education

Domestic Violence and Firearms

By: Betsy Pownall, LPC

Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior; a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against the other. It includes physical violence, emotional violence, sexual violence, and economic and emotional/psychological abuse.

All information below is from the  National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: 

Did you know? 

  • More than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men experience sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
  • 23.2% of women and 13.9% of men experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner during their lifetime.
  • Abusers’ access to firearms increases the risk of intimate partner death at least five-fold. 

Firearms as tools of terror:

  • Firearms are used to control, terrorize, and intimidate victims and survivors of domestic violence; most intimate partner homicides are committed with firearms.
  • An abuser’s access to a firearm increases the risk of death by 1,000%.
  • Women in the United States are 11x more likely to be murdered with a gun than in other high-income nations.
  • Possession of a firearm does not make a woman safer: an abused woman’s purchase of a firearm increases the risk of intimate partner violence by 50% and doubles the risk of firearm homicide by an abusive partner.

Domestic Violence in Oregon: 

  • 39.8% of Oregon women and 36.2% of Oregon men experience intimate partner violence and/or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.
  • On a single day in 2020, 59% of Oregon’s domestic violence programs reported serving 1,123 adult and child victims of domestic violence. In 24 hours, 300 hotline calls were received, averaging 13 contacts per hour. Victims made 118 requests for services that were unmet due to a lack of resources.
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National Native American Heritage Month

The month of November is National Native American Heritage Month. 

This month is an opportunity to celebrate the cultures, acknowledge contributions, and learn more about the history of Native Americans.

To honor the challenges that Native Americans have faced both in the past and in the present, you can educate yourself and your peers about the rich traditions of this diverse culture. 

You can find out more about Indigenous tribes and continue to pay tribute to their ancestry by reading works by Indigenous authors, attending web seminars, or watching videos, including this documentary series by PBS that uses dance, traditions and music to share the stories. 

Take the time this month to learn more by visiting the resources below:

Native American Heritage Month 

Native Cinema Showcase Event

Teachers Guide: American Indian History and Heritage 

A Guide To Indigenous Land Acknowledgement

Indigenous Authors List | Goodreads

Educational Resources (New Additions Monthly)

Humankind: A Hopeful History

Author: Rutger Bregman

Published: 2020

Reviewed by Ryan Scott, PhD

  • How do we influence (or even connect) with those with whom we don’t agree? 
  • How does the media impact the way we see others?  Is it accurate? 
  • Is what we learned in psychology and sociology courses accurate?  For example, does the Stanford Prison Experiment reflect humankind? 

The book Humankind (by Rutger Bregman) addresses these questions and more.  It is a book that challenges conventional notions about human nature and argues for a more positive view of humanity. 

 “The vast majority of people are good, and not just that, but capable of doing great things. It’s the systems we put them in that bring out the worst in them.”

Bregman believes that humans are fundamentally good and that our altruistic impulses are often overshadowed by negative behaviors that are amplified by media and popular culture. He argues that by recognizing our innate goodness, we can build a better society based on trust and cooperation.

“When we assume the worst in people, we get the worst from them.”

One of the most compelling aspects of Humankind is Bregman’s use of historical examples to support his thesis. He cites studies and stories that highlight instances of cooperation, kindness, and compassion throughout history, challenging the prevailing narrative of human violence and brutality. Bregman’s research includes studies of hunter-gatherer societies, the social psychology of groups, and historical events such as the Blitz in London during World War II.

“The greatest power of human beings is not our ability to wage war, but our capacity for cooperation.”

Bregman also takes on some of the most commonly held beliefs about human nature, including the idea that competition is a necessary aspect of progress and that our self-interest drives us to act in unethical ways. He argues that these ideas are not supported by evidence and that they can be harmful to society. Instead, Bregman suggests that we focus on promoting trust and cooperation, which he believes will lead to greater prosperity and well-being for everyone.

 “When we trust people, we inspire trust in them.”

Overall, Humankind is a thought-provoking and inspiring book that challenges readers to think differently about human nature and the potential for a more positive future. Bregman’s writing is engaging and accessible, and his arguments are backed up by rigorous research and analysis. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in psychology, sociology, or philosophy, as well as those who want to be inspired to create a better world.

Hello Beautiful, by Ann Napolitano

Reviewed by: Betsy Pownall, LPC

“We’re part of the sky, the rocks in your mother’s garden, and that old man who sleeps by the train station. We’re all interconnected, and when you see that, you see how beautiful life is.”–from Hello Beautiful

Hello Beautiful, by Ann Napolitano, is a story of vulnerability, love and loss, trauma and tragedy, and connection.  What it means to see and be seen by another. What it means to be invisible, set aside, neglected. It’s about sitting on a park bench with an aging professor, feeling his weariness. Wading into Lake Michigan in the winter, engulfed by the fog.  It’s about feeling alive and it’s about feeling death.

When William was born, his three-year-old sister, Caroline, died. William’s parents never looked in his eyes, for fear he would remind them of Caroline. They did not take interest in nor pay attention to him. He considered himself  “boring and forgettable” until he played a pick-up game of basketball. On the court, William felt a sense of belonging, a feeling he was unfamiliar with. William went on to play basketball in high school and college.

Julia, the oldest of four sisters, was attracted to the “handsome, tall, basketball player” on the college basketball court, and decided he was going to be part of her future. She introduced him to her three sisters, and her parents, Rose and Charlie. “I like it here,” he said, “I like your family.” William focused on Julia and did everything she wanted. When she asked him what he wanted to do he said, “whatever you want to do.” Julia wanted him to be a professor.

When William went to graduate school for history, he could not identify a period in history he was passionate about. He liked how Leo Tolstoy influenced Mahatma Gandhi, who influenced Dr. Martin Luther King. A specific period of historical time did not make sense to him. Eventually, William lost interest. Julia could not see the person standing before her, she saw who she wanted to see.

