Here is a list of books you can use for additional training hours or just to read or watch.
If you know of any books you would like to see included on these lists that others might enjoy/appreciate, please let your supervisor or the Director of Training know and we will update the list.
For training hours – you can use up to TWO books and/or movies per fiscal year towards your required hours.
To use these books/movies towards your training hours, you must read/watch your selection and write a two to three paragraphs description of each book/movie. You must then add your description in the notes section of your training log in Optima.
For books you will get ONE hour of training for every 100 pages of the book, plus 15 minutes for writing the summary.
Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation by: Jonathan Kozol
Jonathan Kozol’s classic book on life and death in the South Bronx—the poorest urban neighborhood of the United States brings us into overcrowded schools, dysfunctional hospitals, and rat-infested homes where families have been ravaged by depression and anxiety, drug-related violence, and the spread of AIDS. The author also introduces us to devoted and unselfish teachers, dedicated ministers, and—at the heart and center of the book—courageous and delightful children.
Cinder Girl by: Christina Meredith – Born into a large working-class family in upstate New York, Christina Meredith endured years of abuse before entering the foster care system as a teenager. As she prayed in her car every day, Christina had no idea that in just a few years, she would be crowned Ms. California. She had no idea that her suffering would one day help others find healing. But she did know that she was destined for more, and she would not give up hope no matter the circumstance.
Ellen Foster – Kaye Gibbons – If one should never trust the person who has had a happy childhood, then Ellen Foster, the 11-year-old heroine of Kaye Gibbons’s accomplished first novel, may be the most trustworthy character in recent fiction….In many ways this is an old-fashioned novel about traditional values and inherited prejudices, taking place in a South where too little has changed too slowly.
Etched in Sand – Regina Calcaterra – Regina Calcaterra is a successful lawyer, former New York State official, and foster youth activist. Her painful early life, however, was quite different. Regina and her four siblings survived an abusive and painful childhood only to find themselves faced with the challenges of the foster-care system and intermittent homelessness in the shadows of Manhattan and the Hamptons.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City – Matthew Desmond – In Evicted, Princeton sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they each struggle to keep a roof over their heads.
Far from the Tree – Robin Benway – Don’t miss this moving novel that addresses such important topics as adoption, teen pregnancy, and foster care.
Foster girl – Georgette Todd – Foster Girl reveals what it feels like to grow up in foster care. Readers will come away from this book with a better understanding of how the foster care system works and what we can all do to make a difference.
Garbage Bag Suitcase – Shenandoah Chefalo – Garbage Bag Suitcase is the true story of Shenandoah Chefalo’s wholly dysfunctional journey through a childhood with neglectful, drug-and alcohol addicted parents. She endured numerous moves in the middle of the night with just minutes to pack, multiple changes in schools, hunger, cruelty, and loneliness.
Girl Unbroken – Rosie Maloney and Regina Calcaterra – In the highly anticipated sequel to her New York Times bestseller Etched in Sand, Regina Calcaterra pairs with her youngest sister Rosie to tell Rosie’s harrowing, yet ultimately triumphant, story of childhood abuse and survival.
Girls Like Us: Fighting For A World Where Girls Are Not For Sale – Rachel Lloyd – During her teens, Rachel Lloyd ended up a victim of commercial sexual exploitation. With time through incredible resilience, and with the help of a local church community, she finally broke free of her pimp and her past.
Hey Kiddo – Jarrett Krosoczka – A profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive.
Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance – Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The decline of this group, a demographic of our country that has been slowly disintegrating over forty years, has been reported on with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson – Bryan Stevenson grew up in the racially segregated South. His innate sense of justice made him a brilliant lawyer, and one of his first defendants was Walter McMillian, a black man sentenced to die for the murder of a white woman – a crime he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, startling racial inequality, and legal brinkmanship – and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
Like Family: Growing up in Other Peoples houses – Paula McLaine – Paula McLain has written a powerful and haunting memoir about the years she and her two sisters spent as foster children. In the early 70s, after being abandoned by both parents, the girls were made wards of the Fresno County, California court and spent the next 14 years-in a series of adoptive homes. The dislocations, confusions, and odd pleasures of an unrooted life form the basis of a captivating memoir. McLain’s beautiful writing and limber voice capture the intense loneliness, sadness, and determination of a young girl both on her own and responsible, with her siblings, for staying together as a family.
