For the cozy Sundays in New England, with snow lying all around (as it is this morning in Andover, MA), here’s the line-up of books I have put out on the Head of School bookshelf for faculty at Phillips Academy:
James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time. I re-read it over the winter holiday break and was glad I did. Originally published in 1963, The Fire Next Time seemed an apt choice to pair with Coates’ Between the World and Me. Michelle Alexander linked the two in her elegant August, 2015 piece in the New York Times Book Review.
Katie Cappiello and Meg McInerney, Slut: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence. The cast of “Slut” performed on the Phillips Academy campus for our students, faculty, staff, and parents last month. They were astonishing. As we educators and parents all grapple with how to contend with sexual violence, ongoing changes in adolescent culture, and the power of both silence and speaking up, this work is powerful.
Ta Nehisi-Coates, Between the World and Me. So much has been said and written about this book and why it is important that I probably can’t add anything meaningful, other than encouragement to read it. It’s not easy or optimistic or pleasurable (other than in appreciating the prose itself and the power of the narrative). Its critical and popular reception speak to its timeliness and resonance.
Michael B. Horn & Heather Staker, Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools. I am a believer in a future of education that connects the traditional, offline mode of teaching and learning with the best aspects of the online, often informal modes. This book is a helpful resource for those interested in what a blend of the disruptive with the tried-and-true could look like.
Henry Jenkins, Mizuko Ito, and danah boyd, Participatory Culture in a Networked Era. This book is fun: the experience is of listening in on a dinner-party conversation between three of the leading scholars of the digital age. In an interactive way, they each reflect on the work they’ve done in this fast-changing field and on what they think is most salient about it. I make it a point to read just about everything they write. Here, they are all together in a single text.
Janice Y.K. Lee, The Expatriates. Before my last Head of School Bookshelf, a faculty colleague at Andover challenged me to add fiction to the mix, so I’m planning to include at least one each time. I chose Janice Lee’s second novel for the expatriate experience it describes. The themes will sound familiar to those who have lived abroad or whose children are living abroad — say, at a boarding school. Pair it with Lee’s first novel, The Piano Teacher, for a great education on Hong Kong expat life between the end of the second World War and today. Maggie Pouncey, writing in The New York Times Book Review, called Lee “a female, funny Henry James in Asia.”