Napolitano follows three main characters: William, Julia, and her sister, Sylvie, in overlapping chapters that nudge time forward. Some critics focus on the similarities between this book and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The similarities are there, in fact, the characters talk about which sister they might be. I feel like this book is much bigger than a contemporary Little Women. It feels like a celebration of life: while there are no happy endings, there is resolution, acceptance, and redemption.

I feel like I could rhapsodize on this book, I found it so engaging and….beautiful. But I won’t, it will slowly unfold and expand for you as you read. It’s like an ornately wrapped gift, as you unwrap it some of the paper may rip a little,  a ribbon challenging to undo. Once read, you may find the gift continuing to gift itself to you, long after the book is put down.

When the Emperor was Divine, By Julie Otusaka

Reviewed by Betsy Pownall, LPC

At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack on December 7, 1941, there were approximately 127,000 Japanese Americans living in the continental United States. The majority, 112,000, lived on the West Coast. Two months after Pearl Harbor, the United States, under President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, forcibly relocated and incarcerated Japanese Americans in concentration camps located in the western United States who were living on the West Coast. 5,500 Japanese American community leaders had been arrested immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack and were in custody at the time of the executive order. All people of Japanese ancestry were required to leave Alaska (which was a territory of the United States), and military exclusion zones in California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona. Hawaii was under martial law. 

 

In her book, When the Emperor was Divine, Julie Otsuka describes, in sparing and acutely sensitive detail, the life of a Japanese-American family who lived in Berkeley, CA, relocated to the desert near Delta, Utah in February, 1942. By referring to each character by their gender (girl, boy, woman, man) Otsuka immerses the reader into an experience of disappearance, erasure, evacuation. The girl considers a doll with blond hair as beautiful. The boy dreams that he did something “terribly wrong” but just “can’t remember what it is” and does not know where he is. The mother cares for her children as she grows more tired and weary and finally can’t get out of bed. The children’s father has already been taken away by the FBI “for questioning” and will be out of their lives for at least two years, returning to Berkeley a broken man who is fearful, cannot sustain a conversation, and startles at loud noises.

 

The mother and her children are taken on a “slow moving train” through the interior western United States. They are ordered to keep the shades down across the windows, so they “can’t see anyone at all and no one outside the train can see” them. “Between them there were the shades”. A brick crashes through a window. The girl sneaks a look out of the window. An old man talks to the girl, but she cannot understand him. He speaks Japanese. 

No one knows where they are going, they are passengers riding in the dark. 

The concentration camp is in the high desert, a series of tar-papered barracks. There is no running water or heat. There is no form of cooking, but for a pot-bellied stove. The bathroom is a block away. The children attend school, (to learn about democracy, in a camp surrounded by barbed wire). They are not allowed under the barbed-wire fence surrounding the camp. There are armed guards stationed in towers surrounding the camp. (One day an old man was killed. Some say he was walking his dog and was hard of hearing so did not hear the guard. Others say he was trying to look at a “beautiful flower” that was outside the fence.)

There are rules at the concentration camp: do not look at the sun, do not say the Emperor’s name out loud, do not talk to the guards, do not use chopsticks. (The boy whispers “Hirohito, Hirohito, Hirohito” to himself. )  

The family lived in the camp until the order was lifted, in December 1944. They returned home and slowly put their lives back together in a changed neighborhood, a changed country. In less than a year atom bombs will be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

In her final chapter, “Confession”, Otsuka delivers a stream-of-consciousness statement that speaks to the experience of erasure through the voice of the father. “Who am I? You know who I am. Or you think you do. I’m your florist. I’m your grocer. I’m your porter…I’m the one you don’t see at all—we all look alike. I’m the one you see everywhere—we’re taking over the neighborhood. I’m the one you look for under your bed every night.”

 

I discovered this book when I heard Otsuka interviewed on the radio. She described her mother, as a little girl, standing up in her elementary school classroom in Berkeley, CA, the day before she was leaving so her classmates could say “goodbye” to her. Otsuka’s mother did not know where her family was headed, nor did anyone else. The classmates all said “goodbye” to her mother, whose desk was empty, the next day.

This is a powerful portrayal of a relatively silenced, shaded period in our nation’s history. I highly recommend it.

The Book of Gutsy Women – Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience
By:  Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton

Suggested by Tanya Kramer, LPC

The women on the cover of this book are just one example of so many women that people may not have ever known about, but we should!
These women are a group of women firefighters in a training exercise at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard taken sometime after the US entry into World War II (the picture was “colorized” for the cover of the book).

The book is sectioned into the following topic areas.  I have taken the liberty to share the name of one of the many women covered in each section.  If you don’t know the name, then I suggest taking time to look them up or consider getting this book.

  • Early Inspiration – Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Someone I had the privilege to meet in person in my early 20’s when in Guatemala.  This was before the peace accords were signed and she had just had her first child.  She is now a Noble Peace Prize Winner.)
  • Education Pioneers – Margaret Bancroft
  • Earth Defenders – Marjory Stoneman Douglas (You may recognize this name from the school that was named after her in 1990 which experienced a horrific school shooting in 2018.)
  • Explorers and Inventors – Margaret Knight and Madam C.J. Walker
  • Healers – Florence Nightingale (Yes, there is actually a person where this saying comes from.)
  • Athletes – Junko Tabei
  • Advocates and Activists – Dolores Huerta
  • Storytellers – Jineth Bedoya Lima
  • Elected Leaders – Shirley Chisholm
  • Groundbreakers – Edie Windsor
  • Women’s Rights Champions – Manal al Sharif

During a time when history is being minimized, we should take special note of all the stories of individuals that make up our history, especially those who have not made their way into our awareness.  I really appreciated reading this book because there were so many names and stories of powerful, intelligent women that sadly, I had never learned about.  Thank you to Hillary and Chelsea Clinton for bringing these names forward from history into the present moment.

