EDMS 420: Child Development in the Family, School and Community

Book Club Selection: Brief Descriptions

As instructors of the different sections of EDMS 420 we work together in creating motivating assignments for our students. We thought that a Book Club might allow you to choose a book of your liking and discuss it with a small group of your class mates.

The following six books, are some of the many fascinating books about child and human development we can find. To provide a brief preview of the book, we have attached a book review prepared by well known book reviewers. If you want to find out more about the book, you can check out a copy in the reserve section of Salazar Library.

You can also check them out in most community libraries, or buy a used book on one of the many online book stores. We ordered the books through North Light Book Store in Cotati and through the SSU book store.

Choose one of the books and read it carefully, note passages that move you or puzzle you, jot down questions ("post its" are great for this purpose).

In class you will meet with your Book Club and discuss the book. After that you will form mixed groups, where each person will tell the rest of the group what you liked about the book and what it meant to you. We will provide discussion questions to activate your conversations.



The Other Wes Moore, by Wes Moore, Spiegel and Grau 2010

Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? Wes Moore, the author of this fascinating book, sets out to answer this profound question. In alternating narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world.

"The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his." (Book Description taken from Amazon.com)

The Glass Castle, by Janette Walls, Scribner, 2005

"Freelance writer Walls doesn't pull her punches. She opens her memoir by describing looking out the window of her taxi, wondering if she's "overdressed for the evening" and spotting her mother on the sidewalk, "rooting through a Dumpster." Walls's parents—just two of the unforgettable characters in this excellent, unusual book—were a matched pair of eccentrics, and raising four children didn't conventionalize either of them. Her father was a self-taught man, a would-be inventor who could stay longer at a poker table than at most jobs and had "a little bit of a drinking situation," as her mother put it. With a fantastic storytelling knack, Walls describes her artist mom's great gift for rationalizing. Apartment walls so thin they heard all their neighbors? What a bonus—they'd "pick up a little Spanish without even studying." Why feed their pets? They'd be helping them "by not allowing them to become dependent." While Walls's father's version of Christmas presents—walking each child into the Arizona desert at night and letting each one claim a star—was delightful, he wasn't so dear when he stole the kids' hard-earned savings to go on a bender. The Walls children learned to support themselves, eating out of trashcans at school or painting their skin so the holes in their pants didn't show. Buck-toothed Jeannette even tried making her own braces when she heard what orthodontia cost. One by one, each child escaped to New York City. Still, it wasn't long before their parents appeared on their doorsteps. "Why not?" Mom said. "Being homeless is an adventure." (Reed Business Information)

True Notebooks by Mark Salzman. Alfred Knopf, 2003

"Salzman (Lying Awake; Iron & Silk) volunteered to teach creative writing at Central Juvenile Hall, a Los Angeles County detention facility for "high-risk" juvenile offenders. Most of these under-18 youths had been charged with murder or other serious crimes, and after trial and sentencing many would end up in a penitentiary, some for life. Sister Janet Harris, of the Inside Out Writers program, convinced Salzman that in spite of his reservations-about teaching writing, about being a white liberal offering "art" to darker-skinned ghetto boys-these children needed to be encouraged to express themselves in writing instead of acting out, needed to feel they mattered to someone. So Salzman started coming twice a week to meet with three boys, although their number quickly grew. He tried to structure each session with a half hour for writing followed by each boy reading his work aloud, although after a lockdown or a class member's trial, he had to loosen the routine. While their writing themes are somewhat predictable-their anger and violent impulses, their relationships with parents and gangs, plus a tedious dose of "pussy, bullets, and beer"-the discussions these essays provoked were personal and often explosive. As productive as these classes were, everyone was always aware of the painful truth that students would soon be shipped out to more brutal facilities. Salzman doesn't dwell on that, concluding that "a little good has got to be better than no good at all." Indeed, his account's power comes from keeping its focus squarely on these boys, their writing and their coming-to-terms with the mess their lives had become."
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Devil in the Details, by Jennifer Traig, Back Bay Books, 2006

In this 1970s memoir, Traig describes how, from the age of 12 until her freshman year at Brandeis, she suffered from various forms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), including anorexia and a rarer, "hyper-religious form" of OCD called scrupulosity, in which sanctified rituals such as hand washing and daily prayer are repeated in endless loops. The daughter of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Traig becomes obsessed with Jewish ritual, inventing her own prayers since her Jewish education is limited. Initially, Traig's family is amused; eventually, they try to help. Still, this memoir is less about suffering than it is about punch lines. When Traig swathes herself in head-to-toe flannel on hot summer days, her mother points to a scantily clad teenager on a talk show entitled My Teen Dresses Too Sexy and suggests Traig cool off like the adolescent "in the red vinyl number with the cut-outs over the chest and fanny." Traig spoofs Jewish rituals, cracking up at elaborate bar mitzvahs produced like Las Vegas floor shows and the meticulous analysis that goes into deeming a food item kosher. The author's behavior makes her seem like a character on Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, and her book is a funny though sometimes cursory look at mental illness. (Description from Amazon,com. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.)

On the Other Side of the Sky, by Ahmedi and Ansary, Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2005

"Farah Ahmedi's "poignant tale of survival" (Chicago Tribune) chronicles her journey from war to peace. Equal parts tragedy and hope, determination and daring, Ahmedi's memoir delivers a remarkably vivid portrait of her girlhood in Kabul, where the sound of gunfire and the sight of falling bombs shaped her life and stole her family. She herself narrowly escapes death when she steps on a land mine. Eventually the war forces her to flee, first over the mountains to refugee camps across the border, and finally to America. Ahmedi proves that even in the direst circumstances, not only can the human heart endure, it can thrive. The Other Side of the Sky is "a remarkable journey" (Chicago Sun-Times), and Farah Ahmedi inspires us all." (product description from Amazon.com)

The Ride Toegether. A Brother and Sister's memoir of Autism in the Family. by Paul Karasik and Judy Karasik. SimonSays, 2004

Combining their talents, this brother-sister team has created a compassionate account of life with their autistic brother, David, interspersing prose chapters with comics chapters to offer an unusual memoir. Judy was once an editor at Henry Holt, while Paul draws cartoons for the New Yorker. Their collective work in this book spans five decades, beginning with David's birth in 1948 and ending in the present (he now lives in a community for people with autism). Roughly chronological, Paul's comics and Judy's prose are carefully intertwined so that the writing and the art amplify each other. Judy describes her family as "a cup of human fruit cocktail dumped onto the top of the house, each piece different but all out of the same can." She recalls a road trip she and David took together: "David himself was a part of the country I needed to see." The visual concepts in Paul's comics reflect his close association with Art Spiegelman, as Maus-like devices and images erupt inside imaginative pages. Together, brother and sister have succeeded in making an innovative, intimate and poetic probe into the inner world of the autistic mind that many readers will find quite moving. Agent, Gail Hochman. (From Publisher's Weekly, posted on Amazon.com)