choice in fiction, but in a book that is detailing past events in an actual person’s life? It just makes no sense.

The biggest problem with this book is the length — 160 pages is not enough space to do it justice. 260 may have worked, 350 would’ve been better — I’m guessing on page length, but I know that 160 just didn’t do it. Too much of the book has to be told in summary form, where things had to be compressed and details had to be discarded. Sometimes, it made it hard to follow the sequence, sometimes it made it hard to sympathize with her because months would be brushed aside in a line or two. If they’d taken the time to fully explain how things happened, the reader would have a better sense of the chronology after Jamarr’s death, would better be able to understand what she went through, and how this all had a horrible impact on her family.

Oddly, even given space limitation, there’d be a conversation that would recap the narrative we’d just read (or vice versa). Something else that didn’t make sense to me.

Given the lack of details, the who so much is summed up and the reader is left to fill in many of the blanks themselves, this frequently comes across as a series of Facebook statuses from that friend who is always going on about how difficult their life is — not the reasoned defense of actions made my a competent and caring professional — which is what i think the book was intended to be, and I do think that’s what she is. Also, much of what she says seems more open to criticism and doubt since we’re just given a brief glimpse from a pretty biased source.

This book could’ve been so much better. The tragedy it describes, the injustices it describes deserve something more than this. Morris herself should’ve had a better representation to the world at large than this. But all we’re given is this synopsis of a book, not the book itself (or at least what should be the synopsis of the book).

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of this novel in exchange for this post, my participation in a book tour and my honest opinion. I think it’s clear that my opinion wasn’t swayed by that.

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2 Stars

Book Spotlight: Jamarr’s Promise by Kristin I. Morris & Joseph J. Zielinski, Ph.D


Check back later for my thoughts about this book.

 

Book Details:

Book Title: Jamarr’s Promise: A True Story of Corruption, Courage, and Child Welfare
​Category: Personal Memoir; 160 pages
​Genre: Family & Relationships / Abuse / Child Abuse / True Crime / Murder
Publisher: Wisdom House Books
Release date: May 1, 2017

Synopsis

A True Story of Corruption,
Courage, and Child Welfare

Jamarr’s Promise is the shocking personal memoir of social worker Kristin I. Morris’ fight to protect a nine-year-old child, Jamarr Cruz, that ended in his tragic murder and New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS)’s denial of its responsibility in the case.

As a caseworker for DYFS, Kristin helped many children and families; it was her life’s passion. Nine-year-old Jamarr was living with his grandparents after his mother’s boyfriend, Vincent Williams, beat him repeatedly. Jamarr told Kristin it was not safe for him to return home. Kristin urgently tried to keep Jamarr safe with his grandparents, but was told by superiors that Latino children are kept in the home at all costs. This time, the cost was Jamarr Cruz’s life. In 2009 after Jamaar’s return to Omayra Cruz and Vincent Williams, Vincent beat Jamarr to death. Not only did Kristin’s superiors at the DYFS block her efforts to help Jamarr, but when he was killed, they blamed Kristin for his death.

Jamarr’s Promise is a call to end corrupt loyalties in New Jersey’s DYFS. It is a call to protect children from Jamarr’s fate and promote child welfare. It is a call for justice for Kristin Morris, who did the right thing and was punished unjustly for it.

The Authors

Kristin I. Morris is an activist who volunteers her time with organizations for women, children and families, including Toys for Tots, She’s Got a Name, and Urban Promise. She has been with her husband Benny since she was nineteen and they have four very active children. She always wanted to help people, by working with the church teaching CCD, pro-life club, soup kitchen, and through charity work.

Kristin earned her bachelor’s in Psychology from Rowan University. After school, she began to work as a social worker for the State of New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency, formerly Division of Youth and Family Services. As part of the child welfare system, she found herself watching over New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens: abused children. She was extremely excited and naïve, wanting to save the world. Working in the city of Camden among the people that needed the most help was extremely eye opening, but revealed the corruption of the inner systems of the Division. Jamarr’s Promise is the true story of Kristin’s battle with the State over the murder of a child she tried desperately to save.