Feminism By: Chimamanda Ngozi Adicie
Reviewed by: Tanya Kramer, LPC


Chimamanda became known for her famous 2009 TED talk “The Danger of the Single Story” which has been viewed over 33 million times.

Chimamanda presented a TED talk in 2013 on “We Should All Be Feminists” which was also turned into a short book.  You can enjoy this as a TED talk or by reading her book:

Chimamanda, again, finds a way to talk about an important topic with humor and in-your-face facts that bring the listener along to be open to the importance of change.  She writes about how boys and girls are raised differently and how this negatively affects both individuals.  She gives an example of how women should “aspire to be married” but men do not have the same pressure which results in challenges in relationships.  I will not do her writing justice by providing these snapshots, but what I can say is that if you have someone who questions the word “Feminism”, then ask them to listen to this TED talk or read this short book which at 64 pages, I completed over breakfast one morning.

What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo

Stephanie Foo is a child of Chinese-Malaysian immigrants who grew up in a physically and emotionally abusive household. She had seen a therapist for many years until one day her therapist told her that her “diagnosis is Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)”, not “just PTSD”. A professional journalist, Stephanie went to work to find out what C-PTSD was and how it fit into her life. She felt betrayed by the therapist for letting her know “so late” even though the therapist insisted that she explained her diagnosis when they first started working together.

As Stephanie read about C-PTSD she writes that she recognized herself: difficulty managing emotions, oversharing and trusting the wrong people, self-loathing, relationship difficulties, “unhealthy relationship with my abuser”, aggressive and intolerant of aggression in others, “It’s true. It’s all me”.

In this book,  Stephanie documents her journey through C-PTSD, the resources she discovers (Judith Herman and Bessel van der Kolk to name just two) what C-PTSD means for her, what it means for her culture, and what it means for her future.  She writes about her experience with honesty, and curiosity, and she is relentless, sparing no one. Stephanie has been let down by her parents, her culture, and as she got older, by people in power: her boss at This American Life, various therapists, and friends. She writes about her experience so we, the reader, can feel her struggle, her ‘aha’ moments, and her exploration of the mental health world, a world that had been closed to her throughout her life.

Throughout the book, Stephanie discusses the Adverse Childhood Experiences Studies, EMDR, talk therapy, mindfulness and meditation, yoga, Taoism, Buddhism, and then, finally, her last and current therapist, Dr. Ham.

I found this book to be engaging and thought-provoking and, as a mental health professional, a bit frustrating. In one chapter she clumps counselors together and writes cynically about their lack of training and experience compared with psychologists who don’t have room to take new clients and how, “Even if they do have space in the day to treat someone, they might not be interested in treating you.” She writes how therapists “prefer to take on YAVIS – Young Attractive, Verbal, Intelligent, and Successful clients…good luck of you’re a regular-ass Joe who’d rather watch It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia”. That is not true for me, nor is it true for many hard-working, intelligent, compassionate therapists I know and have worked with both past and present. However, I am going to let this go and appreciate the book for its worth. Stephanie is a journalist writing about mental health, a world that has relatively recently opened up to her. What My Bones Know is chock full of experience, references, cultural insights, and Stephanie’s edgy humor. It’s a little Swifty…no stone is unturned. Perhaps that is where healing lies.

Reviewed by: Betsy Pownall, LPC

Presidential(podcast)

hosted by  Lillian Cunningham from the Washington Post

I didn’t know what to expect when I started listening to this podcast.  I like history and realized I don’t know too much about many of our country’s presidents besides the key figures, so I figured it might be an easy way to learn more about this important topic.
I am sharing this podcast because it is important to understand what types of things got in the way of past presidents from doing the right thing.  For example, all the presidents leading up to Lincoln…all of them…knew slavery was bad for the country.  Just think about how different our history and our present experience would be if one of those individuals had spoken up sooner than Lincoln.  Another benefit of learning about history is understanding how good ideas take time to build.  For example, the United Nations was the idea of one president who worked hard to get “buy in” both here and abroad, but it did not actually happen until many years later.

This podcast reminds us that some presidents or family members died because the water system at the White House was contaminated, or the reality of how technology changed how politicians campaigned.

Along the way, I have also learned some less important, but still interesting, historical facts.  If you decide to take a listen, you will learn about the unique pets that lived in the White House with Teddy Roosevelt, many unique nicknames given to presidents, which presidents never wanted to be president, and which president had a famous song written about them by the group “They Might Be Giants”.

In order to learn more about the personality of each president, host Lillian asks historical experts “If I was set up on a blind date with this person, what might I expect?”  I think the host attempts to bring forth the person, the challenges, the strengths, the weaknesses, the successes, and missed opportunities through historical context with some humor.

I find that I stayed interested through each episode and now I feel a bit more knowledgeable about this part of our history.

Reviewed by: Tanya Kramer, LPC

“Take My Hand” by Dolan Perkins-Valdez

This historical fiction story wraps around two young black girls who live in poverty with their other family members.  The story unfolds in ways where these two girls’ bodily rights were harmed and their parents/guardians were taken advantage of because of their financial situation and inability to read.  I appreciate how the story is told from the perspective of a new young nurse who works at a medical clinic because she wants to help those in her community.  As part of her job, she is told to carry out certain tasks with her patients.  The story follows this young nurse’s journey to question authority, and push back against systems that are bigger than her.

