Readings 2016

  1. Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi (2013). Americanah: A Novel. New York: Anchor Book.

A selection by the Diversity Committee Reading Group for discussion during the spring semester. Chimamanda is an Eastern graduate (Communication, 2001) and has relatives nearby. (Our daughter’s doctor, Dr. Maduka, is Chimamanda’s sister.) The novel follows the love lives of Ifemelu, a young Igbo-Nigerian, for a high school sweetheart in Lagos to the white brother of an upper crust Philadelphia family for whom she was nanny-ing to an African-American professor at Yale and then back to her high school sweetheart in an inflating Lagos. The voyage includes an aunt intertwined with a general in the Nigerian government who leaves Lagos for medical studies with their son after the general’s assassination, Ifemelu also leaving her striking Nigerian college and her love Obinze for a liberal arts college in Philadelphia (a not discussed much version of Drexel), Obinze’s and Ifemelu’s challenges as undocumented workers in England and the US East Coast respectively, the use of email and blogging for shaping and losing relationships and for employment, sexual abuse and depression, natural hair styles, ethnic politics – with 3 blog posts that mention Jews and other “European” ethnic groups, and life for returnees and the growing upper class in the Nigeria of 2000s. A sequel to this novel would be appreciated – perhaps in 20 years to see how relationships, nations, and diversity have developed for another generation.  1/4/2016

Songs featured in the novel – Bracket’s Yori Yori –

and Obi Mu O – Obiora Obiwon featuring Guchi Young – .

2) Rethinking education and poverty, ed. by William G. Tierney. Johns Hopkins, 2015. 286p bibl index afp ISBN 9781421417677, $75.00; ISBN 9781421417684 pbk, $34.95; ISBN 9781421417691 ebook, $34.95.

Editor Tierney assumes “that in a democratic nation, education can provide opportunity if the country has structures that enable it to happen”. Reimers finds that there is a “poverty of aspirations about how schools could empower the poor”. Abedi reports that the “research on the impact of poverty in education has provided mixed results”. Snipp cautions that American Indian self-determination in education “may not be sufficient to bring about … lasting change”. Leonardo calls for a transformation in our language about poverty. Hogrebe and Tate find that school locations may impact “access to emerging opportunities in the age of the New Biology and STEM disciplines”. Oakes urges scholars to press their “institutions to recognize and reward engaged scholarship seeking to advance equity”. Tierney compares college readiness goals with alternative European pathways. Weis, Cipollone, and Stich discuss the impacts on poverty and privilege on postsecondary admissions. Heath examines the effects of community under-resourcing of arts and science on achievement. Marginson explores whether post-Confucian mindsets might develop economic miracles. St. John and Bowman conclude that “it is important to pay attention to the ways social, financial, and cultural matters influence educational inequality”.

submitted to Choice – Current Reviews for Academic Libraries on January 5, 2016

3) Wex, Michael (2005).  Born to Kvetch:  Yiddish Language and Culture in All Its Moods.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press.

An overview of the evolution, development, and role of Yiddish in Jewish history.   The text requires some knowledge of Yiddish and of Jewish culture and religion.  Amusing sections on courtship and marriage, sex, death, religion in the language, curses, and other life cycle events.     February 2016

4) Warring, William H. Jr.  (2016). From Risk to Resiliency:  A Resource for Strengthening Education’s Stepchild.  Lanham, MD:  Rowman & Littlefield.

Dr. Warring’s observations on continuation schools, alternative high school pathways for students not thriving in comprehensive high school settings, are based on his experiences as a continuation school teacher and as an educational consultant in California.  The reform of these schools is desperately needed for in some large urban school districts in California less than 50% of the students graduate from high school.  A descriptions of the historic development of these schools and the challenges current students face lead to a discussion of their functions as safety nets, safety valves, or dumping grounds.  Warring calls on using a resiliency-based paradigm to develop learners’ self-cognitive practices, self-efficacy, resiliency, and hope.  He also discusses strategies for reducing faculty and community members’ resistance to change.  School faculty should increase the quality of their interpersonal relationships with students, improve self-perceptions of all community members, promote school-wide adaptive mental practice, and increase opportunities for students to participate in school-sponsored and out-of-school extracurricular activities.  This text would have benefited from more recent references and more discussion of the growing roles of educational technology and personalized learning in both continuation and comprehensive high schools.   reviewed on February 11, 2016

5) Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi (2004).  Purple Hibiscus.  New York:  Anchor Books.