Kristin’s dream is to open and run a foster care organization as a safety net for abused children, and to eliminate the politics and hidden agendas of larger organizations.

Joseph J. Zielinski, Ph.D. is a New Jersey licensed psychologist board certified in both Clinical Psychology and Clinical Neuropsychology. He completed his undergraduate in Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. He has been in private practice for forty years as a psychologist, often working concurrently for public schools in special education, in a headache clinic, and in a management consulting firm. He has published in professional journals. He most enjoys working as a practitioner and seeing patients of all backgrounds and experiences.

For seventeen years, Dr. Zielinski has spearheaded the Committee for Prescriptive Authority, a group of pioneering psychologists, to pass legislation allowing trained psychologists to prescribe psychotropic
medications. This is an effort to help the dire shortage of psychiatrists in New Jersey and around the country. Their efforts to help the people of New Jersey are near to fruition.

Dr. Zielinski has been married for forty years, has two grown children and two grandchildren. He is an avid landscaper and is particularly fond of evergreens. He is a fitness enthusiast and a former marathoner.

He enjoys classic rock and live concerts at local venues and attending professional sporting events with his daughter. He enjoys writing screenplays and has pitched a few to Hollywood professionals.

The Vanishing American Adult (Audiobook) by Ben Sasse

The Vanishing American Adult (Audiobook)The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis—and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance

by Ben Sasse

Unabridged Audiobook, 11 hrs., 9 Min.
Macmillan Audio, 2017

Read: July 24 – 26, 2017


I typically don’t like to do this, but in the interest of time, I’m just going to use the text from the publisher’s page to describe the book:
Raised by well-meaning but overprotective parents and coddled by well-meaning but misbegotten government programs, America’s youth are ill-equipped to survive in our highly-competitive global economy.

Many of the coming-of-age rituals that have defined the American experience since the Founding: learning the value of working with your hands, leaving home to start a family, becoming economically self-reliant—are being delayed or skipped altogether. The statistics are daunting: 30% of college students drop out after the first year, and only 4 in 10 graduate. One in three 18-to-34 year-olds live with their parents.

From these disparate phenomena: Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse who as president of a Midwestern college observed the trials of this generation up close, sees an existential threat to the American way of life.

In The Vanishing American Adult, Sasse diagnoses the causes of a generation that can’t grow up and offers a path for raising children to become active and engaged citizens. He identifies core formative experiences that all young people should pursue: hard work to appreciate the benefits of labor, travel to understand deprivation and want, the power of reading, the importance of nurturing your body—and explains how parents can encourage them.

Our democracy depends on responsible, contributing adults to function properly—without them America falls prey to populist demagogues. A call to arms, The Vanishing American Adult will ignite a much-needed debate about the link between the way we’re raising our children and the future of our country.
The first third or so is Sasse laying out the problems with the 30-and-younger set (and the parents and grandparents that got them and their society in the sorry state they’re in). The next two-thirds are his suggested solutions, what he believes parents can do to help raise a generation with the necessary rigor and grit to make it. Nothing here can be implemented like blueprints — these are all just things to get parents thinking. Even if the reader disagrees with Sasse (as I do frequently), you get the feeling that he’s more concerned with people and parents thinking about these ideas and doing something about them, even if it’s what he doesn’t think needs to be done.

There’s a chapter devoted to helping our children and teens become critical readers — talking about the necessity of being more than just functionally literate, but people that interact with books — good books, as well as entertaining books. People reading this blog should find a lot to love (and a little to demur with) in this chapter — I almost listened to it twice in a row it was so good.

The book is largely a-political. Yes, politics does enter into it. Yes, if you agree with him (before or after reading the book), it’ll likely lead to certain political moves — but people on all points on the political spectrum should be able to get something out of this book. Just because Sasse is a U.S. Senator, don’t think that this is a book about that. He does highly value “republican” values — but he usually goes out of his way to stress that it’s “small-R republican” he’s referring to. Ditto for the Christian point of view he writes from — Sasse’s very up-front about that, but goes out of his way to show how non-Christians (or even Christians from different traditions) can agree with much of the book, or disagree constructively.