This author researched and folded in significant aspects of the true story of Mary Alice and Minnie Lee Relf (ages 12 and 14) who were surgically sterilized in 1972 without their consent in Montgomery, Alabama.  Mary Alice and Minnie Lee Relf’s family filed a lawsuit with the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center which resulted in a new requirement for informed consent.  This lawsuit came on the heels of the Tuskegee Study which was published in 1972 where 600 black men were lied to about their treatment resulting in 128 men dying.

In this current climate, it is a reminder to protect our bodily rights and engage in pushing back on the system that threatens these rights.

Reviewed by: Tanya Kramer, LPC

Book: Wrong Place, Wrong time  

By Gillian McAllister

Imagine being able to go back in time, with what you know now, and re-parent your children? Basically getting a re-do on all those cringe-worthy moments. Jen, in Wrong Place Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister actually gets this opportunity after witnessing her 18-year-old son commit murder. She has this profound moment of not recognizing the stranger – her son – standing before her, after he murdered an older man. 

A family lawyer with a heavy caseload, Jen has raised her son, Todd, with one eye on him, the other on her clients. Her husband, Kelly, a house painter (who works alone, for cash only), has a seemingly normal connection with his son.  Both parents seem to have been able to raise Todd together, making room for his independence as he moves into adulthood, meanwhile seeming to sustain, what feels like to Jen, a deep understanding between the two of them. 

The morning after the murder, Jen is thrown back in time as she wakes up the day before the murder, and then the day before that, and then the day before that. This goes on until she is thrown back to days before Todd was born. At first she feels crazy, but early on she is able to meet with a physicist, Andy, who is doing research on time loops. Andy wonders why she has been placed on this locked time curve and Jen responds, “I wonder if I – alone – know something that can stop the murder. Deep in my subconscious.” Andy suggests that what she has is, “Knowledge. This isn’t time travel, or science or maths. Isn’t this just –you have the knowledge–and the love – to stop a crime?” Jen realizes that “every day I have relived, so far I’ve learned something by doing something different…following someone or witnessing something I hadn’t the first time. Even just paying attention to the small things.” Andy wonders if “each day you’re landing in is somehow significant to the crime?” 

Each day, with every experience she encounters, Jen is able to remember how she responded the first time, and is now able to see things she missed. Her son’s intense anxiety, his isolation, his dismissiveness, and her distraction. Her husband’s behavior. She feels that she may have overlooked things because otherwise, it would make her too anxious to consider alternatives. She assumes her family is a tight unit, therefore everything she sees is evidence of their closeness. 

For instance, she returns to “Back to School Night”, and returns to the meeting with Todd’s Physics teacher. When the teacher says “Todd is a joy to work with”, Jen remembers swelling with pride. However, this time she sees an odd look in the teacher’s eyes when he says this. She feels there is something the teacher is not saying. She asks the teacher for more information, which leads her to seek more information. And then more information. 

What Jen learns about herself and her family while in this time loop is at once alarming, and clarifying. She is thrown against her assumptions and is able to see how they blinded her to what was really happening to her son, to them, as a family, and to her, as an individual. The physicist Andy had suggested, “Sometimes the emotions of living something the first time prevent us from seeing the true picture, don’t they?”

I feel that, in considering this concept of time loop/time curves, two things jump out at me. First, the idea of paying attention to the present moment and the courage it takes to ask difficult questions of our loved ones when we may not be prepared or want to know the answer. Secondly, the importance of grace and compassion for ourselves, as parents. To consider, as we reflect on those cringe-worthy moments in our parenting history, that we generally do the best we can with what we know at the time. 

Two thumbs up on this one.

Reviewed by: Betsy Pownall, LPC

Podcast “Camp Wild Heart” with Mackenzie Dunham

“I learned about this podcast from a gender-fluid peer and friend.  The host is a therapist in Oregon and she runs groups for trans and nonbinary youth and a separate group for the parents.  In the podcast, Mackenzie interviews parents who have trans or nonbinary children and they share their journey of growing with their child.
I appreciate how this host includes “agreements” to acknowledge the safe space these parents are using and trusting in order to share their experience.  These parents are vulnerable about what they did well and where they struggled.  I have shared this podcast with some of the parents on my caseload who are walking this same journey.  Some episodes take a deeper dive into important topics such as suicide or self harm, understanding dysphoria, and clarifying the difference between gender expression and gender identity.
It is a sensitive and important voice that demonstrates love, even when we don’t know where the journey will lead.” Reviewed by:  Tanya Kramer, LPC

Dear Friend, From my Life I Write to You in Your Life

By Yiyun Li

Yiyun Li borrowed this title from an essay by the writer, Katherine Mansfield. The title profoundly moved
her, she writes, as it reminded her of why she writes: writers write from their lives to ours, “all trying to
say the same thing: Dear friend, from my life I write to you in your life”.

Li’s book, Dear Friend…, is a collection, a “way to test–to assay–thoughts about time…To write about a
struggle amid the struggling: one must hope that this muddling will end someday”. Li wrote this book
over a two year time period while she was experiencing suicidal depression. She mentions being
hospitalized, periodically, throughout the book, however she is not mining her hospitalization for material.
Rather, Li interlaces memory, writers who have impacted her life, her vision and wisdom in this
memoir/homage/collection.

Li writes that it is her desire to write, and her felt connection to writers, that keep her alive. Li pays tribute
to the writers and philosophers who impact her and provide a sense of authenticity She writes that she has
difficulty forming attachments, yet “against my intuition I have formed attachments –to people, to a
profession, to an adopted language–but I have yet to learn to live with them”. She writes of the fear she
feels “taking you–you, my life, and all that makes it worth living–seriously”. She writes of being on a fine
balance between wanting to die and learning how to live, by not dying.

