“Crank” by Ellen Hopkins
I am a product of the 80’s. I grew up with “Just Say No,” D.A.R.E., and the War on Drugs. Throughout elementary school, my classmates and I were brainwashed with these messages. Our televisions were filled with images of eggs frying in skillets and the harm of drugs. For the most part, these messages worked on me. I avoided drugs all throughout high school. The first time I saw cocaine was in college. I immediately left the party. I didn’t experience marijuana until I was a senior. When I did, my opinion totally changed. Now, I live in a state where recreational use is legal. So, popular opinion is obviously changing.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann
I grew up in a small town in the southwest corner of Oklahoma. In my family, we grew up revering Native American culture. In fact, my mom’s side of the family appears on Cherokee tribal rolls. Before I ever entered kindergarten, I knew Oklahoma meant “red people.” I knew about the Trail of Tears, Andrew Jackson, forced removal, and a war on the frontier. As I grew older, that war, for me, would come to mean the attempted mass genocide of a race of people. Reading this book was to read another chapter in the long story of heartbreak, betrayal, and killing of a once proud, but forever noble people.
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe
There may be no stronger force in the universe than a mother’s love. In thousands of examples across the animal kingdom, the protection and survival of the next generation falls on the shoulders of mothers. When fathers are absent or violent, mothers are there holding steadfast. When a mother is separated from her child and the prospect of that child being sold into the bondage of slavery is on the horizon, a mother’s love is damn near impossible to stop. Yet, even here, we learn a mother’s love cannot stop the cruel and barbaric hands of a system designed to commodify human beings. The scenes in this book focused on mother and child will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand
My friends on the right often talk of Ayn Rand as if she were some spiritual benchmark of what it means to be a free-market conservative. My friends on the left, who have actually read any of her books, often make her out to be the queen of selfishness and cruelty. On one hand, she is revered and on the other reviled. Without a doubt, she may be one of the most polarizing figures in American literature.
“Goddess of the Market” by Jennifer Burns
I find myself fascinated by Ayn Rand. The fascination grows out of intrigue and not a devout belief in her ideas. I find Ayn Rand compelling for the same reason I find Scientology interesting; the fact that a movement was born in our lifetime is something that I find curious. Unlike Scientology, Ayn Rand’s ideas have taken hold on our society. While reading this book, I spent a lot of time thinking about the power she wields and wielded over her devotees. It made me question the very nature and meaning of influence. From genesis to widespread public support, what does it take for an idea to move masses? Is it timing? Circumstances? Luck? Or a combination? When you look at the entirety of her life, it is hard to believe that it isn’t some combination. More than anything, I believe this is the overarching point that this book tries to drive home.
Be good to each other,
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