Friday, September 10, 2010

Unconditional Positive Regard

Recently finished Gang Leader for a Day recommended by Prevention RD. Sudhir Venkatesh, the gang leader for a day and then sociology student, goes to The Lake Park projects in Chicago complete with a clipboard and questionnaire. After being harassed, he's finally given permission to ask a question. The first one:
"How does it feel to be black and poor?" I read. Then I gave the multiple-choice answers: "Very bad, somewhat bad, neither bad nor good, somewhat good, very good." (14)
My coffee almost flew across the room as my cackle got caught up in the shuffle.

Venkatesh ends up spending several years with gang leader J.T., other gang members, residents, police officers and J.T.'s mother:

Ms. Mae gave me a big hug and told me to sit down for lunch. She had cooked some of my favorites -- okra, greens, mac and cheese -- and so I gladly obliged. J.T. quipped that I was eating his share of food. "You're becoming the little brother I never wanted," he said. (178)

Gang Leader was an intriguing read with universal truths:

The worst-paying jobs, meanwhile, often required the longest hours...(199)
I can't remember what I was talking with my friend Lori about when I said one should not clown in other countries. For some reason Lori Berenson, convicted of terrorist collaboration in Peru, sticks in my mind.

From that conversation, my friend recommended that I read Mutant Message Down Under by Marlo Morgan. The author's note said that it's an actual experience but it was written as a novel to protect the tribe that she went on a journey with. My spidey sense started tingling immediately and made me think of James Frey's book, A Million Little Pieces, which I was in the middle of reading when news broke that it was not autobiographical.

I read Mutant Message anyway. The author was lead into the Outback unwillingly and stripped of all that was dear to her and led on a fairly long walkabout with an Aboriginal tribe.

To sum it up: The Aboriginal tribe does no harm, wastes no natural resources, has respect for others and animals. They leave the world better than they found it. And the Mutant i.e. the author is to take their message of love and respect back into the world. I don't know whether or not I believed the story being told but there were certainly beneficial messages:

You either have faith or fear, not both. Things, they think, generate fear. The more things you have, the more you have to fear. Eventually you are living your life for things... (152)
I really like this concept because I'm sappy like that:

The Real People nation have for centuries had the practice at birth of speaking the same first phrase to all newborns. Each person hears the same exact first human words: "We love you and support you on the journey..." (153)

And, really, how cool with that be if every child had a life journey with unconditional positive regard?

I have been on such a nonfiction streak and I'm ready for fiction. Any recommendations? Please, save me from another nonfiction book.

Some books that I've enjoyed:

Deception Point by Dan Brown
Gone Fishin' by Walter Mosley
Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Vanishing Act by Thomas Perry

Has anyone checked out Bookseer? When you put in a book that you've read, it gives you, mostly, Amazon recommended books. When I put in Thomas Perry, it gave me all books by Thomas Perry which is cool -- if you're looking for another TP book...


  1. "The Aboriginal tribe does no harm, wastes no natural resources, has respect for others and animals. They leave the world better than they found it."

    I think we should all try to be more like that. Think of how much damage we have done to the earth especially in the past 50 or so years. Then you think of all the indigenous people who, most of the time, were forcibly removed from their lands and they had none of the damaging practices.

  2. @Sara,

    Roger that. I definitely try to do my part...