I felt, as I read Yiyun Li’s book, that Li truly was writing to me, the reader, from her life, the writer. She
writes from her personal history and culture (Chinese), and from her perspective and sense of self. In a
world full of Positive Psychology, Instagram Happiness and Social Influencers, I found Li’s mindset, her
struggle to stay alive, refreshingly authentic, difficult to read and profoundly moving. I felt welcome into
an intimate space to witness Li’s profound mental and spiritual struggle. As her experience is so vastly
different than mine ~ for instance while my mother told me she loved me ~ Li writes that her mother,
would be “taken over by inexplicable rage, saying I, the only person she loved, deserved the ugliest death
because I did not love her enough.” While she was a middle schooler under martial law during the
Tianaman Square Rebellion/Massacre, I was a graduate student in the United States. As painful this book is, it is a true work of art.

Reviewed by: Betsy Pownall, LPC

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

by Isabel Wilkerson

I heard about this book first when the author was interviewed on the John Stewart Podcast “The Trouble with John Stewart”.  That interview connected some dots for me, so I took this book out from the library as an audiobook and listened to it over two days.  I had a hard time stopping because it presented a case for our history based on the “Caste System” which tied historical events together in a way I had not seen done before.
Isabel Wilkerson is the author of this book.  She is a Pulitzer Prize winner and received the National Humanities Medal.  She describes “caste” in the NPR book review from August 10, 2020, as “the granting or withholding of respect, status, honor, attention, privileges, resources, benefit of the doubt, and human kindness to someone on the basis of their perceived rank or standing in the hierarchy.”  Isabel goes on to name “what some people call racism could be seen as merely one manifestation of the degree to which we have internalized the larger American caste system.”
Isabel’s ability to tie a thread, and sometimes a thick rope, through the events of history including the monarchy to present day politics of the United States teaches the importance of learning from our history.  As the saying goes from Winston Churchill, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
The book “Caste – The Origins of Our Discontents” should be required reading in high school and college.  The framework provided in the book teaches how every dynamic within our social structure either gives permission or holds accountable the individual, community, or society.  This book reveals many historical stories of slavery, oppression, war, and “othering” including the election of Donald Trump.  I am not proud to say that many stories in this book are ones I never learned in school, but should have.
I believe this is the book we need right now as we listen to the January 6th Committee report their findings from the January 6th insurrection..  There are many examples of power, oppression, and control dynamics at play which are magnified when we look at this from a lens of Caste Systems.
I will listen to this book again (something I never do), because I have no doubt that I will take more away when I listen to it a second time.  Reviewed by: Tanya Kramer, LPC

Nonviolent Communication By Marshall Rosenberg

Marshall Rosenberg, was a moving American author that changed the lives of many as a dedicated teacher, peacemaker, and visionary leader. He was raised in Detroit and later completed his undergraduate at the University of Michigan. Marshall then received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Wisconsin in 1961.

“What I want in my life is compassion, a flow between myself and others based on a mutual giving from the heart.” -Marshall RosenbergIn his book, Non-violent Communication (NVC), Marshall “helps people to exchange the information necessary to resolve conflicts and differences peacefully.” Speaking and listening from a place of compassion and the heart while learning to hear the deeper needs within ourselves and others, thus enriching the lives of ourselves and others. After reading NVC you are able to empower yourself to facilitate real connections to ones self and others.

Before I read NVC, I was speaking from a place of domination, just as I was taught growing up. I was very open to reading this recommended book as I was yearning for a new way to communicate. In the past, I was often looking at things as either right or wrong, good or bad, and looking only outside myself.   My conversations were not producing good results.

Prior to reading NVC, I was speaking from a place of domination as I had observed growing up. I was open to reading this recommended book as I was yearning for a new way to communicate. In the past, when I was looking at things as either right or wrong/good or bad, and looking only outside myself, my conversations were not producing good results. In NVC, I learned I could shed these old habits and build upon new ones. I know words can be powerful and I wanted my words to come from a place of positivity. Words no longer had to lead to hurt and pain, I no longer had to make demands and could now practice requests. A new way of communicating was to be learned!

I soon cultivated the ability to listen to my feelings, express my needs, and accept answers that I didn’t want to hear. I learned I have options on how I receive information, no longer taking things so personally. I also have options on how I respond to others. By learning to connect to my feelings with what I observe, using ”I feel” statements, and listening for the underlying needs of others, today I am now capable of having more meaningful conversations in my life.

I like to consider this book an active workbook that I keep on my shelf to peer into from time to time, as I sometimes forget the four components of NVC: Observations, feelings, needs, and requests. First observing what is actually happening, identifying how I feel about what I just observed, detailing what needs of mine are in conjunction or in line with the feelings I just identified and followed by action, a request. An example provided in the book states, “Would you be willing to put your socks in your room or in the washing machine?”

I would highly recommend the book for anyone that wants to learn more about themselves, flourish and grow in their relationships, both interpersonally and professionally, while sharpening their skills in authentically connecting to others.  Reviewed by: Chelsea Hauer

Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bojhalian Sandcastle Girls audio Chris Bohjalian, an Armenian-American writer, has written moving fictional description of the Armenian Genocide told through the experience of very different people who were in Aleppo in 1915. Although it is a love story, Bohjalian has written a powerful novel that brings the history of the Armenian Genocide to the reader.

Sandcastle Girls moves between the present, as Laura Petrosian explores her Armenian roots, to 1915 Aleppo where Laura’s grandparents meet. When a friend of Laura tells her she saw a photograph of Laura’s grandmother in an exhibit of photographs from the genocide, Laura starts exploring her family’s connection to the genocide.

The 1915 period of this novel is told through multiple perspectives: Elizabeth, a Bostonian who travels to Aleppo on behalf of The Friends of Armenia, a charitable organization, with her father, who is a banker . She meets Armen Petrosian, an Armenian engineer who is working with two sympathetic army Germans who are photographing the Armenian refugees in an effort to document the genocide. In addition to this, the novel also includes the perspective of two Armenian women: Nevart, who is a widow, and Hatoon, an orphan. Hatoon’s story is deeply impactful and devastating as she describes seeing her family murdered by Turkish soldiers.

