Every day, new books arrive in the offices of Utne Reader. It would be impossible to review all of them, but a shame to leave many hidden on the shelves. In "Bookmarked," we link to excerpts from some of our favorites, hoping they'll inspire a trip to your local library or bookstore. Enjoy!
Teaching in the Terrordome (University of Missouri Press, 2012) tells the story of how Heather Kirn Lanier joined Teach For America, a program that thrusts eager but inexperienced college graduates into America’s most impoverished areas to teach, asking them to do whatever is necessary to catch their disadvantaged kids up to the rest of the nation. Teaching at Southwestern High School, a.k.a. “The Terrordome,” in West Baltimore, Lanier had to overcome obstacles such as a disintegrating building, suspicious colleagues and even violent actions from the students. Despite shining statistics presented by the organization, here is a more common story of “Teaching For America,” written with thoughtful complexity, a poet’s eye and an engaging voice. Read about Lanier’s first impressions of West Baltimore and the school she would be teaching at in this excerpt taken from Chapter 1, “The School Beside the Cemetery.”
Making Myself at Home in a Nursing Home (Vanderbilt University Press, 2012) by Sandra Gaffney is the personal account of the author’s long-term care in a nursing home after being diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Over 16 years, Sandra lived in nursing homes in Florida, Virginia and Minnesota. During this time she became an acute observer and strategist about how to “live a good life” and navigate day-to-day issues such as how to furnish the room, talk to staff and understand nursing home culture. Read Chapter 1, “About Myself.”
During the last two weeks of the Federal Convention of 1787, delegates found themselves perplexed by, in the words of James Madison, “a point of great importance” — who should rule over a newly created nation? In Mr. President: How and Why the Founders Created a Chief Executive (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012), Ray Raphael recreates the formation of the executive office, giving those interested in political history a narrative insight into the decisions behind the creation of American presidential power. In this excerpt from the book’s prologue, Raphael sets the tense and questioning scene.