"This is precisely the time when artists go to work" - Toni Morrison

Reading in Action: March 6, 2017
From the Publisher

My hope is that this weekly newsletter will be useful to others who, like me, are trying to understand the unusual times we're living through. This is a way I believe I can contribute to the civic, political, and cultural work that we all need to be doing.  My guiding principle is that  understanding should always precede both judgment and action .

You're getting this either because you're on the circulation of the previously irregular Blue Ear Books newsletter (which this supersedes), or I met you at a recent meeting in Seattle, where I live, or you're a friend of a friend. Please share it freely, or feel free to delete it. If you know anyone else who would like to receive it, or if you don't want to receive it,  contact me .

Ethan Casey ( bio)
Publisher,  Blue Ear Books

Mem and My Mom

My mother, Judith Casey, is a retired elementary school principal. She has been heavily involved in public education and wider civic issues for nearly 60 years, her entire adult life.

In 2004, in her capacity as vice president of the Colorado Council International Reading Association (CCIRA), she invited Mem Fox to give a keynote address at the group's conference.

Mem Fox was recently in the news for being harassed by U.S. Immigration at Los Angeles Airport en route to another similar conference in Milwaukee. Fox's  own account of her ordeal is deeply sobering.

I asked my mom to tell me about her interaction with Mem Fox back in 2004. She replied:

Mem Fox is one of most prolific and well-respected children's book authors in the world. Her books are often   used to help children think about how they can influence and help others. When planning a state reading   conference in Colorado in 2004 for more than 3,000 teachers, I asked Mem Fox to serve as a keynote speaker.   She was a hit as always! She helped us see how we can bring cheer to our world and how we can help make   the world better by reading her books.

Wealthy Texas high school kids insult author, cheer Japanese internment

Speaking of authors in the news, Jamie Ford is the author of the bestselling novel  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet , set in Seattle and about the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.

It's old home week for my family, because I also feel compelled to feature Ford's account of his recent visit to Highland Park High School in the affluent Dallas enclave of Highland Park, Texas - and  both my parents graduated from Highland Park High School. My mother even went to her 50-year reunion. My father was co-captain of the baseball team.

Highland Park High School is not where the now-totemic "uneducated whites" - the category  discovered, like some lost jungle tribe, by the American chattering classes during last year's election - go to school. HPHS is one of the rarefied places where the next generation of leaders of Dallas, Texas, and America are educated.

After speaking at Highland Park High School, Jamie Ford wrote an appalled account of his experience:

I managed to end my talk on a bittersweet note about the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans and nationals, about how if we forget that bit of history, we are diminished as a people.
I got my point across and in that brief moment your impoliteness was forgiven and all was well. I thanked you, for not clapping and cheering the Japanese Internment.
Then you clapped and cheered the Japanese Internment.
You couldn't resist.
That showed me more about you than I wanted to know.
School administrators apologized to Ford for the students' behavior, and Ford graciously accepted the apology "wholeheartedly." He later told the Dallas Morning News "I'm not going to generalize the state, or generalize the kids at Highland Park, for that matter. But a mob is a mob; it speaks with its own language."

What kind of America are we imagining?

Blue Ear Books author David Howell recommends
Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson. "Not an easy read," he says,

but it's a core text for the field of anthropology.  Here's an excerpt from the beginning of the book: " In an anthropological spirit, then, I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community - - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. "

It was important when teaching the book to begin with this definition. When I asked the class how they defined the nation of the United States of America, they thought of it more as physical space, the 50 states, that area between Mexico and Canada. It was difficult for them to conceive of the nation as something abstract, imagined, or created. It helped once we started talking about some of the country's founding documents, and how, without the imagination of the authors of those documents, we would not have the nation we have today.

On the Blue Ear Books blog

David Howell, author of The Descent into Happiness: A Bicycling Journey over the Cascades and Rockies and across the Great Plains, posted a typically thoughtful and concise item on an essay-writing assignment he recently gave his students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering:

What I learned from the process of reading the essay, and by talking about it with its authors, was the value in understanding a political perspective that you don't agree with. By the time the course ended, the students effectively articulated the value of a Trump presidency - in the essay and in a follow-up presentation. I still don't agree with their argument, but I value knowing their perspectives and researched opinions.

And Qaisar Shareef, the newest member of the Blue Ear Books community, a career Procter & Gamble executive (now retired), and author of the forthcoming When Tribesmen Came Calling: Building an Enduring American Business in Pakistan, considers the Trump presidency's effects on international business:

Only in the last few months, as I sit here in Washington, D.C., has it dawned on me how important the free market, and the open trade philosophy of any U.S. government, has been to my ability to build American businesses in emerging markets. The success of these businesses overseas has directly benefited my American company here in the U.S., even as it contributed to economic development in the host emerging markets.
About Blue Ear Books

Blue Ear Books is a vehicle for publishing and disseminating selected new and reprinted nonfiction books of particular global topical or cultural interest.
Books that would not have been commercially viable in the past can now be made available to their core audiences, and any other interested readers, relatively efficiently and inexpensively, in small or larger print runs, with the prospect of at least a modest profit for both author and publisher. This is what Blue Ear Books is doing.

Reading in Action newsletter archive

All past installments of the weekly Reading in Action newsletter are archived on the Blue Ear Books website.

Reading in Action, by Ethan Casey | Blue Ear Books
7511 Greenwood Ave N, Box 400, Seattle WA 98103 | Email | Website