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A Dream Called Home
by Reyna Grande
Torn between two countries, immigrant Reyna Grande seeks to find herself. Is she Mexican or American? Will she ever fit into either culture? Is she destined to metaphorically straddle the border for a lifetime? When her first book was published in 2006, one of her dreams had come true and she had begun “a lifelong quest to advocate for the Mexican immigrant community by sharing our stories with the world.” What she found in the aftermath of its publication, however, is that her story resonates with other immigrant communities as well and even with Native Americans who feel the same struggles to maintain a dual identity, language, and culture.
Reyna’s difficult, abusive childhood is discussed at various points in her memoir A Dream Called Home as it plays a strong and recurrent role in her efforts to work through the emotions of her turbulent past through her writing. She makes mistakes along the way as a college student and as a young adult, but she learns from them and decides to experience them as a part of the growth that shaped her into “a unique individual with a unique voice.”
The memoir is filled with stories of her personal relationships. She realizes that she is subconsciously seeking out the love of her father that she never felt under his roof or when he left his family in poverty to earn money in the United States. Reyna and her siblings wrestle with so many decisions in the U.S., and Reyna has to accept that the pathway to healing and success for her is not the right one for them. Fortunately, she has Chicana professors that become lifelong mentors. Even though Reyna is a talented writer, she also has to learn the difficult business end of publication.
Her stint as an untrained middle school teacher in Los Angeles is both sad and predictable for those familiar with teaching in that climate. She experiences unsupportive parents, disrespectful students, and ever changing assignments and curriculum. A bright light for Reyna is her introduction to folklórico. It revives her own interest in her Mexican heritage and renews an enthusiasm in Mexican culture for her students, many of whom, like Reyna, feel displaced and unsettled.
Reyna’s story can not be summarized in a review. My job is to tell you that A Dream Called Home is a book you should read; it should be a part of your mental catalogue. Regardless of your position on the influx of immigrants currently overwhelming the U.S. and its broken political system, you will find Reyna Grande’s perspective both informative and enlightening if you want to understand the struggles of people desperate to emerge from poverty who are clinging to the hope of the American dream.
Notes: Includes pictures that personalize Grande and her experiences
My biggest virtue and my biggest flaw was the tenacity with which I clung to my dreams, no matter how futile they might seem to others. The dream of having a true relationship with my parents was the one I had clung to the most because it was the first dream I’d had, and the farthest from my reach.
“Being in a new country, learning a new language, a new culture, takes time. You will learn. It doesn’t feel that way now, but one day you will be just as comfortable speaking English as you are speaking Spanish. But no matter what, don’t ever forget where you came from, and don’t ever be ashamed of who you are.”
I was finally beginning to understand that it takes as much courage to leave as it does to stay, and that being a parent was way more complicated than I had ever imagined.
Fortitude—Resilience in the Age of Outrage
by Dan Crenshaw
Fortitude is a nonfiction work that holds Dan Crenshaw’s views on strength of character and how people who have fortitude can work together for a better America. Crenshaw is a member of the House of Representatives and a former Navy SEAL. Therefore, Fortitude is colored by his time in D.C. as well as his experiences in the military. It is, however, an inspirational book, not a political diatribe. Crenshaw references history, philosophy, psychology, SEAL training, and his personal story to explain the different components of character building as well as the deficits and issues prominent in our current society.
Crenshaw pulls the curtain back on the popular outrage displayed by both conservatives and liberals as many spew epithets without evidence to back up their position of hatred. “If you find yourself calling someone a racist, communist, traitor, RINO, or Nazi because they disagree with you, it is a good indication that your arguments are shallow and your emotions are driving your thinking.”
One of my biggest personal take-aways from this book is the importance of how I frame my own story, my personal narrative. Crenshaw explains how changing “I have to” to “I get to” is empowering, lets you take back control of your life, and removes you from the victim status.
He also speaks to suffering and hard times. Both can help you develop a strong character and confidence. Meeting challenges can actually push you to a higher level of functioning both physically and psychologically. If you voluntarily submit yourself to hardship, you are also building resilience that will help sustain you when you find yourself in trying times not of your choosing.
A review can not begin to cover all aspects of Fortitude. Read it to be exposed to Crenshaw’s background and experiences. Reread it to incorporate some of his philosophies, beliefs, and insights into your own frame of reference.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Twelve (Hachette Book Group) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Politics, Inspiration
Notes: Contains foul language and is appropriate for adults, not children
Publication: April 7, 2020—Twelve (Hachette Book Group)
…a culture characterized by grit, discipline, and self-reliance is a culture that survives. A culture characterized by self-pity, indulgence, outrage, and resentment is a culture that falls apart.