I had the opportunity to listen to this book through audiotape, so I may be biased when I say this, but I found the experience to be probably more impactful than had I read the book. I felt carried into Aleppo through the narrator’s voice as she described the streets full of refugees, Elizabeth’s experience witnessing the trauma of genocide for the first time in her life, the description of country, the horrors Hatoon recounts. It is at once a good story, and a history lesson that we sadly see played out over and over again (Reviewed by Betsy Pownall, LPC)

Hamnet: A Novel About the Plague, by Maggie O’Farrell

It’s not often I would choose a book, knowing that, in the end, the main character will die, much less, know how the main character is going to die! Why subject myself to sadness? But, there was something about this book that compelled me. Was it because it is a fictional account of William Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet? Or was it because of the subtitle “A Novel about the Plague”? Whatever it was, I found this book to read like a sound bath in written word. Words describing the soul of dying, the soul of loss, and the spiritual layer between the living and the dead, the soul of grief. Reading this book felt cathartic, beautiful, sad and then again inspiring. Perhaps reading about death is helpful in facing our own loss, of which many of us share in this time of the postmodern plague.  Reviewed by Betsy Pownall, LPC)

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story created by Nikole Hannah-Jones

In 1619, the White Lion sailed to the English colony of Virginia with twenty-plus enslaved Africans to be sold to landowners. This was the start of American Slavery, an institution that would have such an immense impact on the development of our nation, whose legacy is still present in our culture. In 2019, a poll conducted by the Washington Post found that ⅔ of Americans believe the legacy of slavery still affects our culture today. American students have been taught that slavery is an aberration in the history of our developing nation. We did not learn the depth, emotional pain, and the anguish of the enslaved experience. Nor have we learned of the influence slaveholders had on our culture, politics, and body of law that guide our nation. The book, 1619: a New Origin Story edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Caitlin Roper, Ilena Silverman and Jake Silverstein, is an anthology of essays, poetry, fiction and photographs that elucidate the history of Black people. Originally a special issue in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, 1619 became a podcast, an education curriculum, and a book, with a Pulitzer Prize awarded to its originator, Ms. Hannah-Jones. Her assertion – that our origin story begins with the White Lion rather than the Mayflower – inflamed critics, with former President Trump denouncing it and five state legislators stripping funds from schools for using it as part of their curriculum.The essays in 1619 present a history and interpretation that has not been presented to most Americans growing up through the public school system. To test this, here is a short quiz: 1. How did the Haitian Revolution affect our country? 2. What is the Dred Scott decision and what effects can we observe today? 3. What is the 1924 Racial Integrity Act? 4. What role did sugar play in the development of our nation? 5. What was the original intent of the line“well-regulated militia” in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution? 6. Who are Toussant Loverture and Jean-Jacque Dessalines and how did they impact North American slaveholders? 7. What is the 1921 Greenwood Massacre?1619 brings the past to life, through many connections of past laws, codes, and assumptions to present-day realities.  For example “stop and frisk” is a hold-over from the Slave Code, where any Black person could be searched at any time. Another example from 2013, the Voting Act of 1965 was dismantled, leading to “the greatest wave of voter suppression laws since the late 19th Century” (NYT book review, 1619). The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which is intended to restore full protections of the original Voting Rights Act of 1965, is set to be debated in Congress, without a mandate to pass. Just a few days ago, Senator Mitch McConnell referred to “Black Americans voting in just as high percentage as Americans”, in response to a question regarding voter protection for people of color.“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed unless faced,” wrote James Baldwin. 1619 is an origin story that has the ability to broaden and deepen our understanding, empathy, and experience of being a Black American. ….Betsy Pownall, LPC

The Will To Change by bell hooks

The author opted not to capitalize her name to keep us focused on her work.  She is the author of Remembered Rapture, Killing Rage, Ain’t I a Woman, All About Love, Rock My Soul, and many more.  The prolific and trailblazing feminist died on December 15th, 2021.  Her Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center brought critical attention to the fact that the movement has often been too focused on the experience of white women.

The Will To Change is all about men and love: a rare pairing in American culture.  In order to become caring fathers, partners, friends, and community members, hooks argues that men must be brave enough to move towards intimacy and emotional openness. In the preface she notes that “men cannot change if there are no blueprints for change.” The Will to Change provides a rationale, an inspiration, and a blueprint for all men to get in touch with their feelings and express themselves…..Jordan Karr, PhD

Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell 

In her book, Cultish, Amanda Montell cites professionals, peers, and current research as she explores linguistic persuasion techniques that leaders use to condition their followers. Some examples of this are: “thought terminating cliché” ~ phrases used to stop critical thought, such as “it is what it is”, “everything happens for a reason”; confirmation bias ~ presenting one-sided version that supports a leader’s ideology as they speak vaguely and euphemistically while masking reality; the use of medical and scientific jargon to legitimize a particular ideology. Ms Montell warns us to pay attention to the power language can have over us, as she maps the pathways we could easily stumble upon when bright and shiny groups making promises that resonate with us.

“It’s in our DNA to want to believe in something, to feel something, alongside other people seeking the same. I’m confident there’s a healthy way to do that…by becoming a part of several “cults” at once…That way we’re free to chant, to hashtag…to speak some form of Cultish…all the while staying tethered to reality”, she concludes.

