What the Outlook staff is reading this summer

From nonfiction to YA to poetry, the Outlook staff shares the books they are loving right now.

Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

Colin Farmer
Strangers at the Gates

After taking a class on the history of immigration to the U.S., I started reading Roger Waldinger’s Strangers at the Gates: New Immigrants in Urban America. It’s a quantitative analysis of immigration trends in the US over the course of the 20th century, focused on immigrants moving to cities in the 1990s. It’s dense but does an excellent job of exploring the importance of cities such as Miami, Los Angeles and New York, as well as documenting immigrants’ challenges — particularly racism and vanishing avenues of upward mobility, which unfairly trap newcomers in lower socio-economic statuses.

Teri McDowell Ott

Recently republished for its tenth anniversary, I discovered Donna Hicks’ Dignity: Its Essential Role in Resolving Conflict at a workshop on restorative justice. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. Hicks’ emphasis on dignity (or violations of our dignity) as a common denominator in human conflict just makes sense. As an international conflict-resolution specialist, Hicks developed her “dignity model” to help resolve global violations of human dignity. She was surprised when her model was adopted by business leaders, educators, and counselors. Originally published in 2011, Hicks’ work and accessible writing remains profoundly applicable in today’s polarized and conflict-filled climate.

Dana Moulds
A Renaissance of Our Own

Whether the Harlem Renaissance or Beyonce’s “Renaissance,” the theme of renaissance runs deep within Black culture. I’m currently reading Rachel E. Cargle’s A Renaissance of Our Own: A Memoir & Manifesto on Reimagining. Cargle invites us into her world of identity shape-shifting by using her imagination to create an embodied vision of the world she believes we all deserve. I loved that, as she shares her own story, she offers prompts and tools to create my own personal manifesto for envisioning a world yet to be seen. A Renaissance of Our Own is proof of the power of reimagination.

Alfred Walker
Office manager
South to America

I heard Imani Perry’s gentle voice in an NPR interview and determined to read South to America. She is a gracious travel companion and tour guide — open and transparent in her reactions to the revelations with which our southern states variously surprise, sadden and gratify her. Perry is just whom you’d want to accompany on an examination of what Kiese Laymon calls “our region’s fleshy folds,” and she makes clear and compelling her thesis that the story of the American South is the story of America. Leave yourself time to savor as you read!

Amy Pagliarella
Book review editor
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is the perfect summer read. It hooks you on page one, drawing you into the many worlds of Sam and Sadie, childhood friends turned business partners and video game designers. Their complicated relationship spans many years and is impacted by contemporary issues such as socioeconomic disparities, gun violence, and the male-oriented gaming world. Zevin handles these deftly, but mostly she just invites you to fall in love with her characters, and the (virtual and real) worlds they inhabit.

Jo Wiersema
In the Lives of Puppets

TJ Klune’s In the Lives of Puppets has rocked my world. In this pseudo-retelling of Pinocchio, Klune paints a world where robots run everything and few humans remain, inviting us to question what it means to be human and how we can find love in the oddities of life. Through all his books, Klune emphasizes the queer experience that goes beyond who queer folks love but shows them as holistic people, which makes my heart melt. I laughed. I cried. I fell in love with the characters. I can’t wait to read it again.

Rose Schrott Taylor
Digital content editor
Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude

I’m reading Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay. My introduction to Gay came through his essays, particularly his Book of Delights. This is his first book of poetry that I’ve read, which is surprising because he is first and foremost a poet. It has all the hallmarks that I love about Gay’s writing: humor, gratitude, curiosity and kindness. My favorite poem so far is “To the Fig Tree on 9th and Christian” about a random assortment of people who stop to pluck fruit from a heavily-laden tree, “strangers maybe/never again.”