Archive for the ‘education’ Tag

Seeing What We Want to See   Leave a comment


Don’t be fooled by the fact that Erika L. Sanchez’s novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, falls into the Young Adult category. Family relationships, immigration, education and mental health are among the issues Sanchez addresses. These are matters that should be of interest to everyone, regardless of age.

Julia Reyes, a bright and funny 15-year-old girl, lives with her family in a poor Chicago neighborhood. Her parents entered the U.S. illegally years before and work in menial jobs. Julia dreams of being a writer and going to college in New York City. Her older sister, Olga, considered the good and obedient daughter, has just died in a freak accident.

Julia and her parents express their grief differently, but none are able to reach out to the other for support. Julia has always been at odds with her mother while her father has grown more distant. Much to Julia’s annoyance, Olga was idolized by everyone around her – especially her mother. Yet, Julia discovers some questionable items in Olga’s bedroom leading her to suspect no one in her family truly knew her seemingly perfect sister.

The author incorporates humor and has crafted well-developed characters to move the narrative beyond the life of a poor inner city girl. Julia is aware of the limitations around her, but doesn’t want them to define her. As she struggles to learn more about Olga, she learns things about her parents and herself. Fortunately, Sanchez uses a light hand when conveying such heavy themes.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2017
344 pages


Championing the Underdogs   Leave a comment


The story of David and Goliath is so familiar making it the perfect set up for Malcolm Gladwell’s examination of beating the odds. In David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Gladwell blends storytelling with psychology and hard cold facts.

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t read Gladwell’s book; I listened to the audio version. I’ve read most of his other works, and enjoy his essays in The New Yorker. Although Gladwell is not the reader on the CD version, his is a unique voice. He shares insights about what makes us tick and manages to find common ground making it easy to relate to his thesis: even in daunting situations it’s possible to achieve success.

This concept may come as no surprise, but many of Gladwell’s examples might since some are contrary to preconceived ideas. His stories focus on personal experiences of others relating to higher education, dyslexia, loss of a child, and even sports. Parenting and financial success are among several subpoints.

What makes this work unique isn’t that Gladwell acknowledges the triumphs of the often-minimalized, but he shows that their accomplishments do not always emerge from the usual places. He acknowledges that making the most of situations certainly contributes, but it’s necessary to consider more than the obvious. For example, he discusses class size and its impact on academic prowess. We might think small class size is better, but, like other points in the book, Gladwell shows why this is faulty.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
Four Bookmarks
Recorded by Jared O’Donnell
Little Brown Hatchette Audio, 2013
Unabridged, 7 hours