Life is a power struggle, and the heroes we value are no longer those who gracefully overcome adversity, but those who complain the loudest about their story of injustice.
Unfortunately, these days, too many people are overcoming their knowledge deficits with passion, and too many more people are mistaking “passion” and “authenticity” for righteousness and sophistication. It is an unhealthy trend.
Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places
by Kate McCord
If you have ever wondered what it is like to be a missionary or why people would answer the call of God to go live in a hostile environment, then read Why God Calls Us to Dangerous Places. Author Kate McCord was a “business process consultant in global biopharmaceuticals.” She had a comfortable life and enjoyed her material blessings, friends, and church. In 2000, God started a process in her heart that led her four years later to Afghanistan to work for an NGO (nongovernmental organization). She became a project manager working to improve the lives of the people around her and share Jesus with her neighbors. She learned the language and the culture and relied on God through the Holy Spirit to help her negotiate the minefields of talking about Jesus in such a way that it would not result in her expulsion or execution.
Chapter by chapter McCord helps us dive deeper and deeper into an understanding of God’s calling and how it affects the person feeling the pull to devote themselves and their talents solely to the work of God. She describes how these decisions also affect their friends, families, and churches. McCord explores the kinds of people who are called, the places where they minister, and the difficulties and stress of living in a different culture under uncomfortable living conditions along with spoken and implied threats of violence. She relates all of this through descriptions of her own experiences and testimonies of others living in various countries. She backs up her discussion with stories from the Bible and with Scriptural references to support her theological underpinnings.
It is one thing to write about the missionary life; it is another to live it. McCord has done both and is able to share the calling and journey in a way that draws the reader into her story. I recommend this book for Christians who want to explore the call of Jesus on them personally or those they care about. I also recommend it for non-Christians seeking to understand what it is about this Jesus that makes people want to follow Him through the good times and the bad, enjoying an abundant life on earth with the assurance of an eternal life with Him in heaven.
Category: Christian, Nonfiction
Publication: September 1, 2015—Moody Publishing
We ask our question from the experiences of living in places of chronic stress, sporadic trauma, and brutal martyrdom. Both we who go, and those who love those who go, face the deep evil in the world and turn to God with all our human fragility. We ask the question: why does God call us to dangerous places?
Jesus calls us to dangerous places because He loves people who live in dangerous places. he loves the perpetrators of violence and the victims of violence. he loves the children and the old, the men and the women, the rich and the poor.
Yet they had heard those warnings, just as we, before we boarded airplanes to dangerous places, understood that we were walking into a darkness so deep it might someday overwhelm us. We counted the cost, at least as well as we could. We each said, “He’s worth it. Jesus is worth it.”
The Wall: Rebuilding a culture of LIFE in America—and ending abortion as we know it
by Kirk Walden
If you want to know more about what you can do to help rebuild “a culture of LIFE in America—and ending abortion as we know it,” then read The Wall by Kirk Walden. Written to encourage people to give of their resources—money, time, labor, and more, The Wall is informative, practical, and inspirational. Using the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the long destroyed wall around Jerusalem as a model, Walden shows how we can rebuild the broken culture as a loving people, giving options to those who find themselves in a crisis.
Pregnancy crisis centers can help in so many ways, from showing parents their unborn child using ultrasound to counseling men, encouraging them to step up to be dads. They can provide medical and physical support, abstinence and parenting education, post-abortion recovery counseling, and so much more. To provide all of these services, funds are needed, and all donations are important whether it is a small, but sacrificial donation of ten or twenty dollars or the rich person’s spare $50,000. If we create a culture that values life, abortion clinics will close their doors from lack of clients and profits. Give this book a read if you want to know more about pregnancy crisis centers and what you can do to help.
Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Social Issues
Notes: short, inspirational read about providing real choices to those facing the real challenges of an unplanned pregnancy
Publication: August 4, 2013—LifeTrends
Our Wall is going to be strong, and we will stand on that Wall. And we will invite inside our Wall the hurting, the fearful, the desperate and the destitute. We are not going to back down. And we are not going to back up or let up.
It’s a Wall of protection for those facing the cultural temptations and battles of today, and for their children waiting to be born; wanting nothing more than to celebrate their first smiles, their first steps, and their first birthdays. Once we get started, once we take our stand on that Wall, there is no limit to what God can do with each of us.