Small Great Things

Recently, I received a text message from an estranged family member that rocked me to my core.  Who it was from and what it said isn’t important, what is important is that the reason that it rocked me to my core was because the words had such blatant racism and hate that it made me physically sick to my stomach. Then, a less than a week later someone I follow on Instagram posted a racial photo, the caption was laughing emojis.  I thought about it for a few minutes while I was internally raging and then decided to post a comment that read “what about this is funny”?  The reply was bogus and I called her out on it saying that the post was rude and racist.  It was removed shortly thereafter and I no longer follow this account.

If you’re a reader of this blog you know that I live in Key West, FL; one of the most diverse and accepting communities in the United States and racism and hatred is not tolerated here.  They say when you move to South Florida your blood thins and you can no longer tolerate the frozen temperatures of the north (and by that I mean anything under 70 degrees!).  For me, my blood isn’t the only thing that has thinned, my patience for ignorance has thinned as well.  After I received that message I called my best friend in tears and shock.  How could someone who I am related to think this way and further more what gave them the right to insert their hatred into my day?  After a pep talk she told me about a book she read over the summer by Jodi Picoult called Small Great Things and suggested I read it because it gave some interesting perspective into the world of privilege and racism.  I downloaded it to my kindle and couldn’t put it down.

jodi picoult

The Washington Post pretty much sums up my thoughts on the book:

SMALL GREAT THINGS is the most important novel Jodi Picoult has ever written. Frank, uncomfortably introspective and right on the day’s headlines, it will challenge her readers…The difficult self-awareness is what sustains this book…forcing engaged readers to meditate on their own beliefs and actions along with these characters….It’s also exciting to have a high-profile writer like Picoult take an earnest risk to expand our cultural conversation about race and prejudice.

Anytime I read a book highlighting ensues; normally it’s for my own perusal but I feel compelled to share them with my readers because each highlight really made me stop and think.

My highlights:

I am, indeed, the sum of all the experiences and relationships throughout my life.  I can trace every belief, behavior, thought and characteristic I possess back to something or someone in my past.  But I’m not defined by those things, I’m defined by the impact I have on the lives of other people.

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outrages as those who are – Benjamin Franklin

…really to make her see with her own eyes how love has nothing to do with what you’re looking at, and everything to do with who’s looking.

I understand the need people have to put a certain face on for the rest of the world.

Corinne is one of those people for whom life is just the space between crises.

Anger, it turns out, is a renewable source of fuel.

I spent a year being dulled at all my bright edges, which devastated Mama.

I sat with my hands in my lap, because I knew that sometimes when people spoke it wasn’t because they had something important to say.  It was because they had a powerful need for someone to listen.

And yet, in spite of the fact that he’s grown up with every privilege possible, nothing is ever quite good enough.

If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

…the first freedom you lose in prison is privacy, the second is dignity.

It is amazing how you can look in a mirror your whole life and think you are seeing yourself clearly.  And then one day, you peel off a filmy gray layer of hypocrisy, and you realize you’ve never truly seen yourself at all.

What if the reason I have been so quick to dismiss the racial elements of Ruth’s case is not because our legal system can’t bear that load, but because I was born into a family where black jokes were as much of a holiday tradition as my grandmother’s bone china and sausage stuffing?

That was the start.  It was so much easier to hate them, than to hate myself.

How many exceptions do there have to be before you start to realize that maybe the truths you’ve been told aren’t actually true?

Freedom is the fragile neck of a daffodil, after the longest of winters.  It’s the sound of your voice, without anyone drowning you out.  It’s having the grace to say yes and more important the right to say no.  At the heart of freedom, hope beats: a pulse of possibility.

People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. -Nelson Mandela

…there is nothing more selfish than trying to change someone’s mind because they don’t think like you.  Just because something is different does not mean it should not be respected.

I am an avid reader and this book is the best I’ve read this year.  It challenged me in so many ways and really made me take a harder look at the reality of the world we live in.  While I know that I myself cannot end the hatred and racism that is experienced daily what I can do is work to eradicate it from my own world in small great ways.  As my guru Gabby Bernstein says, “peace begins with me”.  I’d encourage anyone and everyone to pick up this book and put it on your reading list and if you see something say something.  Choose to be kind.   Choose love.  No excuses.

Get Your Nose In A Book

Remember back in the day when summer would roll around and all of the libraries would have summer reading clubs and contests to get kids hype about reading throughout the summer?  Someone needs to start doing this for adults except with enhanced prizes such as a bar tab or Target gift card as the prize to the person who reads the most.  Hell, throw in some MAC cosmetics and I know some women that would read novels like a flip book from the 50’s.  I mean, I know a ton of people who like to read but don’t or can’t seem to find the time to read  books they enjoy because let’s face it, as we get older carving out time for ourselves becomes harder and harder.   I guarantee that people would carve out more time for reading if the price of the bar tab or gift certificate is right!

Price Is Right

I decided this summer that I’m going to revisit “The Classics”.  So while I plan on reading Little Women, Tom Sawyer, and To Kill A Mockingbird, I also intend on reading some of my personal favorites which are classics in my book (no pun intended!)

