Multicultural Reading List: Summer 2017 [Free Download]

The library is emailing me to come pick up my holds. Books are arriving in my mailbox from Amazon. I have a problem. But it's the time of year. Perfect for reading on the porch or by the pool.

It's also the time of year to offer the 2017 Multicultural Reading List! I've shared longtime favorites in the past, but this year I'm focusing on books published in 2016 and 2017 only. Lots of great new novels, memoirs, and nonfiction reads to check out!

Alright, that's enough chit chat. Let's get to reading! Sign up below to receive this year's list with 23 new titles to enjoy!

What Johns and Missionaries Have In Common

I was walking up my street, headed towards the Family Dollar because I needed some Swiss Cake Rolls. Obviously. As someone who works full-time from her couch, trashy junk food seems like a wise choice for my overall health and well-being. But hey, at least I was walking, right?

The top of my road intersects with the neighborhood's busiest street, and this area is always filled with activity. A grungy gas station advertises Lotto and beer in tall letters. Inside, the cashiers hide behind bulletproof glass walls and slide your change through a tiny slot. Men loiter outside, chatting and selling single cigarettes. Sometimes women walk on the outskirts of the intersection, sliding into cars that pull over.

As I neared the intersection, I saw a car had turned onto my street. I watched a woman climb into the passenger seat. My kids and I had seen her a couple hours before on our way to school. She stood on the corner, a deep scowl on her face, mumbled words dancing on her lips. She seemed to be struggling, so I worried when I saw her getting into the beat-up truck. I memorized the license plate as they drove past, unsure of what, if anything, I should do.

But by the time I reached the top of my street, another car had slowed down. This time, he was waiting for me.

A large white man in business casual clothes sat in the driver's seat, and as I walked past, I heard him call out to me through the open passenger's window. I instinctively looked, but experience has taught me that a man who looks like him slow driving around my neighborhood is up to no good.

Muscle memory forced my neck to turn away, my face to harden, and my pace to continue uninterrupted. While my practiced demeanor was cold and unaffected, two refrains shouted in my pulsing brain. My daughter lives in this neighborhood! and You don't know me!  

My anger surprised me. For years, men have trolled the neighborhoods where I've lived, looking for available women. Years ago, the experience was so common I stopped having any emotional reaction to it. And I started dressing like a boy in baggy jeans and over-sized hoodies so I wouldn't draw attention. But I don't walk as much these days. And if I do, I'm usually wrangling my two kiddos, so I avoid this particular brand of attention. Unexpected rage flooded my system.

Almost instantly, I remembered another slow moving vehicle I encountered many years ago. I was walking with my roommate near our house when a van slowed down and pulled up alongside us. I tightened. The window rolled down and - without stopping - the driver began to ask us if we knew where we'd be spending eternity. I had no words. And so, this man I'd never seen before began to share his salvation message with me. All I could think as he followed us down the street was You don't know me.

We recently celebrated 20 years of Mission Year, a year-long urban missions program I volunteered with ages ago. I later served five years on staff. Mission Year lovingly grabbed my 19-year old shoulders and reoriented my life towards reconciliation, bridge-building, justice, service, and seeking Jesus. It was also this experience that introduced me to slow moving vehicles - the johns and the missionaries.

As I reflect on what I have taken away from Mission Year almost two decades later, it is something then-President Bart Campolo told us at the very beginning: It's all about relationships. Our understanding of the news, of social issues, of faith, of parenting, of the world is enriched and expanded through our relationships.

And when we try to move through life, engaging people through our worldview first, rather than relationship, we risk the bumbling (and damaging) encounters of slow moving vehicles. We make assumptions. We exploit. We demean. We injure.

It's all about relationships. I've tried to live with these words. To commit to people, rather than doctrine. To reach out to people that intrigue me, bug me, or are near me. My hope is that I won't become a person who approaches people with my own agenda and in the process, forgets the humanity of the person in my path.

