We had about a fifteen hour drive both ways to get to Memphis for spring break, so I made good use of van time and read three books! I selected these books specifically for what I thought I would be contemplating and experiencing during the trip, and I’m pretty happy with how the books synced up with my trip.
Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis, Preston Lauterbach. I borrowed this from one of my trip leaders and started reading it before the trip to learn some Memphis history. The more I travel, the more I understand how much I value learning about a place’s history before arriving there. Even though I know I can’t learn everything about a place, I know that making an attempt enriches my experience in the city, region, or country. The author of this book also wrote this article, which is basically a super condensed version of the book. The article was my first introduction to the role housing inequality plays in racial inequality. If you care about racial inequality, I suggest reading this article. There’s a lot of good information, historical and current, to think about.
March: Book Three, John Robert Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. I’ve seen these graphic novels a couple times on my Instagram feed and wanted to see what the hubbub was about. Unfortunately, when I checked the interlibrary loan site, only the third book was available. I didn’t have any problem picking up the story without reading the first two, but I definitely want to go back and read the rest of the series. They tell the story of Representative John Robert Lewis’ involvement with the civil rights movement of the last century. At times, this can feel like a history that’s too complicated and downright awful to comprehend. The graphic novel form makes it a little more approachable, though the gravity of the situation isn’t lost. Poetic language is paired with haunting illustrations.
Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World, Amy Peterson. I had the great privilege of meeting and learning from Amy while at Taylor University, so I was thrilled to hear she was publishing a book. Before my copy came in the mail, I listened to an interview Amy did with Cara Strickland and heard her mention rethinking how we talk about short-term missions. While my spring break wasn’t called a missions trip, it definitely had some aspects of traditional mission trips. Amy suggests going into cross cultural service experiences with realistic expectations and language for the purpose of the trip. Let’s work on integrating “all parts of their trip” into a “cohesive learning experience” “instead of dividing them into ‘ministry’ and ‘tourism’ (49). The most important thing I can do on these sorts of trips is learn about the history, people, and culture of the place and take that knowledge back to my home and share it with the people there.
An unexpected aspect of Amy’s book that I greatly appreciated was her discussions of the challenges of living abroad, regardless of purpose for being there. I spent all of spring break mulling over an opportunity to live abroad for a year, and this book gave me some perspective on that choice. If this move comes to fruition, I will hold Amy’s book close as I transition to life in another country.
What have you been reading lately?