Fun Fact:  My friend Lauren and I started up a book club in our 3rd grade cubbies.  We charged other kids to borrow our Babysitters Club books (we also sold baseball and hockey cards on the side; not kidding).  This was a secret operation, we flew under the radar until the end of the year.  Now when I say we charged kids I should clarify that it was a minuscule amount, 5-10 cents per week and our currency was this:

Plastic Kids Play Money

The currency was also only good at Mrs. Darling’s General Store which sold pixie sticks, erasers, novelty pencils and bouncy balls, if you were lucky!  At the end of the year we had so much damn money that we were like the Robin Hood’s of Mrs. Darlings 3rd grade class.  Pixie sticks for everyone!

Kindle vs. iPad vs. Books.  I’ve had the debate a million times.  If you like to read #getwiththegets and get a kindle.  I’ve had pretty much every model that has come out in the past 3 years and in my opinion, the mack daddy of all eReaders is the Kindle Paperwhite.  Its lightweight, glare free, and backlit.  If you are a book lover and one of those people who says “I just like a book.  I like to hold the book, and feel the pages…” I’ve got a message for you; that’s what everyone says until they get a Kindle.

As a side note I also recommend becoming an Amazon Prime Member.  It’s $99 and hands down the best investment I make all year.  For $99 you get free two-day shipping on most items, to borrow a book a month from the Kindle Owner’s Library, and Prime Instant Video (which has taken the place of my Netflix subscription saving me $8.99 a month now that Amazon introduced an app on my smart Blu-ray player).

Below are some of my fictional favorites, Klassics* if you will, along with some other recommendations for your summertime reading list in no particular order:

Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells*:  You’ve probably seen the movie, and while I admit, the cast was fabulous and they did a great job but it’s no match for the book.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet read the book, and if you have seen the movie read the book anyways.  It’s a good story of a lifelong friendship between 4 women and Rebecca Wells does a fabulous job of telling their story.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett*:  See above minus the last sentence.  While I love the movie, and anything with Emma Stone if I’m being honest, I was disappointed when I saw that some of my favorite parts of the book were left out of the movie.  It’s an easy read and will make you laugh out loud.

Perfect On Paper by Maria Murnane:  This is the first of a 4 book series that I stumbled upon a few years ago.  I read the first line of the description on Amazon “Waverly Bryson is a successful businesswoman in her late 20s who almost has it all…”  and was like BINGO.  I breezed through all 3, staying up throughout the night many times because I couldn’t put them down and then was pleasantly surprised when the author, Maria Murnane, decided to release a 4th a final book on Waverly’s adventures.    For all you Amazon Prime members, the books are free in the lending library.  Get on it.

Hopeless by Colleen Hoover:  I could. not. put. this. book. down.  It was an ok read until about 1/2 way through, then it was like whoa; I stayed up all night long to finish reading it and told everyone I know to read it too.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah*:  My go-to book.  I’ve given this book many a time to my girlfriends throughout the years, usually for birthday gifts.  It’s a story of a friendship of two women.  It will make you laugh and it will make you cry.  And then you will give it to your best friend to read and when she’s done you’ll immediately have the debate over who in your friendship is Kate and who is Tully.  I love, love, love this book as well as many books that Kristin has written, she is one of my favorite fictional authors.

Flat Out Love by Jessica Park:  A quirky beach read that I just loved.

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling:  Seems a little juvenile eh?  Well obviously if you think that you’ve never read the books.  I had heard the hype growing up and in high school often read passages to my babysitting charges before they went to bed but never sat down to read the full series until the summer of 2008 when I found myself book/ magazineless at the pool.  I finished the 7 books in a little over a month.  Luckily I jumped on the bandwagon right before the 7th and final book came out so I didn’t have to go through the torture the rest of the world did while waiting for the next release.  READ THESE BOOKS.  THEY ARE GOOD.  ALL 4,100 PAGES OF THEM.

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks:  Again, you’ve probably seen the movie, and while I admit, the cast was fabulous and they did a great job but it’s no match for the book.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet read the book, and if you have seen the movie read the book anyways it’s a good one!  I’ll admit, I burned myself out on Nicholas Sparks from 2004-2006.  It started with The Notebook and spiraled into a slight obsession as I found myself hitting up the Leon County Library and checking out as many of his books that I hadn’t read yet at a time.  But things started to blend together, after reading 10 love stories that took place on the beaches in North Carolina all of the story lines began to run together.  So I took a hiatus and gave Safe Haven a chance the summer of 2011.  It’s a nice easy read that becomes a page turner before you know it.

Off The Face Of The Earth by Aljean Harmetz:  I read this book back in 1999 and recently stumbled upon it again.  If you like mystery thrillers this book is for you.

What am I reading now you ask?  I’m currently reading The Hiltons: The True Story of an American Dynasty by J. Randy Taraborrelli and The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer.  It’s a pretty interesting combo; that Conrad Hilton was a hell of a business man and I had no idea about their Hollywood history dating back to the early 20th century.  And The Untethered Soul, well just the title has weight to it so you can imagine the content.  Although I have to admit, I’m ready for a good fictional summer read after these.  I’ve been reading some pretty heavy material for the past 8 months and I am ready for some light-hearted reading.


Share your recommendations and summer reading material on Instagram using #shovelingsunshine.