There was problem with the audiobook — there’s no text to refer to. There’s so much that you want to go back and re-read, notes you want to take, quotations/citations you’d like to double check. The literature chapter alone needs to be re-read. And it’s just such a pain to do all that with an audiobook. Trust me, get the hardcopy. The audiobook is a very effective advertisement for the hardcover. It is good to hear Sasse read this himself.

There’s a lot of this book that I just don’t get — I’m not saying he’s wrong, necessarily, but I don’t think he’s always as right as he thinks he is. But I’m telling you, I thought a lot about what he talked about — I talked a lot about the content of this book. I’m looking for ways to put some of this into practice, and wish I’d done a better job of doing it years ago.

Agree with it or not, this is a book well worth reading.

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5 Stars

Dave Barry’s History of the Millennium (So Far) (Audiobook) by Dave Barry, Patrick Frederic

Dave Barry's History of the Millennium (So Far)Dave Barry’s History of the Millennium (So Far)

by Dave Barry, Patrick Frederic
Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs., 29 mins.
Penguin Audio, 2007

Read: April 10, 2017


Back in high school, I worked at a public library (shock, right?), and I kept shelving this book — Dave Barry Slept Here, and eventually succumbed and took it home — several times. I fell in love with Barry’s humor, and read him a lot over the next decade — every book, as many columns as I could find, etc., etc. But I eventually stopped, for no good reason that I can think of (it’s probably not Harry Anderson‘s fault) — and have really only read his novels since then.

Still, when I saw this audiobook on the library’s site, it was an automatic click — without even reading the description. This is essentially a reprinting of his “Year in Review” columns for the first few years of this millennium and a review of the previous 1,000 years of human history.

It was hilarious. Just that simple. There’s nothing more to say, really.

In the beginning Frederic played it straight — which surprised me a bit, but I liked the effect. A serious reading of Barry’s goofiness worked remarkably well. Later on, Frederic seemed to loosen up — he even did a couple of decent impressions. I really enjoyed his work on this.

Yeah, the humor’s a bit dated, but funny is funny. This is a great look back at the early part of the 21st Century (and before). I laughed a lot, remembered a few things, and generally had a good time with this.

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3.5 Stars

Guest Post: This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

Marjorie Thelen, an author I talked about last month asked if I’d be interested in guest reviews, and sent this one along — which is great, because I’ve just been too busy this week to come up with a post for today. Hope you enjoy it — and be sure to stop by her page and look at her books, would you? Thanks, Marjorie!

Oh yeah, probably obvious, but the opinions expressed in this post are all Marjorie’s, and do not necessarily reflect mine.

This Changes EverythingThis Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate

by Naomi Klein

Paperback, 532 pg.
Simon & Schuster, 2015


If you think you are not responsible for combatting global warming, think again. You better read this book. It has “radicalized” me into becoming an environmental activist.

With notes and acknowledgements this book is 532 pages (paperback) and jammed packed with information, facts, and opinion. Naomi Klein makes the compelling case that unfettered capitalism as a way of life is destroying the environment and is a big contributor to global warming. The faster we-the-people regulate large corporations, particularly the extractive industries like oil and mining, the better chance we have of reversing climate change. She outlines case after case after case of the harm the oil industry has done to the environment. Extreme extraction like fracking is especially harmful to land, water, and people. If you haven’t heard of the earthquakes in Oklahoma caused by fracking, you are living in a vacuum.

Our church book study group read the book, it is on the recommended reading list for the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon, and it has top reviews from a number of organizations and individuals. I had to make a tremendous effort to read the book, because in the first two sections, Klein paints a pretty dismal picture. Her writing is dense with fact and opinion. She is often repetitive but she gets her points across with facts. In part one she outlines how free market fundamentalism helped overheat the planet in a chapter by that name. She gives extensive coverage to the climate deniers, to scientists who think creating clouds will cool the planet, to the environmental groups she calls Big Green, some of whom, as it turns out, are in bed with Big Oil. In chapter seven she tells us that there are no messiahs, that the green billionaires won’t save us. She beats up on Richard Branson, the airline magnate, at length and points out that even though he talks a good green game, he and other green billionaires don’t follow through on their promises.