Read following Americanah, this text relates the struggles of a 15-year old women in a family faced with disconnects between traditional and western cultures, urban and rural life, business and university perspectives, and parenting and role development in a nation recovering from colonialism and militarism.  Thing do also fall apart at the end of colonialism and the beginning of a nation of diverse peoples and authorities.  The purple hibiscus is a symbol of the innocence and beauty of African life, uncomplicated by layers of cultures and value systems.

reviewed on February 16, 2016 before our diversity committee lunch discussion

6) Rhoads, Robert A. MOOCs, high technology, and higher learning. Johns Hopkins, 2015. 168p bibl index ISBN 9781421417790, $29.95; ISBN 9781421417806 ebook, $29.95.

Professor Rhoads (UCLA) chronicles the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) from 2008 to 2014, discusses how they are organized, and clarifies the distinctions between cMOOCs  that emphasizes connecting learners, xMOOCs that emphasize an extension from face-to-face courses, and hybrid xsMOOCs that include more educational strategies to support student learning.  MOOCs developed from the Knowledge Commons and open courseware and educational resources shared freely by universities and governmental agencies.  Their rapid growth was powered by for-profit businesses, foundations, government, and venture capitalists.  Connectivist teaching and learning theory supported the developed of cMOOCs, popular with self-directed, adults learners.  A desire to expand college access for diverse communities and developing nations led to xMOOCs.  Rhoads describes how in 2013-2014 the implementation of MOOCs resulted in resistance and focus on problems of epistemology, pedagogy, hegemony, diversity, and faculty labor.  Practical considerations impacting faculty are copyright and intellectual property issues and instructional technology support and related faculty development.  He concludes that “the MOOC movement will be defined by its zealous high-tech experimentation in online education countenanced by a degree of skepticism about the role of technology in solving our most challenging educational problems.”

reviewed on March 11, 2016 for Choice

7) Glassman, Michael. Educational psychology and the Internet. Cambridge, 2016. 327p bibl index ISBN 9781107095441, $99.99; ISBN 9781107479302

Professor Glassman (Ohio State University) supports this discussion on open source educative processes with a history of the growth of the Internet, an educational foundation resting on Vygotsky, Dewey, and others, and recent developments like course management systems , augmented  reality, and MOOCs.    He divides the text into two sections – learning through Internet-infused education and teaching using Internet-infused technologies.  Building on visionary Vannevar Bush’s (1945) imagining of the new philosophies needed for the educational potential of technological supported human networking, Glassman chronicles the governmental development of collaborative/hypermedia intelligence.   He contrasts new roles for internet-infused learners in cooperative groups, where they share their own expertise to collectively problem-solve, or in collaborative groups, where they remain engaged together in a shared task.   Tracing the importance of sociability in online learning to Darwinian evolutionary mandates, the development of communities of inquiry and a nurturing facilitator are essential.   Noting that the human need for learners being in the same space and place may outweigh “cybernetic-organism relationships”, open educational resources and the creative commons might support these online communities and society.   Reflections about deschooling society postulated by Illich (1970) would have enhanced these conclusions.

reviewed on March 28, 2016 for Choice

8)  Preparing educators for online learning: a careful look at the components and how to assess their value, ed. by Stacy Hendricks and Scott Bailey. Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. 181p bibl afp ISBN 9781475822496, $60.00; ISBN 9781475822502 pbk, $30.00; ISBN 9781475822519 ebook, $29.99.

This text developed by scholars from Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas is designed “to give practicing administrators, human resource professionals, and teachers and students in university education preparation programs insights into the continuous development of quality online training components.”  Gound describes the positive aspects and concerns of hybrid and online learning environments, while Hendricks and Bailey discuss the perceptions of online learning being from diploma mills, resulting in low quality preparation, is isolating for students, and unreliable due to cheating.  Bailey reports that “online learning is equally effective as other instructional methods” and “has gained a solid foothold in the educational system.”   Hendricks and Sampson suggest that quality online teacher education programs make use of various online tools and field experiences to maintain personal connections among students and teachers and, Breen adds, build interpersonal dispositions, skills, and professionalism.   Reflections from a graduate student, an eProfessor, and school administrators on the changing perceptions, challenges, and effectiveness of online learning precede Tareilo’s review of the financial implications of online learning, Hendricks’s advice on hiring candidates trained online, and Hasbun’s discussion of the growing significance of online learning in K-12 settings.

reviewed on April 26, 2016 for CHOICE

9) Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi (2009).   The Thing Around Your Neck.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf

A collection of short story including narratives about a young man and his family during his imprisonment for robbery, a Nigerian wife and family kept near Philadelphia while her husband has a life in Lagos, the connection between a college student and a shop keeper during a riot, the university faculty survivors of the Nigerian troubles, a nanny for a son of a Jewish lawyer and a reclusive artist, a Nigerian writer at a workshop in a South African resort, an immigrant to Eastern Connecticut suffering from the thing around one’s neck – depression – and connecting to a white college student Afro-phile in love,  the process of getting an asylum visa from the American embassy in Lagos, religious shivering with a neighbor in Princeton, an immigrant brought to Flatbush for an arranged marriage, returning to Nigeria for a Grandmama’s funeral, and a multi-generational history of marital life influenced by the church.  Some of these themes echoed in Americanah.

