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#5 On My TBR – Science

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. This week we focus on science titles. As a woman in the sciences I was super excited to see this topic. But I wanted to choose titles that I thought would appeal to a broader audience. The following books focus on why we get sick, the power of algorithms, geneology, racism and identity.

For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

#1 – The Disorded Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime and Dreams Deferred

From a star theoretical physicist, a journey into the world of particle physics and the cosmos — and a call for a more just practice of science.

In The Disordered Cosmos, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein shares her love for physics, from the Standard Model of Particle Physics and what lies beyond it, to the physics of melanin in skin, to the latest theories of dark matter — all with a new spin informed by history, politics, and the wisdom of Star Trek.

One of the leading physicists of her generation, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is also one of fewer than one hundred Black American women to earn a PhD from a department of physics. Her vision of the cosmos is vibrant, buoyantly non-traditional, and grounded in Black feminist traditions.

Prescod-Weinstein urges us to recognize how science, like most fields, is rife with racism, sexism, and other dehumanizing systems. She lays out a bold new approach to science and society that begins with the belief that we all have a fundamental right to know and love the night sky. The Disordered Cosmos dreams into existence a world that allows everyone to tap into humanity’s wealth of knowledge about the wonders of the universe.


#2 – DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America

The best-selling author of The Seven Daughters of Eve now turns his sights on the United States, one of the most genetically variegated countries in the world. From the blue-blooded pockets of old-WASP New England to the vast tribal lands of the Navajo, Bryan Sykes takes us on a historical genetic tour, interviewing genealogists, geneticists, anthropologists, and everyday Americans with compelling ancestral stories. His findings suggest:

• Of Americans whose ancestors came as slaves, virtually all have some European DNA.

• Racial intermixing appears least common among descendants of early New England colonists.

• There is clear evidence of Jewish genes among descendants of southwestern Spanish Catholics.

• Among white Americans, evidence of African DNA is most common in the South.

• European genes appeared among Native Americans as early as ten thousand years ago.

An unprecedented look into America’s genetic mosaic and an impressive contribution to how we perceive race, this is a fascinating book about what it means to be American.


#3 – Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease

Was diabetes evolution’s response to the last Ice Age? Did a deadly genetic disease help our ancestors survive the bubonic plagues of Europe? Will a visit to the tanning salon help lower your cholesterol? Why do we age? Why are some people immune to HIV? Can your genes be turned on — or off?

Dr. Sharon Moalem turns our current understanding of illness on its head and challenges us to fundamentally change the way we think about our bodies, our health, and our relationship to just about every other living thing on earth, from plants and animals to insects and bacteria.

Through a fresh and engaging examination of our evolutionary history, Dr. Moalem reveals how many of the conditions that are diseases today actually gave our ancestors a leg up in the survival sweepstakes. When the option is a long life with a disease or a short one without it, evolution opts for disease almost every time.

Everything from the climate our ancestors lived in to the crops they planted and ate to their beverage of choice can be seen in our genetic inheritance. But Survival of the Sickest doesn’t stop there. It goes on to demonstrate just how little modern medicine really understands about human health, and offers a new way of thinking that can help all of us live longer, healthier lives.


#4 – Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives–where we go to school, whether we can get a job or a loan, how much we pay for health insurance–are being made not by humans, but by machines. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules.


But as mathematician and data scientist Cathy O’Neil reveals, the mathematical models being used today are unregulated and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination–propping up the lucky, punishing the downtrodden, and undermining our democracy in the process.


#5 – The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is populated by a cast as strange as that of the most fantastic fiction. The subject of this strange and wonderful book is what happens when things go wrong with parts of the brain most of us don’t know exist . . . Dr Sacks shows the awesome powers of our mind and just how delicately balanced they have to be’ Sunday Times ‘Who is this book for? Who is it not for? It is for everybody who has felt from time to time that certain twinge of self-identity and sensed how easily, at any moment, one might lose it’ The Times ‘This is, in the best sense, a serious book. It is, indeed, a wonderful book, by which I mean not only that it is excellent (which it is) but also that it is full of wonder, wonders and wondering. He brings to these often unhappy people understanding, sympathy and respect. Sacks is always learning from his patients, marvelling at them, widening his own understanding and ours.

