September 2020 Suggested Readings
Louverne Noble Williams ’55, retired Minneapolis Public School teacher, currently involved in church and community activities, recommends the work of recently deceased John Lewis, which she calls “an older title but a masterpiece.”
Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, John Lewis
In 1957, a teenaged boy named John Lewis left a cotton farm in Alabama for Nashville, the epicenter of the struggle for civil rights in America. Lewis’s adherence to nonviolence guided that critical time and established him as one of the movement’s most charismatic and courageous leaders. Lewis’s leadership in the Nashville Movement—a student-led effort to desegregate the city of Nashville using sit-in techniques based on the teachings of Gandhi—set the tone for major civil rights campaigns of the 1960s. Lewis traces his role in the pivotal Selma marches, Bloody Sunday, and the Freedom Rides. Inspired by his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Lewis’s vision and perseverance altered history. In 1986, he ran and won a congressional seat in Georgia, and remained in office, continuing to enact change, until he died on July 17, 2020. The late Edward M. Kennedy said of Lewis, “John tells it like it was…Lewis spent most of his life walking against the wind of the times, but he was surely walking with the wind of history.” San Diego: Harcourt Brace; 1999
Elinor McKenna Temple ’60, shares current recommendations she offers bookstore customers. “I hope readers of all the books will enjoy them and that the novels will take them to times and places with no coronavirus.”
The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich
Based on the extraordinary life of National Book Award-winning and Minnesota-based author Louise Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and carried the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota all the way to Washington, D.C., this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humor, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman. NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2020.
The Yellow Bird Sings, Jennifer Rosner
Set in World War II Poland in 1941, The Yellow Bird Sings is the story of 5-year-old Shira, a musical prodigy, and her mother Roza. As the Nazis round up Jewish people, Roza and Shira hide out in the loft of the barn of a neighbor. Neither mother nor daughter are allowed to make a sound. Then, a day comes when the haven mother and daughter are inhabiting is no longer safe. Roza is forced to make a very difficult choice. The Yellow Bird Sings is a debut novel for Jennifer Rosner; she is the author of a memoir, a children’s book, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Massachusetts Review, Good Housekeeping, and other publications. NY: Flatiron Books, 2020.
Sandra Schuck Reynolds ‘67, president of the St. Catherine University student body in her senior year, suggests: “I’m delighted to recommend some books that I believe would add to the discussions that graduates are currently engaged in. These are some of my personal favorites.”
Intellectual Warfare, Jacob Carruthers
Testifying that the foundation of modern Western thought, theory, and practice can be traced back to ancient African thought, theory, and practice, this book exposes the African influence on Greek and Roman thought and its influence on the development of modern Western society. It then establishes the urgency to defend and honor the role of Ancient African civilizations on this major event. Exposing fallacies and reestablishing new and undistorted ways of viewing the formation of Western society, the book shows how classic literature shaped the contemporary world in intricate and sometimes startlingly and brutally honest detail. Not satisfied with simply challenging the reader to think about things differently, the volume goes further, citing specific examples and offering instruction on how to begin to retrain oneself to think about the origins of modern society in other terms. Chicago: Third World Press, 1999.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, Margot Lee Shetterly
The book is the true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. “Just as islands – isolated places with unique, rich biodiversity – have relevance for the ecosystems everywhere, so does studying seemingly isolated or overlooked people and events from the past turn up unexpected connections and insights to modern life. The idea that black women had been recruited to work as mathematicians at the NASA installation in the South during the days of segregation defies our expectations and challenges much of what we think we know about American history. It’s a great story . . .” New York: William Morrow, 2016.
August 2020 Suggested Readings from our Academic Leaders
This month we reached out to our academic deans and asked them to share with us their favorite books that they go back to time and again or that they love to recommend to others; books that are currently on their nightstands or that they have read this summer. Enjoy!
Lisa L. Dutton, PT, PhD, Dean of Health Sciences, Henrietta Schmoll School of Health
I just finished Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety, an American classic that I’ve had on my list for a long time. It explores friendship, marriage and how our journeys and aspirations, both professional and personal, are shaped by our relationships and the challenges life puts in our paths. Penguin Books, 1987.
Another book I read this summer was The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett Graff. I found there were a lot of details about that time that I either didn’t remember or never knew; the way the author used excerpts from interviews with a wide variety of individuals really brought the story to life.
Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, 2019.
Lynda Szymanski, PhD, Associate Provost
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk
I have been learning more about my Polish roots and chose Tokarczuk’s book after reading reviews about her gift of painting literary pictures of towns in Poland and weaving history throughout her novels. Riverhead Books, 2019.
Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon
My 17-year-old son and I often read books and then watch the film versions together. We read Yoon’s, The Sun is Also a Star, on his recommendation and then had fun critiquing the movie (we usually agree that the book is better). This book led to so many good discussions with him about issues ranging from immigration to racism to falling in love, that I selected Yoon’s Everything, Everything as our next shared read. Delacorte Press, 2017.
