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What Our Biggest Best-Sellers Tell Us About a Nation’s Soul

“Reading America through more than two centuries of its favorite books.”

In The New Yorker, Louis Menand takes on Jess McHugh’s book Americanon, which discusses “thirteen American books, from ‘The Old Farmer’s Almanac,’ first published in 1792, to Stephen R. Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,’ which came out in 1989.”

In looking at these thirteen self-help books, Menand writes:

In fact, McHugh disapproves of every one of the books she writes about. “Americanon” is, in effect, a critique of American society in the form of thirteen book reviews. It belongs to a critical strategy of attacking current inequities in American life by attacking prior representations of those inequities. This is an entry in the new culture wars.

According to Menand, McHugh “prefers, she says, ambiguity and change to the myth of a unified national narrative. But ambiguity and change are just the keywords in a different narrative.”

Susan Cole, Advocate for Traumatized Children, Dies at 72

Attorney Susan Cole recognized the toll that trauma can take on children:

She began a decades-long examination of the links between education and childhood trauma, using her accumulating experience to identify “broader systemic failures that could not be addressed on a case-by-case basis,” as her husband, David Eisen, put it.

Constant stress and fear were more than just a distraction for students; their effect, she learned, was neurological, activating the fight-or-flight survival instinct permanently.

A Guide To Gender Identity Terms

June is the annual celebration of Pride Month. Over the years I’ve sometimes been confused about how to use correctly the applicable terminology. I’m grateful to NPR for putting together this glossary of terms relating to gender identity.

Proper use of gender identity terms, including pronouns, is a crucial way to signal courtesy and acceptance. Alex Schmider, associate director of transgender representation at GLAAD, compares using someone’s correct pronouns to pronouncing their name correctly – “a way of respecting them and referring to them in a way that’s consistent and true to who they are.”

Creative Writing MFA Programs

Programs offering an MFA (master’s in fine arts) in writing have proliferated.

The Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing is a graduate-level degree earned by students who seek to pursue work as authors, editors, playwrights, or to teach at the college level.

The folks at BookBrowse have put together this discussion of the purpose of such programs. This article pertains to understanding the plot of the recently published novel The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz, but the content here is a general description and discussion for anyone who has ever wondered about these programs.

How to Jump-Start Your Post-Pandemic Writing Life

“The habit of not writing, it turns out, is sadly easy to acquire in a pandemic.”

I know I’m not the only person who had trouble focusing on reading and writing during the pandemic. With the arrival of the beginning of the end, Rachel Toor has some advice on how to get back into the swing of things. 

Toor herself is an academic, a professor of creative writing at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, WA, and her advice is directed toward other academics, whose professional lived are governed by the “publish or perish” mantra. However, I found her advice helpful also for a general audience, such as us book bloggers who may be struggling to get back to work.

The Book Club of My Dreams Was at the Library All Along

My first book group was organized by the local branch of the county public library where I lived. I participated in the group for about 12 years and found some of my closest friends there. It’s something I sorely miss since relocating for retirement.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

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