Mine Until – Jessica Yaffa – The moment Jessica walked into her high school English class and laid eyes on fellow classmate Trent, she felt alive in ways that she had always dreamed of. Swept up in a teen romance by the very charming Trent, Jessica finally had the connection and attention she’d always wanted but never seemed to achieve. When other sides of Trent’s personality began to emerge–jealous, demanding, controlling–Jessica was convinced that if she could only please and satisfy him the way he deserved, the relationship would survive.
Orphan Train – Christina Baker Kline – a captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.
Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx – Adrian Nicole LeBlanc – The story of young people trying to outrun their destinies. Jessica and Boy George ride the wild adventure between riches and ruin, while Coco and Cesar stick closer to the street, all four caught in a precarious dance between survival and death.
Raceless: In search of Family, Identity and the Truth About Where I Belong – Georgina Lawton – In Georgina Lawton’s childhood home, her Blackness was never acknowledged; the obvious fact of her brown skin, ignored by her white parents. Over time, secrets and a complex family story became accepted as truth and Georgina found herself complicit in the erasure of her racial identity.
It was only when her beloved father died that the truth began to emerge. Fleeing the shattered pieces of her family life and the comfortable, suburban home she grew up in, at age 22 Georgina went in search of answers – embarking on a journey that took her around the world, to the DNA testing industry, and to countless others, whose identities have been questioned, denied or erased.
Runaway Girl – Carissa Phelps – Carissa Phelps was a runner. By the time she was twelve, she had run away from home, dropped out of school, and fled blindly into the arms of a brutal pimp. Even when she escaped him, she could not outrun the crushing inner pain of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. With little to hope for, she expected to end up in prison, or worse. But then her life was transformed through the unexpected kindness of a teacher and a counselor. Through small miracles, Carissa accomplished the unimaginable, graduating from UCLA with both a law degree and an MBA. She left the streets behind, yet found herself back, this time working to help homeless and at-risk youth discover their own paths to a better life.
Scattered: a Mostly True Memoir – Justine Hope Blau – Whisked from a child’s cozy life in Queens to the streets of Manhattan, clutching the hand of her intense and troubled mother, Justine begins a journey over which she has little control. Along with her two adored older brothers, she finds herself wrapped in a fantasy-fueled odyssey engineered by her mother, spending nights in cheap hotels they can’t afford, or park benches and subway trains, always on the lookout for food.Meanwhile, her father looms in the distance with his new family, ineffectual–until at long last he takes life-altering action.
Spilled Milk: Based on a true story – K.L. Randis – Based on a true story, Brooke Nolan is a battered child who makes an anonymous phone call about the escalating brutality in her home. When Social Services jeopardize her safety, condemning her to keep her father’s secret, it’s a glass of spilled milk at the dinner table that forces her to speak about the cruelty she’s been hiding.
Surviving the White Gaze: A Memoir – Rebecca Carroll – A stirring and powerful memoir from black cultural critic Rebecca Carroll recounting her painful struggle to overcome a completely white childhood in order to forge her identity as a black woman in America.
Rebecca Carroll grew up the only black person in her rural New Hampshire town. Adopted at birth by artistic parents who believed in peace, love, and zero population growth, her early childhood was loving and idyllic—and yet she couldn’t articulate the deep sense of isolation she increasingly felt as she grew older.
The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh – The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them.
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas – Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Three Little Words – Ashley Rhodes-Courter – An inspiring true story of the tumultuous nine years Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent in the foster care system, and how she triumphed over painful memories and real-life horrors to ultimately find her own voice.
To the End of June – Cris Beam – Beam shows us the intricacies of growing up in the system—the back-and-forth with agencies, the rootless shuffling between homes, the emotionally charged tug between foster and birth parents, the terrifying push out of foster care and into adulthood. Humanizing and challenging a broken system, To the End of June offers a tribute to resiliency and hope for real change.
