As we pass Inauguration Day, Americans are sitting with a great many feelings. Some may be moving forward with a sense of disappointment and uncertainty while others are basking in the sense of possibility that new beginnings provide. Irrespective of where we lie on this continuum, the events of the last year have revealed to all of us that our democracy is highly fragile and continued civic engagement is required to strengthen its functioning. But in order to move forward, we must be prepared to look backward and plumb the lessons of the past.
Each December, we observe Universal Human Rights Month—an opportunity to reflect upon historical and ongoing struggles for human rights around the globe. Yet understandings of human rights are constantly evolving, raising new questions, and calling into question aspects of social life that some of us take for granted. In the following five books published within the last year, scholars, a biographer, and a memoirist reflect upon different dimensions of human rights, offering educators a number of areas for further exploration of this important subject. Below, the publisher of each title outlines what is to be found within each book:
Since 1990, November has been National Native American Heritage Month in the United States—an opportunity to attend more deliberately to the histories, experiences, contributions, and ideas of Native American peoples. Though these experiences and archives ought to be top of mind throughout the year, the stakes this month may be even higher than usual. In this moment of national reckoning over the past and future of America, questions surrounding how we conceive of our national origins, who is included, and where we are headed are revealing profound divides. But there is a great deal of knowledge and insight that can be gained from the voices of those whose histories, ideas, and experiences are routinely pushed to the periphery.
As we approach the November election in the United States, we find ourselves in a chaotic political landscape defined by an endless deluge of conflicting information and a sense of rising stakes across political camps. Amid this flurry of activity, it is easy to get lost in the unique features of this election and gloss over perennial issues that still warrant our attention. These include the long (and ongoing) fight to extend voting rights in this country, the hows and whys of casting one's ballot, and the various forces that keep people from voting. We also have an opportunity to think about the parallel roles that our young people can play in enhancing democratic processes that don't involve setting foot in the voting booth. The following five books released this year each cover important material on these themes and equip the reader with crucial information as we approach November. Below, the publisher of each book provides an overview of each title:
Topics: Reading List
September 15th marks the beginning of Hispanic American Heritage Month—a time to deepen our attention to the histories, experiences, and brilliance of Hispanic American peoples including Latinx communities. We present to you the following five new books to consider as you engage with these themes this month and beyond. These titles run the gamut from historical scholarship and classroom pedagogy to memoir, poetry, and even a book for young readers eager to familiarize themselves with Latinx heroes. Below are words from each publisher about what you will find inside each title:
The Black Lives Matter movement is working to create a more just and equitable society by pushing for systemic reforms and raising awareness of violence and racism against African Americans and other Black people worldwide. The name of the movement, Black Lives Matter, is simple and direct, yet radical in asserting that Black people, and their history and lived experiences past and present, be seen, heard and known. One way to learn more is to read broadly about Black lives. This list brings together a varied group of memoirs by African American and Black authors, each of which shares their unique journey and perspectives, and illustrates some of the diversity of the Black experience. Although many of the authors describe experiences with personal or systemic racism, it is important to note that all of the authors also touch upon their full range of human experiences, including joy, humor and fun.
Studies have shown that reading, particularly memoir and fiction, can increase a person’s ability to empathize with the experiences of others. Reading diverse books matters, and can educate and transform us in important and lasting ways. This group of books highlights several different voices and lived experiences. We hope that you are able to find yourself and others in these books.
Topics: Reading List
Summer is a time for relaxation. However, many of us also seek books and stories that will immerse us in the experiences of others, or will help us stay engaged in making a better world. Here are six picks that will teach, challenge, and inspire us.
The school year is finally winding down and it’s a been tough one. We’ve had deep and difficult conversations in classrooms sparked by divisive elections, social tensions, and rising incidents of hate in the US and around the world. Events from this past year prompted Facing History to ask “What Makes Democracy Work?” in our weekly series exploring democracy, leadership, and civic responsibility. And we know that even as class lets out for the summer, we’ll all still have lingering questions about these issues on our minds.
That’s why we partnered with School Library Journal to create a book list that helps us all—educators, students, and parents—reflect on these questions over the summer months.
Daylight hours are dwindling, and temperatures are cooler. What better time to hunker down inside and take a book break? Books can fulfill many human needs: increasing our knowledge, broadening our empathy, making us laugh, inspiring us, or entertaining us. The best books achieve several at once. Here are a few titles that we hope you find engaging and take you deeper into the themes, histories, and questions at the heart of Facing History and Ourselves.
Teachers, find suggested Facing History resources and tools that tie into each book recommendation to build upon and expand your lessons.