As our new president takes the oath of office and assumes the role of Commander in Chief and leader of the free world, I felt as though I would take some time to offer him some advice. It is well known our former president, Barack Obama, was an avid reader and a lover of knowledge and learning. I thought I might do my part as a citizen, lover of literature, and public school educator to share a handful of titles I feel might benefit our newly elected president. Naturally, there are hundreds of high-quality books on everyone’s must read lists, but these are a few that I think would really help set the foundation for a great presidency.
Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution - I feel as though this is a great starting point for anyone trying to grapple with the basic concepts within the US constitution. Certainly, this is just a starting point, but a great resource for those trying to understand what the founding fathers intended over 200 years ago. There is a reason our country is the envy of those around the world and the very foundation is in this document authored so many years ago.
Gracefully Grayson - As a public school educator who has worked with students struggling with their identity, this novel hit home for me. A powerful narrative about a young man who is trying to figure out who he is in the world. Not only is our character struggling with his identity, he is fighting for social and self-acceptance in an environment not conducive to either. For anyone, president or otherwise, trying to understand the very real and raw story of someone working through gender identity, this is a must read for sure.
March Book 1-3 - Written by John Lewis, these are a fantastic graphic novel chronicling Lewis’ life and struggles during the civil right’s movement. It is powerful narrative and important read for a number of reasons. For one, it highlights the importance of American heroes such as Lewis but also the value in protest and standing up for what is right. Another reason these books have value is due to their artistic quality. Elements such as graphics, art, and literature, should be valued and held in high esteem. They are not something to be politicized and cast away for the sake of a budget item.
Best Man - Richard Peck is a master storyteller and doesn’t let us down in his latest novel. Peck tells the story of a young man coming of age and realizing some truths about his uncle and his teacher. Without spoiling it for those who have not read it, this story is an important narrative on marriage equality and how we can never control who we love. Again, love is not something that should be politicized or marginalized by individuals and certainly not by a government.
All American Boys - This story will rock you to your very core with its graphic content and blunt honesty. Reynolds tackles the issues of racial tension that echoes the stories of so many around our country. Without antagonizing law enforcement or the African American community, Reynolds paints an honest picture of the tenuous relationship between those two groups. He also paints a picture of hope and possibility rather than one of anger and fear with a brutally honest narrative.
Hidden - One of the best books I have read this year, Hidden, is the story of brave young people putting their lives on the line to hide and protect a refugee. After finding a man on the beach, the main characters sacrifice their own well being to protect and aid him. Navigating the social web of racism, bigotry, and fear, they go out of their way to help the man and demonstrate the true power of the human spirit. The main characters prove that protecting human life should always trump politics or social bigotry.
Now, I am not naive enough to think our president will take this short reading list and do anything with it. However, I still put it out there for anyone looking to understand the complex world we live in. The only way we continue to make America great is to understand its people for all their faults and awesomeness. The people of this world are amazing and these stories illustrate that very fact. Rather than focus on the ills and fears in our world, I turn to literature such as those mentioned to shine the light on all that can be and is good within the human race. I urge our president to read these books and understand all of the great people he now represents.