Walking Prey – Holly Austin Smith – Today, two cultural forces are converging to make America’s youth easy targets for sex traffickers. Younger and younger girls are engaging in adult sexual attitudes and practices, and the pressure to conform means thousands have little self-worth and are vulnerable to exploitation. At the same time, thanks to social media, texting, and chatting services, predators are able to ferret out their victims more easily than ever before. In Walking Prey, advocate and former victim Holly Austin Smith shows how middle class suburban communities are fast becoming the new epicenter of sex trafficking in America.
White Oleander – Janet Fitch – Everywhere hailed as a novel of rare beauty and power, White Oleander tells the unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes-each its own universe, with its own laws, its own dangers, its own hard lessons to be learned-becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery.
Wish Me Home – Kay Bratt – Kay Bratt draws on her own life experiences to create a raw, yet inescapably warm, novel about friendship and a wary heart’s unexpected capacity to love. A hungry, stray dog is the last thing Cara Butter needs. Stranded in Georgia with only her backpack and a few dwindling dollars, she already has too much baggage. Like her twin sister, Hana, who has broken Cara’s heart one too many times. After a lifetime of family troubles, and bouncing from one foster home to another, Cara decides to leave it all behind and strike out alone—on foot. Cara sets off to Florida to see the home of her literary hero, Ernest Hemingway, accompanied only by Hemi, the stray dog who proves to be the perfect travel companion. But the harrowing trip takes unexpected turns as strangers become friends who make her question everything, and Cara finds that as the journey unfolds, so does her life—in ways she could never imagine.
Great for academia
$2 a day: Living on Almost Nothing in America – Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer – Jessica Compton’s family of four would have no income if she didn’t donate plasma twice a week at her local donation center in Tennessee. Modonna Harris and her teenage daughter, Brianna, in Chicago, often have no food but spoiled milk on weekends. After two decades of brilliant research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadn’t seen before — households surviving on virtually no cash income. Edin teamed with Luke Shaefer, an expert on calculating incomes of the poor, to discover that the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to one and a half million households, including about three million children.
A Framework for Understanding Poverty – Ruby K. Payne Ph.D – Carefully researched and packed with charts, tables, and questionnaires, Framework not only documents the facts of poverty, it provides practical yet compassionate strategies for addressing its impact on people’s lives.
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity – Andrew Solomon – The author writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, or multiple severe disabilities; with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, and Solomon documents triumphs of love over prejudice in every chapter.
Ghosts From The Nursery: Tracing the Roots of Violence – Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith S. Wiley –
Provides scientific evidence that violence can originate in the womb and become entrenched in a child’s brain by preschool.
In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking In America and What We Can Do To Stop It – Nita Belles – In recent years, Americans have woken up to the reality that human trafficking is not just something that happens in other countries. But what most still do not understand is that neither is it something that just happens to “other people” such as runaways or the disenfranchised. The human trafficker is no respecter of faith, education, or socioeconomic status, and even kids who are raised in solid families in middle and upper class suburbs can fall victim. Likewise, labor trafficking happens in our cities, neighborhoods, and rural areas.
Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior – Jonah Berger – Jonah Berger, the bestselling author of Contagious, explores the subtle, secret influences that affect the decisions we make—from what we buy, to the careers we choose, to what we eat—in his latest New York Times bestseller that is a “rare business book that’s both informative and enough fun to take to the beach” (Fortune.com). If you’re like most people, you think your individual tastes and opinions drive your choices and behaviors. You wear a certain jacket because you liked how it looked. You picked a particular career because you found it interesting. The notion that our choices are driven by our own personal thoughts and opinions is patently obvious. Right? Wrong.
The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog: and Other Stories From A Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook – Dr. Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz – The authors explain what happens to the brain when a child is exposed to extreme stress, and how today’s innovative treatments are helping ease children’s pain, allowing them to become healthy adults.
The Deepest Well –Dr. Nadine Burke Harris – A pioneering physician reveals how childhood stress leads to lifelong health problems and what we can do to break the cycle.
Why Do They Act That Way? -David Walsh, Ph.D – Even smart kids do stupid things. It’s a simple fact of life. No one makes it through the teenage year’s unscathed-not the teens, not their parents. But now there’s expert help for both generations in this groundbreaking new guide for surviving the drama of adolescence.