#5 On My TBR – 2021 Releases

Happy Happy New Year! How many of you are as excited to greet this new year as I am?

With a new year comes new resolutions, new plans and this week’s focus — new releases!

5 On My TBR is a weekly meme that gets you digging into your massive TBRs to find five special books. Created by E@LocalBeeHuntersNook this meme centers on a new prompt each Monday. For those of you interested in participating in #5 On My TBR you can find additional info and future prompts here.

So here are 5 of my most anticipated releases of 2021.

#1 – Chlorine Sky

I have read Mahogany’s Browne’s Black Girl Magic and the anthology The BreakBeat Poets and was moved. So when I saw that she had a novel-in-verse coming out this year I got goosebumps.

She looks me hard in my eyes
& my knees lock into tree trunks
My eyes don’t dance like my heartbeat racing
They stare straight back hot daggers.
I remember things will never be the same.
I remember things.

With gritty and heartbreaking honesty, Mahogany L. Browne delivers a novel-in-verse about broken promises, fast rumors, and when growing up means growing apart from your best friend.


#2 – Concrete Rose

International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.


#3 – Blood Grove

Walter Mosley is my favorite author and this is his 15th installment in the Easy Rawlins series.


#4 – 400 Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

An epoch-defining history of African America, the first to appear in a generation, Four Hundred Souls is a chronological account of four hundred years of Black America as told by ninety of America’s leading Black writers.


#5 – Harlem Shuffle

From two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.

Nonfiction November #3

The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart by Alicia Garza

The Purpose of Power is not your typical memoir.  Yes, Alicia Garza pours her personal experience into these pages but her focus is on building community.

  • She talks about the definition of empowerment and explains how it is different from power
  • She walks us through the historical aspects of movements including the civil rights movement
  • We learn the difference between having a following and a having a base and what it takes to mobilize that base during a movement.

While Garza dispels the idea that black lives matter is a hashtag, she also criticizes those who have co-opted the movement for their own personal and political gain.  These individuals were never part of BLM nor were involved in its founding.  One case in point is the lawsuit brought about by a Baton Rouge police officer.  During the 2016 protest against police brutality the officer was struck upon the head and suffered brain injuries.  He sued the three founders of Black Lives Matter. The judge ruled against him citing that you cannot sue a social movement.  Furthermore, the protest was not organized or promoted BLM. DeRay McKesson was the organizer of that event. He is a community activist but is not, nor has he ever been, a member of Black Lives Matter.

There have been several instances where the media has credited him and other men as having leading roles in the organization. Oftentimes, these men fail to correct them. In McKesson’s case he has met with politicians and dignitaries on behalf of Black Lives Matter.  Hillary Clinton even sat down to meet with him during her presidential bid after Garza, Cullors and Tometi declined to align themselves with either campaign.

Garza stresses that the vision for the Black Lives Matter movement came to fruition through the hard work and dedication of three black and queer women.  So why don’t we hear more of them? Simple, she says women are invisible in this society especially those that are marginalized.

Despite recognizing the importance of this intersectionality, she stresses that we must find common ground.  What is the one purpose that you all have?  Work towards that aim.  Garza admits that there will always be things that people disagree about and that not everyone is going to value the same things. But if you stay focused on that one thing that ties you all together you can see measured success.

On a personal note, she called me out and I’m sure she called out a bunch of you guys too, when she was going over empathy.  If someone is telling you that they are suffering from something, they are not expecting you to tell them of your experience with the same thing.  They just want you to listen and to be heard.  You may tell them you feel for their pain.  It was funny because there was a guy who posted something about being distracted with reading and I went on to respond that I too had been distracted during the Covid pandemic instead of just saying that I understood. I could have just shared my support.  Perhaps give suggestions.  It may seem like a minor issue, but I think we are more aware of our reactions to big issues.  These small moments occur every day and we often don’t realize what we are doing.  If we are going to come together as a nation we need to start learning how to put ourselves in each other’s shoes and try to see things from other people’s perspectives.  We also have to be able to find that common ground so we can heal as a nation.

