1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I have been recommending this book to any and everyone possible (Sorry to y'all whom I've been pestering, but seriously, you should check it out!). Absolutely True Diary changed my life. This coming of age first-person narrative of Arnold, a Native American teen, honestly depicts the harshness of reservation life and the pressure to fit in & become "successful" in mainstream white society. It is at times heartbreaking but above all heartFELT and honest. Alexie succeeds in articulating the Native American experience with depth, clarity and a sense of humor. He "gets it." I identified immensely with the protagonist, Arnold, God bless him. Reading this book made me proud to be a person of color and it made me feel so much less alone!! Ugh, this book is just amazing. HEART.
2. Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others by Laura van Dernoot Lipsky
This year I experienced the deepest sense of burnout ever in my life. Social work/justice/ethical living completely overwhelmed me and I was extremely unhappy. Volunteering, being a vegetarian, taking public transit, buying fair trade and doing independent research of domestic & international social problems became a burden of responsibility driven by privileged guilt and most importantly, a sense of duty. It took an especially dramatic panic attack during winter quarter for me to finally snap out of it and realize, "Okay, this isn't working." This past summer I took the first actual vacation from volunteerism in years, read this book and FINALLY started to understand what "self-care" looks like. Lipsky stresses the importance of being gentle on yourself and intentionally seeking out ways to nourish body, mind and soul. I feel so much better nowadays, and don't live with the nagging guilt that I don't "deserve" a break (e.g. an afternoon at the spa, a special drink from a cafe, an expensive @$$ fair-trade candle from Honduras). I'm hanging up my savior-complex role and accepting with utmost relief that there are many, many other people striving for just causes & advocating for the most oppressed, traumatized people in this world. It's not all on my shoulders and I don't have to be "working" 24/7. In fact, through this book I learned that it's essential to limit my involvement in social welfare in order to preserve my sanity for the long haul. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Whew. Thank you, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky! I recommend this book to ALL social workers, nurses, MHPs, activists and "overactive-empathizers," as I like to call them (I am one!!!).
3. An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Anuradha Roy
I am a sucker for authors with uber-precise, jealousy-inducing prose. Anuradha Roy kills! Her attention to detail, her jarringly realistic, tragic protagonists--incredible! I mean, sure, it's an epic "love story," but Roy manages to effortlessly bypass common cliches and make everything fresh. It follows three generations of the same family, much like Steinbeck's East of Eden, but thankfully, the novel is much less dark and creepy, if you know what I mean. The story just pulls you in. She gets to the heart of what it means to be human: insecurity, ambition, greed, pride. This book is a joy to read.