Trans Kids and Teens: Pride, Joy, and Families in Transition – Elijah C Nealy – A comprehensive guide to the medical, emotional, and social issues of trans kids. These days, it is practically impossible not to hear about some aspect of transgender life. Whether it is the bathroom issue in North Carolina, trans people in the military, or on television, trans life has become front and center after years of marginalization. And kids are coming out as trans at younger and younger ages, which is a good thing for them. But what written resources are available to parents, teachers, and mental health professionals who need to support these children?
Elijah C. Nealy, a therapist and former deputy executive director of New York City’s LGBT Community Center, and himself a trans man, has written the first-ever comprehensive guide to understanding, supporting, and welcoming trans kids. Covering everything from family life to school and mental health issues, as well as the physical, social, and emotional aspects of transition, this book is full of best practices to support trans kids.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DiAngelo – A book on challenging racism by working against and understanding what the author terms “white fragility“, a reaction in which white people feel attacked or offended when the topic of racism arises. The book discusses many different aspects and manifestations of white fragility that DiAngelo personally encountered in her work as a diversity and inclusion training facilitator.
Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us – Claude Steele – Claude M. Steele, who has been called “one of the few great social psychologists,” offers a vivid first-person account of the research that supports his groundbreaking conclusions on stereotypes and identity. He sheds new light on American social phenomena from racial and gender gaps in test scores to the belief in the superior athletic prowess of black men, and lays out a plan for mitigating these “stereotype threats” and reshaping American identities.
What Does It Mean To Be White? Developing White Racial Literacy – Robin DiAngelo – What does it mean to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless, yet is deeply divided by race? In the face of pervasive racial inequality and segregation, most white people cannot answer that question. In the second edition of this seminal text, Robin DiAngelo reveals the factors that make this question so difficult: mis-education about what racism is; ideologies such as individualism and colorblindness; segregation; and the belief that to be complicit in racism is to be an immoral person. These factors contribute to what she terms white racial illiteracy. Speaking as a white person to other white people, DiAngelo clearly and compellingly takes readers through an analysis of white socialization. Weaving research, analysis, stories, images, and familiar examples, she provides the framework needed to develop white racial literacy. She describes how race shapes the lives of white people, explains what makes racism so hard to see, identifies common white racial patterns, and speaks back to popular narratives that work to deny racism.
How to be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi – Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At its core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types.
The Half Has Never Been Told – Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism – Edward Baptist – Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institution — the nation’s original sin, perhaps, but isolated in time and divorced from America’s later success. But to do so robs the millions who suffered in bondage of their full legacy. As historian Edward E. Baptist reveals in the prizewinning The Half Has Never Been Told, the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy. Told through intimate slave narratives, plantation records, newspapers, and the words of politicians, entrepreneurs, and escaped slaves, The Half Has Never Been Told offers a radical new interpretation of American history.
The Road to Unfreedom – Timothy Snyder – In this forceful and unsparing work of contemporary history, based on vast research as well as personal reporting, Snyder goes beyond the headlines to expose the true nature of the threat to democracy and law. To understand the challenge is to see, and perhaps renew, the fundamental political virtues offered by tradition and demanded by the future. By revealing the stark choices before us–between equality or oligarchy, individuality or totality, truth and falsehood–Snyder restores our understanding of the basis of our way of life, offering a way forward in a time of terrible uncertainty.
How to Be Less Stupid About Race – Crystal M Fleming – How to Be Less Stupid About Race is your essential guide to breaking through the half-truths and ridiculous misconceptions that have thoroughly corrupted the way race is represented in the classroom, pop culture, media, and politics. Centuries after our nation was founded on genocide, settler colonialism, and slavery, many Americans are kinda-sorta-maybe waking up to the reality that our racial politics are (still) garbage. But in the midst of this reckoning, widespread denial and misunderstandings about race persist, even as white supremacy and racial injustice are more visible than ever before.
Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates – In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
Citizen: An American Lyric – Claudine Rankine – Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander – Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.
Your Silence Will Not Protect You – Audre Lorde – Your Silence Will Not Protect You is a 2017 posthumous collection of essays, speeches, and poems by African American author and poet Audre Lorde. It is the first time a British publisher collected Lorde’s work into one volume. The collection focuses on key themes such as: shifting language into action, silence as a form of violence, and the importance of history. Lorde describes herself as a “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”, and addresses the difficulties in communication between Black and white women.
The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin – A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document. It consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism.