Tag Archives: non-fiction

Review of Twenty-First-Century Jim Crow Schools: The Impact of Charters on Public Education, by Raynard Sanders, David Stovall, Terrenda White

I won a copy of Twenty-First-Century Jim Crow Schools: The Impact of Charters on Public Education, by Raynard Sanders, David Stovall, and Terrenda White.

Description of book:

Charter schools once promised a path towards educational equity, but as the authors of this powerful volume show, market-driven education reforms have instead boldly reestablished a tiered public school system that segregates students by race and class. Examining the rise of charters in New Orleans, Chicago, and New York, authors Raynard Sanders, David Stovall, and Terrenda White show how charters–private institutions, usually set in poor or working-class African American and Latinx communities–promote competition instead of collaboration and are driven chiefly by financial interests. Sanders, Stovall, and White also reveal how corporate charters position themselves as “public” to secure tax money but exploit their private status to hide data about enrollment and salaries, using misleading information to promote false narratives of student success.

In addition to showing how charter school expansion can deprive students of a quality education, the authors document several other lasting consequences of charter school expansion:

– the displacement of experienced African American teachers
– the rise of a rigid, militarized pedagogy such as SLANT
– the purposeful starvation of district schools
– and the loss of community control and oversight

A revealing and illuminating look at one of the greatest threats to public education, Twenty-First-Century Jim Crow Schools explores how charter schools have shaped the educational landscape and why parents, teachers, and community members are fighting back.


The title of this book lets you know this is an anti-charter school text. Do not go in looking for a balanced, both sides of the issue discussion. Of the three essays, the last (by White) is the most nuanced, while the first represents what appears to be the charter school system in the worse shape. Unfortunately, even agreeing with a lot of the endpoints of Sander’s arguments in that first essay, I didn’t feel he successfully supported them. Similarly, I felt Stovall’s direct correlation between charter school systems and post-reconstruction jim crow was a bit of a stretch. Similarities exist for sure, but I think he stretched his analogy too far.

I did appreciate that each author acknowledged that charter school originated innocuously, as small, community-led schools before they were later essentially franchised. Lastly, taking all three essays as a whole, I was really surprised how many men are interviewed or references, considering how heavily skewed toward women the teaching field is.

Review of Cotton & Indigo from Japan, by Teresa Duryea Wong

I received a copy of Cotton & Indigo from Japan, by Teresa Duryea Wong for review.

Description from Goodreads:
More than 300 colorful photos and behind-the-scenes details reveal the fascinating story of Japan’s cotton and indigo, and their enormous contribution to fiber arts worldwide. Learn how Japan and its top fabric designers, quilters, scientists, and artists combinetradition and high tech to weave the thread, fabrics, and stunningdesigns that are so coveted in today’s fiber art world. Take a tour of Japan’s elite textile printing mills to understand why Japan is considered the world’s finest producer of quilting cotton. Learn where all this cotton comes from, and its close connection to another prized plant, indigo. Dozens of beautiful fabric designs and quilts by Shizuko Kuroha, Keiko Goke, Yoshiko Jinzenji, Yoko Saito, and others are featured, as well as cotton and indigo folk textiles through the ages. This journey gives a deeper understanding of the connection between contemporary textile art and Japan’s cotton, indigo, and traditions.

I initially wrote a review that said, “Very cool book with gorgeous pictures and a lot of interesting history. This is worth picking up if the subject interests you. I appreciate it as both an informative book and simply as a pretty coffee table book.” But last night I got the chance to go through the book with my aunt, who is a big quilter and worked many years in a fabric shop, largely for the love of it. Hearing her ooh-and ahh, lovingly touch some of the photos, and tell me, “This is a great book, really thorough about the terminology and regionality.” confirmed what I already knew. This is a book worth having. It has two Forsythe seals of approval.

Review of Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual, by Jocko Willink

I won a copy of Jocko Willink‘s Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual through Goodreads.


Jocko Willink’s methods for success were born in the SEAL Teams, where he spent most of his adult life, enlisting after high school and rising through the ranks to become the commander of the most highly decorated special operations unit of the war in Iraq. In Discipline Equals Freedom, the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Extreme Ownership describes how he lives that mantra: the mental and physical disciplines he imposes on himself in order to achieve freedom in all aspects of life. Many books offer advice on how to overcome obstacles and reach your goals—but that advice often misses the most critical ingredient: discipline. Without discipline, there will be no real progress. Discipline Equals Freedom covers it all, including strategies and tactics for conquering weakness, procrastination, and fear, and specific physical training presented in workouts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced athletes, and even the best sleep habits and food intake recommended to optimize performance.

Within these pages discover the keys to becoming stronger, smarter, faster, and healthier. There is only one way to achieve true freedom: The Way of Discipline. Read this book and find The Way.


It’s not that I think Willink doesn’t have any good points in this book, it’s just that I really, REALLY can’t relate to how he presents any of them. I’ll go out on a limb and say that this is a book written for men. And I don’t just mean because of its yanged out, gung-ho tone (there are women who go for this sort of thing), but because it talks about the benefit of exercise and such as building muscle mass and increasing testosterone, among other things (not generally things women aim for). I’ll go farther and say it’s written for Willink’s fellow soldiers. There’s a section on guns and another on choosing a martial art. Neither of which seem relevant to a standard get fit self-help book, but are right up the alley of aggressive male types.

The thing that I found so very alienating about this book though was the framing of everything as a battle. After 20 years as a navy seal, I can understand how Willink came to be this way, but I just find the very idea pointlessly exhausting, wrong, and unnecessary. Many of his points could as easily have been said in less adversarial terms and be just as true. But that’s not the sort of book this is. It’s designed for war-minded men who like the idea of crushing their enemy, even if that enemy is self-doubt, or laziness, or lack of motivation. I’m just really not one of those people.

Further evidence (to me) that the book is intended for those who might qualify as meatheads is the way it’s formatted with white text on a black background, with indents and right justifications, and lots and lots of empty space per page. The whole thing reads more like mini-motivational speeches than anything else. As if it’s intended to sit on the coffee table and be opened to a random page for the quick inspirational pick-me-up. I read the whole thing in less than an hour, despite being almost 200 pages long.

All in all, I can’t say if this is good or bad, only that it really isn’t for me. I found the whole thing ridiculous, even if Willink’s point that anything you want to do you just have to do is a good one. Too bad he didn’t actually write a book about how to actually accomplish that.