Anita Jones Thomas, PhD, Executive Vice President and Provost
The first book I would suggest is Lead from the Outside; How to Build your Future and Make Real Change, by Stacey Abrams. This is a reprint from a book that she wrote before she ran for governor of Georgia. The book is written as a how-to manual for developing leadership skills for marginalized populations and women. The focus of the book is to empower others through ethical leadership, following values, and seeing worth in others. Picador, 2019.
I also suggest Dare to Lead by Brene Brown as it provides important leadership lessons for us to consider as we engage in educating women to lead in challenging and unprecedented times. Brown’s emphasis on social-emotional components of leadership, particularly the role of vulnerability, helps leaders to connect to others in a way to promote empathy and resilience. The book ends with a focus on values-based approaches, aspects of integrity that are needed more than ever in our country. Random House, 2018.
Laura J. Fero, PhD, MSN, RN, Dean of Nursing, Henrietta Schmoll School of Health
I go back to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. It is a powerful memoir of her childhood and brings understanding and depth to her subsequent writings. It speaks to difficult experiences and how they inform the future strength of a powerful woman. Ballantine Books, 2009.
I currently have Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean on my nightstand and it unfortunately has been there since we had the pleasure of hearing her speak to the St. Kate’s community. I have seen the movie many times, but did not read the book. After hearing Sister Helen speak that night, I wanted to revisit her writing and appreciate her direct words about her experience. Vintage Books, 1994.
The last book I am currently working my way through is Start with the Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. This is a great book on how to lead an organization to a place of innovation and inspiration. Portfolio, 2011.
Benson K. Whitney, JD, Dean, School of Business
I am (very happily) about ready to re-read the Lord of The Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien which I have been doing every few years for decades since it captivated me as a sixth grader. Escaping to another world seems particularly enticing right now. Houghton Mifflin, 1988.
On my nightstand is The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson about Churchill and the early parts of the war, a paralleled story of courage and leadership. Crown, 2020.
Earlier this summer I read The Overstory, a novel by Richard Powers that could have used a stronger editor but the sections about the life of trees are hugely captivating and a must read if you love trees and nature as I do. W. W. Norton & Company, 2019.
Tarshia Stanley, PhD, Dean, School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences
Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds, Adrienne Maree Brown
Brown’s work is a great example of a liberal arts pedagogy. She grounds her activism in the literature of Octavia E. Butler. From there she incorporates economists, psychologists, sociologists, and historians to create a social justice platform and methodology she calls “emergent strategy.” AK Press, 2017.
July 2020- More Racial Justice Suggested Readings
Gretchen Hintz Wronka ’66 and Melissa Reuter Brechon ’77, both professional librarians, offer a selection of books on race and racism.
Be the Bridge: Pursuing God’s Heart for Racial Reconciliation, Latasha Morrison
A leading advocate for racial reconciliation uses biblical principles to issue a clarion call for Christians to move toward relationship and deeper understanding to overcome racial division. 2020 Christianity Today Book Award. Waterbrook Press, 2019.
Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement, Ejeris Dixon, et al.
“Transformative justice seeks to solve the problem of violence at the grassroots level, without relying on punishment, incarceration, or policing. Community-based approaches to preventing crime and repairing its damage have existed for centuries. However, in the putative atmosphere of contemporary criminal justice systems, they are often marginalized and operate under the radar. Beyond Survival puts these strategies front and center as real alternatives to today’s failed models of confinement and correction.” AK Press, 2020.
Eloquent Rage: a Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, Brittney Cooper
In her debut, Cooper, cofounder of the Crunk Feminist Collective, reflects on the role that racism and sexism have played in her life-and the lives of black women in the United States. “To be black is to grow up in a world where white feelings can become dangerous weapons.” Being a black woman, she adds, is to be both visible and invisible. (Library Journal) St. Martin’s Press, 2018.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot, Mikki Kendall
If feminism is defined as political, economic, and social equality of the sexes, then how does it account for a lack of that parity among women? Mainstream feminism is just that, normative, and tends to work for everyone save those who live on the margins. Blogger, speaker, and essayist Kendall is a Black woman who knows what it’s like to live outside the majority patterns of society in general and feminism in particular. (Booklist) Viking, 2020.
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, Michael Eric Dyson
This book is structured as a religious service divided into chapters of “Hymns of Praise,” ” Invocation,” “Benediction,” and Sermon. Here is what he calls “a plea, a cry, a sermon, from my heart to yours,” because what I need to say can only be said as a sermon, one in which he preaches that “we must return to the moral and spiritual foundations of our country and grapple with the consequences of our original sin.” (Kirkus Reviews) St. Martin’s Press, 2017.