What is your favorite genre? Which do you avoid?
Without a doubt, nonfiction is my hands down favorite genre. I tend to gravitate towards self-help books and books of a spiritual (but not religious) nature. I also like memoirs, autobiography, biography, children’s literature, and poetry. I am not a big fan of fiction although I do read it occasionally. I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books, for example, and the Discovery of Witches series by Deborah Harkness kept my attention diverted during a difficult time in my life.
What is a book that you’re afraid to read?
I don’t think that “afraid” is the right word, but Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves has been sitting on my shelf for ages, and I haven’t started it yet. I’m not sure why it’s taking me so long, but I hope to read it one day.
What book is currently sitting on your nightstand?
A better question would be “What book is NOT currently sitting on your nightstand?” I love books, and even though I go through periods where I don’t read much because I’m more focused on my art practice, I have books all around me. The book I am currently reading is Modern Dreamwork: New Tools for Decoding Your Soul’s Wisdom by Linda Yael Schiller.
What’s the last great book you read? The last book you recommended to everyone you know?
I don’t often recommend books to friends or peers because I don’t know anyone who shares my eclectic taste in books; however, as an ESOL instructor, I get to select some of the books I use in the classroom. I like reading Breaking Through by Francisco Jiménez with my students because Jiménez writes about his struggles and his successes as an immigrant in the United States. Another book with a similar theme that I have previously used in class is Of Beetles and Angels by Mawi Asgedom.
Describe your ideal reading experience (when, what, where, how).
It’s very simple, but it doesn’t happen very often. I love those rare days when I have nothing on my agenda. I wake up without an alarm clock, and a good book is waiting for me on my nightstand. I can spend as long as I want reading in bed without worrying about a To Do List. Just thinking about this scenario sounds like heaven.
Do you have a favorite book no one else has heard of?
The Introvert Advantage: Making the Most of Your Hidden Strengths by Marti Olsen Laney has long held a special place in my heart. I don’t remember how or where I found this book, but reading it was revolutionary for me. I finally understood why I often felt like I didn’t fit in, and I found a lot of relief in that. Unfortunately, this book never gained popularity like Susan Cain’s Quiet did in more recent years, but it remains one of my favorites nonetheless.
Which writers – novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets – working today do you admire most?
I greatly admire Brené Brown, guru of shame and vulnerability. She is a bestselling author and a research professor at the University of Houston. If you are not familiar with her, look up her TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” and consider joining Jillian Moller, Professor of Speech Communication, and me when we conduct a book study of Brown’s Dare to Lead in the fall of 2021.
What’s the most interesting thing that you learned from a book recently?
For me, one of the silver linings of the pandemic has been that so many workshops and trainings have been offered online in the last year. I attended the Trauma Super Conference hosted by Alex Howard in the summer of 2020 because I was diagnosed with PTSD after Hurricane Harvey flooded my house in 2017. Since that time, I had been reading a lot about PTSD, trauma, mindfulness, and related topics; however, it was at this webinar series that I learned about Complex PTSD and the leading authors who have published on this topic. Since that time, I’ve read A Practical Guide to Complex PTSD by Arielle Schwartz, Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker, Journey through Trauma by Gretchen L. Schmelzer, and Running on Empty by Jonice Webb. I found these books to be extremely helpful, and I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to learn more about Complex PTSD.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
This was a really difficult question, and I kept interviewing writers in my mind until I made my decision. Frank McCourt was the first to make the cut. He is probably best known for his memoir Angela’s Ashes which is about his childhood in Ireland, but his book Teacher Man is why I’m inviting him to my little shindig. McCourt was a public school teacher in New York City for 30 years before Angela’s Ashes was published when he was 66 years old. In Teacher Man, he describes his “first act of classroom management” as picking up a sandwich that a student had thrown across the room and eating it as his students watched with “admiration in their eyes.” John O’Donohue received the second invitation. His books fall into the category Celtic spirituality. He died unexpectedly at the age of 52 in 2008, so I want to bring him back because he must have had so much more to share. My last guest is Victor Villaseñor who wrote about his family’s history in books such as Rain of Gold. I saw him speak at an ESOL convention many years ago, and I liked his sense of humor. In my imagination, I (the introvert) probably won’t even say much at this dinner party. I’ll let John open and close the evening with beautiful Irish blessings, and Frank and Victor can take turns trying to outdo each other with their tall tales.
Where do you find your books? Where do you look when you’re searching for your next great read?
As mentioned above, I have found some great books at workshops. I recently attended the annual conference of the National Association for Poetry Therapy (virtually of course!), and I’ve added the following books to my list: Poetry as Survival by Gregory Orr, The Story You Need to Tell by Sandra Marinella, and When I Walk through that Door, I Am: An Immigrant Mother’s Quest by Jimmy Santiago Baca. I also learned about “ecopoetry,” and I am looking forward to buying some books in this genre.