reviewed on May 3, 2016

10) Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi (2006).   Half of a Yellow Song.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf

More detailed than the 2013 film, this story of two Igbo-Nigerian sisters and their community, including house staff, lovers from Nigeria and England, and families within the backdrop of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war.  The image of half of a yellow sun was on the Biafran flag.  Highlights include the instability of Nigeria after independence, an army attack following a marriage, war profiteering and serving refugees, and the missing sister at the end of the civil war.

reviewed on May 3, 2016

Massive Open Online Courses completed:

Discovering Ashkenaz with Professor Samuel Kassow, YIVO – January – February 2016

Global Online Course: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Addressing Wicked Problems – Cornell University – February – March 2016

Religious Literacy: Traditions and Scriptures – Harvard University – February – March 2016 

HarvardX: HDS3221.2x Christianity Through Its Scriptures – April -May 2016

11) Cobb, William Jelani (2010).  The Substance of Hope:  Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress.  New York:  Walker and Company.

A discussion of the relationships between the African-American community and Barack Obama.  Interesting comments on how the Democratic Party sought unity in 2008, the reactions of elder civil rights leaders to the young upstart, and the rise of the Joshua generation.  The author concludes that Obama’s “election is best understood as a passing respite, a brief moment of rest before it falls to us to once again turn our schoulder to the wheel of history.”

reading on the way to Portland, OR for the 2016 AAUP summer institute and to help Fay move in to her Hillel 818 job in Northridge, CA

book given to Fay as part of her 5776 Hanukah gifts from the Dollar Store

reviewed on July 24, 2016

12) Rabbi Lawrence Kushner (2006).  Kabbalah:  A Love Story.  New York:  Broadway Books.

A love story across time and settings – Christian Spain in 1290, Boston, Manhattan, Poland in the 1990s – evolving around a hidden older verse found in a 1647 Kabbalah text – botzina d’qardinuta and alma d’ah-tay – a spark of impenetrable darkness and the world that is coming.  There are two parallel love stories – a rabbinic scholar and an astronomer in 1997 and a rabbi tutoring a noble woman in 1290, a story of the study of Kabbalah during the Holocaust on a train to a death camp, and a discussion of the connections between contemporary philosophy and science and the Kabbalah.   Borrowed from the synagogue library and read during our travel to visit Fay in Los Angeles.

reviewed on August 13, 2016

13) Wilkinson, Bruce (2000).  The Prayer of Jabez:  Breaking Through to  the Blessed Life.  Sisters, Oregon:  Multnomah Publishers.

1 Chronicles 4:9-11

9Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother named him Jabez saying, “Because I bore him with pain.” 10Now  Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed and enlarge my border,and that Your hand might be with me, and that You would keep me from harm that it may not pain me!” And God granted him what he requested.

Little discussed verses by Hebrew congregations, the author recites this prayer daily to justify living large with God with great faith and acceptance of one’s success.

Book retrieved from the Traveler Restaurant that invites customers to take 3 books each visit. Biked up to the Mass border near there during an August day.  Read during the high holidays in Fall 2016.

14) Lear, Norman (2014).  Even This I Get to Experience.  New York:  The Penguin Press.

Auto-biography of Norman Lear, TV producer, Hollywood insider, patriot, from his early days in Hartford to his golden years in Hollywood.  He discusses his difficult childhood within a broken family striving to earn the American dream, his WWII service, the challenges and successes of early television, and his growth as an elder statesman with the People for the American Way and the Declaration of Independence touring project.  Along the way, he gossips about the celebrities with whom he worked, the successes and failures of his socially conscious television programs, and the changes in American culture over the last 60 years.

Book borrowed from Aunt Goldie Liverant’s coffee table and read during the high holidays.

15)  Feuerman, Ruchama King (2013).  In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist:  A Novel.  New York: New York Review Books.

A New York Talmud scholar and haberdasher becomes an apprentice to a rabbi in Jerusalem. There Isaac meets the rebetzin who is an equal partner in offering chicken soup and advice to the unfortunate; Tamar, a Vespa-riding American Jew red-head;  and Mustafa, an Haram custodian who connects his role to a kohen.  When Mustafa finds a pottery pomegranate and a dove from the Temple period and involves Isaac in authentication, the Israeli police and security become involved.  They jail Isaac to get him to lead them to Mustafa, in the guise of maintaining the peace on the Temple Mount.

The author gave a reading at Eastern during the fall semester.  Her other novels feature match-making and the challenges of returning to the religion.