Klein gets more hopeful in part three with the chapter on the new climate warriors, who are ordinary citizens blockading the advance of the extractive industries. She sees hope in the Blockadia movement and gives examples of the development of the movement, like the protest to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. She says that extraction and refining has always required sacrifice zones and usually it is the underrepresented and poor who pay the price. “Through various feats of denialism and racism, it was possible for privileged people in North America and Europe to mentally cordon off these unlucky places as hinterlands, wastelands, nowheres . . . . the people reaping the bulk of the benefits of extractivism pretend not to see the costs of that comfort so long as the sacrifice zones are kept safely out of view.” (p. 311) Throughout the book she does not mince words.

She applauds the effort of Indigenous peoples to prevent tar sand development, open pit mines, fracking, and pipelines from destroying their lands and livelihoods. White people are glad to see this push back from the Indigenous people, but they can’t think that Indigenous people can carry on the fight by themselves. Everyone has to join in. Ironically, we now need the Indigenous on “our” side, whereas their concerns and battles were invisible to us before.

Klein advocates much more regulation of the extractive industries, read here Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Copper, think the development of the Pebble Mine in Briscoe Bay in Alaska. I don’t see that in today’s political climate more government regulation is in the cards, but I’d be happy if someone proves me wrong.

And when we keep oil in the ground we affect the love affair that American have with their trucks and SUVs. When are we going to stop buying them and go to more fuel-efficient vehicles? It would also affect plastics and related industries. When will the American consumer stop buying products that are not environmentally friendly? The consumer price index is a huge indicator of the health of our economy and what happens if and when Americans stop consuming so much? There are far-reaching implications of what Klein proposes in combatting global warming, and time is of the essence.

The divestment movement is another way to combat contributors to climate change. Institutions, colleges, organizations can divest in the stock of these companies that they hold. This is making headlines now. International laws and moratoriums can prevent and rollback expansion of carbon polluters. (p. 353). Some of the groups involved in the new wave of anti-fossil fuel activism are Food & Water Watch, 350.org, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network and Friends of the Earth. “It is this corroded state of our political systems that is fast turning Blockadia into a grassroots pro-democracy movement.” (p. 361) Needless to say, Klein is not kind to political systems controlled by big industry.

Klein says that filling out surveys, signing petitions, and giving money isn’t enough. We have to get out on the front lines and demonstrate, let our voices be heard. She says if you think that someone else is going to fight to combat climate change and things will turn out fine, you are wrong. (I was in this group.) We-the-people are responsible and have to make our voices heard. In our book study group, we asked ourselves what can we do, a small group in a small, rural town. We decided to start by showing the DVD documentary of This Changes Everything to raise awareness. I have ordered the DVD, and we will have a showing and discussion of it at our Senior Center and invite the public. Many people are simply not aware of the direness of the global warming situation. Through education we might create more activists.

“The task is to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis — embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy. This is required not only to create a political context to dramatically lower emissions, but also to help us cope with the disasters we can no longer avoid.” (p. 462)

If you are concerned about the future for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and planet Earth, you must read this book and take up the cause of combatting climate change.

Dusted Off: Government Bullies: Americans Arrested, Abused, and Terrorized by Rand Paul

Government Bullies: Americans Arrested, Abused, and TerrorizedGovernment Bullies: Americans Arrested, Abused, and Terrorized

by Rand Paul

Hardcover, 272 pg.
Center Street, 2012
Read: October 16 – 29, 2012

Great read. This book angered me, made me want to change the world, and filled me with despair–certain that things’ll only get worse. Frequently within the same paragraph (if not the same sentence). These tales of bureaucracy run amok should (and likely will) cause any freedom-loving patriot’s blood run cold.

I can see where a lot of people would get tired of Paul bringing himself into the book as often as he does–as a candidate or Senator. But honestly, it’s only as Senator/candidate that Paul gets this information, gets this perspective. Besides, he’s got to look toward re-election and this is part of his work earning that.

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4 Stars