Showing Up When It Hurts

When you’re three years old and King of the Tree House, there’s nothing better than slamming the trap door shut to keep out your big sister. I’m pretty sure that’s what my son Isaac was doing when his finger got in the way and he nearly took the tip clean off.

Over the next few hours, I learned a lot about motherhood. Things like, “Stop panicking. They are reacting to you. BE THE MOM HERE.” But I also learned valuable lessons about community and solidarity in the midst of pain.

SheLoves Magazine has been focused on the theme of solidarity this month, and they graciously allowed me to tell my story, even though it involves dangling finger tips. Okay, I left out the gruesome parts! But solidarity is such an important concept to me, and this experience allowed me to witness the impact others' acts of simple compassion on my own family. 

American Girl's Guide to Kissing: An Addendum

All the kissing. Saying hello. Saying good-bye. And then there's me... making it as awkward as possible for all involved.

My original American Girl's Guide to Kissing included gems like "The Smoosh Face" and "The Mrs. Robinson." But recently, I added my latest addition by personally crossing all lines of social boundaries. I affectionately call this kiss "The Line Crosser."

Our flight to New York was delayed a gazillion hours before eventually being cancelled. Then we essentially entered a foot race with everyone else in the Delta wing of the Atlanta airport as scores of flights were cancelled and everyone was rushing to customer service to rebook.

Essentially, it was madness. Oh, and did I mention it was perfect, sunny weather outside? When we'd arrived at the airport that fine morning to fly out for a weekend getaway, we were stunned to find zombie-like people wandering the terminals and sleeping on the floor. Apparently, we were all supposed to understand because it had rained two days prior. Oh, and this insanity only impacted Delta flights and was described as a major meltdown. But I digress.

When I accidentally commandeered a gate agent who graciously got us on an afternoon flight, I asked about our luggage. "Oh, we're not worrying about luggage," she told me. How nice for you, I thought.

So when our flight finally landed in New York around 9 p.m., all the passengers rushed the little office near baggage claim. The customer service rep was unaware of the foolishness happening in Atlanta, and was overwhelmed and unprepared.

Now enter the Honduran couple. I recognized them from the Atlanta airport because Billy had jumped in a couple times to translate the repeated delays for them.

"Oh, I don't speak Spanish," customer service lady proclaimed loudly and leaned back in her chair as they stood patiently at the counter. It was clear she would be serving these customers.

I was alone in line while Billy scanned the carousel, eeking out our last vestiges of hope that our bags might have miraculously arrived. What choice did I have but to get involved? I started speaking my pitiful Spanish to this couple.

"Are you fluent?" the airport employee asked me.

"No," I told her. "My husband is." As if she cared. 

"Well, can you ask them when they last saw their bags?" Seems like the very question we should be asking you, but whatever. I butchered some approximation of that question. Then, I erroneously told them their bags were still in Honduras until they reminded me they saw them at customs. Finally, I communicated the essence of wherever they are, they aren't here when I heard the wife start talking about medication.

Cue me frantically texting Billy to abandon the carousel and come help! He arrived and got everything as straightened out as it could be. As we all began to exit the little room of baggage doom, she thanked us for our help.

Naturally, I assumed she wanted to kiss me. AS WE ALL DO.

I leaned towards her, cheek first, and I saw her adjust her expectations of our farewell and realize that it was going to be hard NOT to kiss me. I heard myself thinking, "What is wrong with me?"

And that, my friends, is when I became a line crosser. She graciously kissed me because what choice did she have? I'm pretty sure I kissed her, too. People in line were definitely looking at me weird. And I just wanted to get away from it all.

She must've not been too freaked out, though, because we then proceed to do the awkward "exit together." Where you've already said good-bye, but then you squeeze out of the same door. And then they ask you where ground transportation is. And then ask you to please call their niece on your cell phone and talk to her and tell her where they are.

Come to think of it, typical lines of social interaction were being crossed left and right. I don't feel so bad about my potentially line crossing friendliness. It happens.

I did at some point refer to this encounter as "our double date with that Honduran couple," though that's probably just me taking it too far. What can I say? I see lines, and I cross them. 

A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.