Teaser Tuesday 11/3/20

Welcome to Teaser Tuesday, the weekly Meme hosted by The Purple Booker. It’s super easy and anyone can join in the fun!

1: Grab your current read
2: Open to a random page
3: Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

This week’s featured book is Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism by Seyward Darby. I am reading this book during Nonfiction November to get insight into how “the other side” thinks. I have my reasons for why I think people become racists because we all know they weren’t born that way. But I wanted to hear it from the horse’s mouth so to speak and Seyward Darby has afforded me this option.

Synopsis

After the election of Donald J. Trump, journalist Seyward Darby went looking for the women of the so-called alt-right–really just white nationalism with a new label. The mainstream media depicted the alt-right as a bastion of angry white men, but was it? As women headlined resistance to the Trump administration’s bigotry and sexism, most notably at the women’s marches, Darby wanted to know why others were joining a movement espousing racism and anti-feminism. Who were these women, and what did their activism reveal about America’s past, present, and future?

Darby researched dozens of women across the country before settling on three: Corinna Olsen, Ayla Stewart, and Lana Lokteff. Each was born in 1979 and became a white nationalist in the post-9/11 era. Their respective stories of radicalization upend much of what we assume about women, politics, and political extremism.


The Teaser

Corinna never tried the shallow end of anything. She didn’t see the point, when the deep end was right there, waiting.

pg. 34

What do you think drives people to hate? Are there any remedies for racism?

Nonfiction November #1

The Dead Are Arising by Les & Tamara Payne

The Dead Are Arising is the collaborative effort of Les Payne and his daughter Tamara. For the heralded columnist this is his opus, a thirty year labor of love. For Tamara Payne it is a testament to her father as much as it is to Malcolm.

This past Friday I had the pleasure of seeing Tamara Payne interviewed on Politics and Prose. In discussing the direction of The Dead Are Arising she explained how our love for the man clouds our vision of him. That we tend to see him in a vacuum. He is this myth of a man and we forget that he is a man who had a family. These extensions of himself that are still grounded here. His legacy lives on in them and although we as a public want to claim him, he really isn’t ours to own. In expressing these sentiments she could have been talking about Malcolm or her father Les Payne. In completing this book, one of Payne’s chief aims was to be true to her father’s voice. As his daughter, this book was her gift to the rest of his family; her hope that they would hear his voice as they read its pages.

The Dead Are Arising is the culmination of hundreds of interviews with the people who knew Malcolm best. While reading the book I found it hard not to compare it to The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This was in part because I read it directly before delving into this work, but also because the authors refer to it throughout. As a scientist, I considered this a natural part of being a researcher where your role is to verify the validity of the data presented to you. In some cases The Autobiography is supported. In others it is refuted.

Within its pages we get a new perspective of his early life and family dynamics. The previous claim that Malcolm’s father was murdered by the Klan is challenged. More attention is paid to the structure and the founding of the Nation of Islam. Most revelatory for me was the passages that detailed Malcolm’s meeting with the Ku Klux Klan in 1961 and the coverage of his assassination.

Payne is very protective of her subject. In fact fans of Marable’s book have criticized The Dead Are Arising for being too generous towards Malcolm’s legacy. His criminal activities are not as extensive or terrible as they appear in his autobiography. Miss Payne accounts for this difference by claiming that the purpose of exaggerating Malcolm’s street life in The Autobiography sets the stage for his origin myth. The more despicable a picture you paint of your past, the greater the redemptive value of your religious conversion.

The Dead Are Arising was an engrossing read. A vivid portrait, it gives insight into Malcolm Little, the child and El Hajj Malik Shabazz, the man. I believe Tamara Payne has done what she set out to do – amplify the voices of both her father and Malcolm.