This is a bright, insightful book written in first person, with first person accounts, humor and a dash of swag…..Betsy Pownall, LPC

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

Sixty-nine year old So-Nyo is separated from her husband in a crowded Seoul subway station and from that point on, the family searches for her, both physically and emotionally as they all, individually, reflect on their memory of her. Family secrets, cultural history and cultural transformation paint the backdrop of the life of a woman lost both to herself and to her family. 

 

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

This book is the Grapes of Wrath re-visited through Elsa Wolcott, a woman cast away from her biological family and embraced by an Italian-American family on the cusp of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era. When the dust storms devastate Texas, Elsa leaves the farm and heads to California, alone with her two children, to find work and a new beginning. 

This period of time was considered the worst environmental disaster in our country as our economy collapsed as a result of massive unemployment. Once a chapter in our cultural history, the Dust Bowl era resonates with the current time we are living in. This book speaks to the refugee experience ~of being ‘othered’, feared, hated, maligned ~ as Americans migrated to the West Coast to survive. 

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
By Richard Rothstein (2017)

Dense, but essential reading when trying to really understand how our laws were created to oppress and continue to do so.  Topics such as redlining are covered in depth.

When They Call you a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
By Patrisse Khan-Cullor and Asha Bandele (2018)

Lyrical, impactful memoir written by the originator of Black Lives Matter movement. Clear, personal description of the ‘school to prison pipeline’: students of color and students with disabilities, who are disproportionately suspended, expelled and arrested at school.

The Other Black Girl
By Zakiya Dalila Harris (2021)

Fictional story of ambition, manipulation, suspicion, the struggles of being a Black woman in mostly all-white industry. Dark humor, suspense and fantasy; race politics underlies this fast-paced novel.

This reflective book about Glennon’s journey from struggling with addiction and an eating disorder, to finding sobriety and starting a family which then changed as she embraced her attraction to women.  Glennon shares the challenges and love found when she decides to do “hard things”.  Glennon shares this vulnerable story with humor, metaphors, and honesty about how we set ourselves free when we allow ourselves to be true to ourselves.

Why I’ve Taken my Podcast off Spotify by Roxanne Gay 

In her New York Times Opinion piece (Sunday, 2/4/2022), Roxanne Gay discusses her decision to take her podcast, The Roxanne Gay Agenda, off Spotify. There is a difference between censorship and curation, she writes. Censorship is being afraid of expressing yourself due to the threat of punishment or death. Curation is an exercise of discernment, or having good judgment. If our society does not want to allow misinformation and bigotry to get wide exposure, popular media platforms with wide audiences have the responsibility of “curating” their material by discerning who they allow on their sites, she writes. While Ms Gay believes in critical thinking and being exposed to a multitude of ideas, including those that will challenge our values and deeply held beliefs, she does not believe people have the “…the right to say whatever they want, wherever, whenever, on whatever platform they choose”. We may have the Constitutional right to free speech, but that right does not give us the right to lucrative book deals, or high profile lucrative media contracts, she writes. By allowing misinformation and bigotry to be espoused to wide audiences, significant platforms, like Spotify, are abdicating their responsibility to curate their material, she believes. Instead, they are focused on their bottom line. As Spotify is not exercising discernment, Ms Gay is curating her work by removing herself from the platform.

(Reviewed by Betsy Pownall, LPC)

The Bill For My Homelessness Was $54,000 by Lori Theresa Yearwood 

Ms. Yearwood was an accomplished journalist before she made some decisions during the 2008 recession that wreaked havoc on her financial and emotional stability. In just 12 months, Ms. Yearwood went from being housed to “lying inside a plastic garbage bag on a park bench”. She writes of her descent into homelessness in a New York Times op/ed piece (Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022), the trauma she experienced on the streets, and her slow, expensive return to being housed. Ms. Yearwood’s expenses included ambulance rides, (she was charged twice for the same ambulance ride), IRS fines from penalties (on taxes she had already paid), and a multitude of fines. “American society criminalizes people experiencing homelessness” by hidden penalties that pile up over time “that can start with the towing and impoundment of the vehicles people sleep in” and continue into a long list of misdemeanors such as camping, loitering, panhandling, etc. Ms. Yearwood suggests that support for the general homeless be provided both through trauma-informed medical professionals and a system that provides debt relief for rapid rehousing, such as a program the VA has for Veteran families. She asks: “How are we as a society going to make it right going forward for those who have been homeless if we don’t recognize the harm inflicted on them in the past”?


How Do You Overcome Your Fears by Amanda Gorman


Amanda Gorman describes her ambivalence around performing her poem at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration. She writes that she was terrified, as a Black person, to gain visibility in a deeply divided nation, without secret service protection. She was aware that the whole world would be watching. Ms. Gorman writes, “maybe being brave enough doesn’t mean lessening my fear, but listening to it”. Since Inaugural Day the nation continues in darkness, grieving immense loss, challenged by COVID, environmental disasters and deep cultural and political divisions. Ms. Gorman reminds us that fear is a power we can learn from, grow from and listen to and that “if you’re alive, you’re afraid. If you’re not afraid, then you are not paying attention”. And that hope is “a promise we live”. ….Betsy Pownall, LPC

Benching the Patriarchy: 50 Years of Title IX

“Fifty years ago, Title IX banned discrimination based on sex in educational institutions. College sports had to change. Host and former NPR correspondent Emily Harris presents the story of coach Jody Runge, who drove that change in the women’s basketball team at the University of Oregon, which is a powerhouse today. Harris teamed up with audio journalist Ida Hardin to report this story.”

The Stoop

“The Sounds of Blackness.” “IVF and Us.” “Buffalo Soldiers.” “We see you, dads.” “Butter on a Burn.” These are some of the titles of talks from The Stoop podcast hosts and producers, Leila Day and Hana Baba. They speak in depth of cultures across the Black diaspora. The two have a fun and playful way of bringing in stories of rich culture, history, and nuances that depict roles and influences of Blackness that often go under the radar. Leila and Hana have backgrounds in journalism and do a great job of bringing well researched information to the community that reflect the stories of Black/African folks nationally and globally. The hosts bring in relevant concepts to contemplate not only for the Black/African community but for allies to learn and consider as well. This is a great podcast to expand one’s understanding as the movement continues to build towards cultural awareness and being more empathetic human beings.
(Reviewed by Christina Bein, LCSW)

NPR Code Switch

From the website “What’s CODE SWITCH? It’s the fearless conversations about race that you’ve been waiting for. Hosted by journalists of color, our podcast tackles the subject of race with empathy and humor. We explore how race affects every part of society — from politics and pop culture to history, food and everything in between. This podcast makes all of us part of the conversation — because we’re all part of the story. Code Switch was named Apple Podcasts’ first-ever Show of the Year in 2020.”

I listen to CODE SWITCH to continue to grow my knowledge of issues that impact every part of our society and decrease my blindspots.  I appreciate the different perspectives and experiences they bring to the discussion that demonstrates how complex these topics are and why we need to engage and learn from each other……Tanya Kramer

Pod Save the People

From the website “On Pod Save the People, DeRay Mckesson explores news, culture, social justice, and politics with Kaya Henderson and De’Ara Balenger. They offer a unique take on the news, with a special focus on overlooked stories and topics that often impact people of color.There’s also a weekly one-on-one interview with DeRay and special guests, from singer/songwriter John Legend to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The experts, influencers, and diverse local and national leaders who come on the show go deep on social, political, and cultural issues.

I listen to Pod Save the People to get inside and first hand accounts of some of the racial justice actions, learning about advocates, and how social justice issues are threaded throughout the fabric of our society.  This podcast exposes issues that other media programs do not cover……Tanya Kramer

We Can Do Hard Things

Featuring Glennon Doyle and including her sister and Abby Wambach, Glennon’s wife.  This podcast covers topics such as gender, divorce, weight, substance use, relationships, being true to yourself, setting boundaries, and other relatable concepts with vulnerability and honesty.  The “We Can Do Hard Things” is a movement of people navigating life without being held down by societal pressures.

Don’t Look Up 

Two words: Look up.

Two astronomists make an astounding discovery of a comet orbiting within the solar system. The problem – it’s on a direct collision course with Earth. The other problem? No one really seems to care. Turns out warning mankind about a planet-killer the size of Mount Everest is an inconvenient fact to navigate.

Judas and the Black Messiah

In 1968, 19-year old Bill O’Neal is arrested for petty theft and gets a deal by the FBI to have charges dropped if he works undercover for the bureau. He is assigned to the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and its leader, Fred Hampton.

Edgar Hoover is alarmed at how strong the Black Panther movement has become, as the party takes care of and empoweres the black community in a way the U.S. government is not. When O’Neal grows close to Fred Hampton, Hampton is creating alliances with rival gang members through their Free Breakfast for Children. Because of O’Neal, Hampton is eventually “neutralized”, as J. Edgar Hoover ordered. This is an incredible, forceful movie that describes history absent from most textbooks. A must see.

Play (in Portland)

Appropriate, written by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and directed by Jerry Ruiz, is currently
running now through May 22 at Portland’s Profile Theater.

Appropriate is a gothic Southern family drama that takes place in a plantation in the Deep
South. Family members are gathering as their father, the Patriarch, recently died. Frank, the
youngest son, surprises everyone with his visit, as he had “escaped the family” ten years ago.
When the play opens, Frank and his girlfriend, River, are entering the darkened
plantation through a window. It is night, the cicadas are singing loudly; Frank and River can
barely hear each other talk. Frank and River have been on a journey across the US. It is implied
they met through rehab or AA.

The plantation is surrounded by the old family cemetery “with all the stones overturned”,
“a disgusting lake”, and an “old slave cemetery that has no marked graves”.
The family slowly gathers in the living room when Frank and River appear. Family
members include: Toni, the oldest daughter who raised Frank and cared for their father until he
died. Rhys, her young adult son. Bo, the oldest brother, who has just arrived from Portland with
his wife, Rachael, a Jewish woman originally from New York City, their teenage daughter and
young son. And of course, Frank (who changed his name to “Franz”), and River.
Someone randomly opens a photo album that is propped up on a bookshelf and in so
doing, opens a window to a dark, silenced part of family history. The images are cruel,
gruesome; the siblings cannot believe their father owns them. “Daddy was so genteel”; “Daddy
was such a gentleman”; “Daddy wasn’t racist”; “Maybe someone left the album” “Maybe he just
found it and didn’t know what to do with it”, the siblings muse. Meanwhile, the question
overrides everything: where did the pictures come from? If they are, indeed “Daddy’s”, Bo’s
wife wonders, “is his ‘personality trait’ hereditary”? We watch a family grapple with denial as
denial slowly gets crushed. We witness their struggle with truth as they are forced to see the truth of each other, and their history. We watch the adults try, in vain, to keep the photo album from the children. Meanwhile, we slowly learn what the images depict.

Appropriate addresses the whitewashing of history, denial, and the oppression family
history can bear on the individual, and on a family. It seems to say we cannot truly be
emancipated from the violence of our forebears, and likewise, we share a responsibility to our
familial and personal history. Who better than the children of history, to seek redemption and
reparation for the crimes against humanity our ancestors committed? In turning toward our
cultural history rather than away; by being honest with ourselves and allowing our children learn
the honest truth of our origins, is vital to heal and grow as a people. If we cannot do this, history
will repeat itself. As the cicadas cling to the trees, silent and camouflaged by day and loudly
singing by night, the truth of our cultural history remains, loudly or silently, appropriate or
inappropriate, whether we want to examine it or not.

Other Resources